Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tour of El Pueblo de Los Angeles / Olvera Street and Being a Tourist in My Own City Part 3

I went on a free tour of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument and Olvera Street this weekend. I had heard about Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles, but I never visited. I was pleasantly surprised by this vibrant area full of history.

Our tour started in the Old Plaza. The tour office itself is a historic building known as the "Old Chinese Store" built in 1900.

Next to the tour office is the Old Fire House. This Fire House has been here since 1884. It says "Fire House No. 1" on the building.

Old school fire engine!

The docent took us around the plaza where there were plaques and statues. He explained the history of early Spanish and Mexican settlement to us, and how Los Angeles came about. This is King Charles III of Spain, who commanded the building of a town here in 1781.

Also on the plaza is the famous Pico House. This used to be the finest hotel in southern California back in late 1800's, built by Pio Pico. Now this place is being rented out for events and film/TV shoots. It is also famously haunted. Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures crew did a lock down here recently. You can watch the episode here:

We didn't get to go inside, but I got a peek from outside.

This building was the Merced Theatre constructed in 1870. This is what old Los Angeles looked like. The docent explained it was truly the "Wild Wild West" here with many lawless mobs running around. There were many gamblers, prostitutes, and "lynch mobs." There was a murder every single day. It was a very dangerous place to be.

Next to the Merced Theatre is the Masonic Lodge.

Facade of the Masonic Lodge.

From the Masonic Lodge, you can see the Los Angeles City Hall down the road.

I don't watch the show "The Mentalist," but the docent said this is the scene of the show's headquarter.

Looking down the alleyway between the Masonic Lodge and the entrance of Chinese American Museum.

Next, we came to the Garnier Building built in 1890. Philippe Garnier built this for his Chinese tenants. It grew to be the center of the old Chinatown.

In 1871, two Chinese men started a fight and accidentally killed a white man. It spawned one of the worst racial killings in history known as the Chinese Massacre, where 18 innocent Chinese were brutally murdered by a mob of about 500 men. It is believed there were more deaths not being documented. Although 9 men were arrested for the crime, they were all later released without charge by the California Supreme Court.

This plaque shows the Chinese American population growth in Los Angeles County.

A balcony off of the Garnier building.

Looking at the Old Plaza Methodist church. Beautiful artwork.

Next, we headed to Olvera Street.

The last stop of our tour was the Avila Adobe. This is the oldest house in Los Angeles built in 1818.

Outdoor kitchen.

Dining room.

Looking at the Union Station where I took a train ride down to San Diego in March 2011.

It was lunchtime after the tour. I stopped by this oldest taquitos shop on Olvera Street called Cielito Lindo, and tried their famous beef taquitos with avocado sauce.

It was delicious! The shells are crunchy and the meat was filling. The avocado sauce has the perfect kick to it.

I wandered around Olvera Street afterwards. Look at all the vibrant colors and the beautiful dress.

Of course, the Christmas tree is decorated with death angels per Mexican tradition.

For dessert, I went to Mr. Churros and tried their caramel filled churro. It was yummy.

Looking at LA City Hall from Olvera Street.

Yes, they sell Lucha Libre masks here! I tried not to laugh because the movie "Nacho Libre" came to mind.

After checking out Olvera Street, I heard drum beats coming out of the Old Plaza. There happened to be a dance performance.

Across the street from the plaza is the oldest continuous service church called Nuestra Señora de los Angeles. It was established in 1781, and has been in service continuously since 1823.

My last stop was the Chinese American Museum. Being an immigrant myself, it was important for me to understand how the early immigrants lived and how their journeys progressed. They paved the way for us and fought against anti-Chinese discrimination so I can be here today enjoying the same rights as everyone else.

The museum is housed in the Garnier building. There is an exhibition of the old Chinese pharmacy / general store that was onsite called Sun Wing Wo. They preserved a lot of artifacts from the original store. It was very cool to see.

I'm really glad I came on this tour. I learned a lot about the birth of Los Angeles and how Chinatown came to be. It's interesting how this area used to be Chinatown but now is a Mexican district. This is also an excellent spot to hang out on a lazy afternoon. I'll be back!

View the entire photo album here:

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