Echo Park is one of the best neighborhoods in Los Angeles. It’s also one of the earliest.
Los Angeles grew in concentric circles from Downtown outward, beginning in the mid 19th century. Echo Park’s proximity to Downtown puts is roughly one rung away from the epicenter of L.A.’s outwardly-expanding bullseye pattern.
Echo Park Lake was an early water reservoir built by the city in 1870. The Echo Park ‘suburb’ grew around it. Given today’s massive size of Los Angeles, calling the district a suburb anymore would be a rather quaint notion.
Elysian Park (1886) is the city’s oldest park and second largest. Folks living on Los Angeles’ Eastside take advantage of its hiking trails, many of which lead to killer vista points of Downtown and the L.A. Basin. In fact, views are an oft-repeated feature of many Echo Park neighborhoods.
Angelino Heights is best known for its Victorian-era homes and panoramic views of the DTLA skyline.
Known as the ‘first suburb’ of Los Angeles, the hilltop neighborhood attracted the city’s well-to-do residents of the and late 19th century who built large, ornate homes here. Bunker Hill, in Downtown, was the first wealthy neighborhood in the city. Thus, the development of Angelino Heights (two miles north of DTLA) became the first suburb (also inhabited by the city’s elite). Even residents of more modest means could mail-order a kit home (a.k.a. “plan book” house), a smaller, more affordable Queen Anne cottage.
Carroll Street sports the highest concentration of Victorian homes, many in Queen Anne and Eastlake styles. In 1983, the City of Los Angeles declared the neighborhood a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) and an entire block of Angelino Heights was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Fittingly, as the first suburb of the city, Angelino Heights was the first named HPOZ.
The L.A. Conservancy puts on the Angelino Heights Walking Tour each Saturday. Reservations are required, and tours operate rain or shine.
For those who prefer different architectural styles than Victorian will be pleased to know that the Echo Park neighborhood is also packed with Art Deco, Craftsman, and Period Revival homes.
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Elysian Heights occupies the undulating terrain between Glendale Boulevard and Elysian Park. The neighborhood is capped by the I-5 Freeway to the north and 101 Freeway to the south.
This neighborhood of Echo Park is a longtime bastion of counterculture and home to political activism and people who might self-identify as architects, artists, filmmakers, or writers (or all four). It’s the edgy urban vibe, coffee houses, and nightclubs along Sunset Boulevard that makes hipsters feel right at home here. The food scene honors chefs who are inventive and artisanal above all else.
At the low point of the neighborhood sits Echo Park Lake, home of the Echo Park Recreation Center and fun activities like pedal boats and playgrounds. Walking paths and outdoor fitness equipment are perfect for a sunny day workout. The rec center has a myriad of youth and adult sports programs. Dragon boat races are held on the lake each year during the annual Lotus Festival put on by the Parks & Recreation Department.
Cozy Houses perched high up the slopes get stellar panoramic views from Downtown across the L.A. Basin. Home shoppers will find turn-of-the-century Craftsman homes and 1920s Mediterranean, Spanish Colonial or Revival-style Bungalows. From the late 1930s, early Modern styles began to appear on the scene. Construction of Mid Century Modern style homes continued throughout the 1950s.
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Elysian Valley (a.k.a. Frogtown) is a peapod-shaped strip of land in Central Los Angeles. Depending upon whom you ask, it’s either a district of Echo Park or Northeast Los Angeles. And, frankly, it doesn’t matter; because of its geographic isolation (explained below), the neighborhood has a distinct vibe that stands on its own.
Because of its funky shape, the Frogtown has two long borders; the Los Angeles River on one side and the Interstate 5 Freeway on the other. That makes Elysian Valley – for all intents and purposes – an island. A scant 0.79-square-miles in size, it’s a small island at that.
With few services (e.g., no grocery stores and only a handful of cafes) denizens carry an undeniably scruffy, DIY attitude. Living here means your favorite local restaurant might be the guy down the street selling tacos in his front yard.
The bulk of the housing stock in this Echo Park community consists of one-story, single family homes. Home prices are moderate, pretty much in-line with the Los Angeles County average. Older, unkept homes that go up for sale tend to get snapped up by folks with housing rehab who turn them into charming abodes.
At the north end of this Echo Park neighborhood sits Lewis McAdams Riverfront Park as well as the Marsh Street Skate and Marsh Street Nature Park. These conjoined parks provide one of the area’s access points to the Los Angeles River Greenway Trail, a concrete path perfect for walking, jogging, or cycling. Elysian Valley is also one of only two L.A. River Recreation Zones along the L.A. River that allows portage for steerable, non-motorized boats (kayaks or canoes). Sorry, no inner tubes.
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Historic Filipinotown (HiFi)
Historic Filipinotown is Echo Park’s southernmost district. It sits southwest of the Echo Park lake, just beyond the 101 Freeway. Before the construction of ‘The 101′ in the 1950s, HiFi was an entirely connected part of the adjacent Echo Park neighborhood and had no separate, official identity. It remained so for decades.
That changed in 2002 when then-city councilman Eric Garcetti suggested a new, official name for the district that would reflect its history and unique character. By resolution, the L.A. City Council officially designated the name “Historic Filipinotown.” But it’s more than just a name; the designation carries political capital since it became the city’s Thirteenth District.
Filipino families settled and lived here starting in the early 20th century, in varying concentrations. Today, HiFi is ethnically diverse and home to roughly 10,000 of Filipinos out of the 600,000 that reside in the Greater Los Angeles area. If you’re Filipino and live in L.A., there’s a good chance you can trace your family roots to the district.
The neighborhood is known for the friendliness of its residents. The area is often scouted by house hunters looking for an affordable home that is centrally located in the city. What they’ll find is an eclectic mashup of architectural styles, mostly Craftsman Bungalows and occasional Victorian houses. Multi-family homes (income properties) are plentiful.
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Victor Heights (a.k.a. The Forgotten Edge) is a small neighborhood on a hill right above Downtown Los Angeles, sandwiched between Angelino Heights and Chinatown. Its northern border abuts the ground of Dodger Stadium, and its southern boundary touches Sunset Boulevard.
Like nearby Angelino Heights, homes and condos perched on the slopes of Victor heights have front row views to the DTLA skyline.
The housing stock here is a mix of stuccoed apartments and small single-family homes, typically bungalow or Spanish-style. More recently, new construction of condos and townhomes has picked up – a spillover effect of the massive rejuvenation efforts taking place Downtown. The appeal of living within the core of a major metropolis is making a comeback.
Once considered a sleepy neighborhood with little to offer, young professionals now scour Victor Heights looking for a place to call home. There is no grocery store or local watering hole within its borders – the nearest amenities line its southern boundary, Sunset Boulevard. For the most part, routine errands like grocery shopping require a trip to a nearby neighborhood.
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