Author: Emmanuel

The Bubble House

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South Pasadena’s Airform Bubble House was designed by architect Wallace Neff, who also designed for some of California’s wealthiest, including Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Judith Garland. Despite his extensive architectural resume, his Airform “Bubble House” is said to be one his finest–and most proud–works.

Like many great design stories, this one has a humble beginning. In the early 1930s, the housing crisis put a halt on many promising construction sites, as companies and individuals struggled to find reliable funding. Neff was shaving at his bathroom sink when a bubble formed on his finger and he realized that if he could find a way to build with air, he could save money and build quickly, with no need for wood or nails.

The construction was therefore one of the most curious of its time. It was built using an inflatable balloon covered in chicken wire and then sprayed with gunite, which is a mixture a sand, water, and cement that’s applied through a pressure hose. The gunite then produces a dense layer of concrete, and is often used for structural repairs. Using this method, open-plan, curved homes could be built within 48 hours.

Neff tirelessly attempted to campaign and convince the U.S. government to adopt this style of design in their wartime housing initiatives. After World War II, there were simply too many people and not enough houses. Neff believed it would be the most cost-effective, efficient way to industrialize housing efforts. According to one book printed by Hennessey, another goal of his was to “resolve the dilemma of being an architect close to affluent clients and a designer for a mass of anonymous clients with low budgets.”

However, many people weren’t convinced that the igloo shape successfully optimized space, and the unconventional structure deterred large money-makers from adopting it completely. While 400,000 were originally planned for construction in the United States, only 3,000 were actually built. However, overseas Neff had better luck, and he constructed airform houses in cities around the world like Cairo, Rio de Janeiro, and Senegal.

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Today, the only existing Airform house in America is in South Pasadena, California, where the current owners take special care to maintain it. The ceilings are seven feet high and the domed ceilings stretch up to 12 feet. It was built in 1946 and the neighbors weren’t receptive to it, because at the time, it did not fit into the Period Revival aesthetic of the nearby homes.

Despite criticism of its elliptical structure, it was featured on the cover of the Los Angeles Times Home Magazine, and was eventually praised for its inventive solution to the mid-century housing crisis. The South Pasadena home is where the architect personally lived until he died in 1982.

Current owners Sari and Steve Roden, who purchased the house in 1998, said in a Los Angeles Times article that they “can’t imagine living anywhere else.” The couple also inherited several pieces of vintage furniture originally owned by the architect.

The house comes with its own share of fame and rumors. The owners have heard that Elvis once visited the house, most likely to discuss a home that he wanted Neff to design for him. The irony here is not lost: while Neff is most renowned for his elaborate designs, his heart was in simple, open, and flowing architectural spaces. Though the house is occupied, you can still drive by 1097 S. Los Robles Avenue for a look at piece of design history.

Cawston Ostrich Farm

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South Pasadena is steeped in history, and one of the greatest examples of that is the Cawston Ostrich Farm. If you’re a South Pasadena native, you’ve likely heard of it, and if not, it won’t be long before you do.

The Cawston Ostrich Farm was a nine-acre farm where visitors could ride ostriches via a carriage that was attached to their neck and body (much like a horse). This was the first ostrich farm in America, as well as the first tourist destination in California, and it provided a fully immersive experience. Not only could guests ride the ostriches, but they could also purchase ostrich-themed memorabilia, such as ostrich feathered hats, fans, and capes.

As you can imagine, starting an ostrich farm is no easy feat. Edward Cawston brought 50 ostriches from South Africa to California via Texas in 1886. However, the journey to Pasadena was extremely strenuous on the birds, and only 18 of them arrived in tact. Originally, Cawston’s primary plan was to cash out on the popularity of ostrich feathers. He had accessories and fashion items in mind, and wanted to cut out the middleman and raise the ostriches on his own farm.

After over half of the birds failed to survive the harsh trip, Cawston decided to breed his own birds with the remaining 18. Through breeding, he was able to balloon his total to over 100 ostriches total. From here, the farm, located in Arroyo Seco Valley, began to boom. Back then, it was a modern day theme park, full to the brim with roaming, able-bodies ostriches and decorated with pyramid-style structures to represent the birds native Africa.

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There was such a keen interest in ostriches and their feathers that it drew tourism for years to come. Some visitors rode the ostriches with carriages, others rode it bareback, but mostly, one of the most captivating facets of the ostrich farm was observing during feeding time. Because ostriches swallow food whole, it became quite the spectacle to see the birds swallow oranges whole.

The farm was located next to the Pacific Electric Railway, and its popularity eventually led to the creation of the Red Car trolley, which took visitors from the railway directly to the ostrich farm.

Cawston’s ostriches weren’t just a moneymaker in Pasadena. The farm was also attached to a factory, where he shipped genuine ostrich feathers and products all around the country, and other parts of the world. Visitors could also watch the animals as they are plucked to gain a better understanding of the feather-gathering process, as well as to witness firsthand the authenticity of its products in the making.

Around 1910, the market for ostrich tourism started to plummet. Around this time, real theme parks with motorized rides and entertainment began to take precedence. The factory closed down in 1935. Today, the original brick structure of the factory remains, and is an official cultural landmark (#18). The South Pasadena Public Library spent many years digitizing photos from the Ostrich Farm, which are available for viewing at Online Archive California. Today, although the farm has long since been shut down, it attracts tourists around the world.

Top Outdoor Activities In South Pasadena

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Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you South Pasadena is a city that’s full of charm.The city works hard to preserve its original culture and history, and retains a small-town feel that makes it desirable to people around the world. Because what’s better than being able to reside in a town that’s far enough to exude community spirit in a small-town scene, but close enough to head over to Hollywood in just a short car ride?

Whether you want to stay indoors or catch some air, the area is versatile enough to appeal to all types of activities. And when it comes to South Pasadena, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to keep you busy during the nicer days (which is pretty much year-round). Here are a few to keep in mind:

Visit The South Pasadena Farmers’ Market

The South Pasadena Farmers’ Market is the place to go for all your local California cuisine needs. Live music enhances the ambiance, and locals and visitors alike scour the dozens of vendors for some of the best food trucks and take-home options. The market takes local shopping to another level, and has a strong community presence that resonates throughout the space. Options are endless here. Head over to Nicole’s for fresh goat cheese, Nana’s nachos for drizzling cheese and tortilla, Apple Sherrill Orchards for freshly squeezed natural juices, and Mama Musubi for gourmet rice balls.

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Image credit: hometown-pasadena.com

Visit The Fork In The Road

South Pasadena’s infamous Fork in the Road is one of the city’s best photo-ops, and it never goes out of style. Whether you’re new to the area or have seen the Fork dozens of times, it’s always a welcome reminder of all that South Pasadena has to offer, no matter which way you go.

This 18-foot wooden fork sits at the intersection of Pasadena and St. John Avenues. It was installed by local businessmen Bob Stane and Ken Marshall, who originally placed it without permission from local city officials. Since then, it has become a popular site for city events, such as fundraisers and food drives.

Go Horseback Riding

The San Pascual Stables have been offering horseback riding to South Pasadena since 1978. This is an ideal outdoor activity for all ages and riding education levels. There are all types of lessons available, too, including a summer camp program for kids and regular riding lessons for adults. San Pascual Stables is also known for hosting family-friendly events, such as the San Pascual Holiday Horse Show during the Christmas Holiday.

Go On A Park Crawl

South Pasadena has no shortage of parks, and there’s a hundred different ways to explore them. One of the best and most popular parks in the area is Garfield Park. It sits on seven acres and is beautifully landscaped throughout. It has tennis courts, fire pits, picnic tables, playgrounds, and more. Every year, the Summer Concert in the Park series takes place here. A massive easter egg hunt called Eggstravaganza also takes place here. Check the South Pasadena Events page for an updated list of current happenings.

Arroyo Park is another popular South Pasadena staple. It sits on nearly 20 acres of land, and has athletic fields, playgrounds, picnic tables, a barbecue, and a small amphitheater. This is the go-to spot for local sports and ideal for watching a game of soccer or baseball. Other parks include Orange Grove Park (which also has a 9,500 square foot recreation center), Library Park (home to the library and Senior Center, with plenty of meandering walkways), and Legion Park (which has a landscaped memorial garden).

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Image credit: southpasadenan.com

Taste of South Pasadena

South Pasadena is prime real estate for food, and it might get difficult to narrow down your top choices—especially as a newcomer. That’s where Taste of South Pasadena comes in, an walking tour event that takes you to some of the best eateries in town. One Yelp reviewer said, “Taste of South Pasadena is a great way to explore the city, stroll, and sample yummy treats, food, and wine.” The next Taste of South Pasadena event takes place on April 17th, 2018. Last year, the event had 22 participating restaurants and 12 wineries, and had a whopping 850 attendees. There will also be live music and an optional wine tasting. Children under 7 are free.

Rose Bowl Stadium

Just a hop, skip, and away from South Pasadena is the Rose Bowl stadium—a must for locals and visitors alike. The stadium is home to a slew of events, from some of the most renowned football tournaments, to concerts, and even a monthly flea market held every second Saturday of the month. And of course, it’s home to UCLA’s Bruins team. No matter what month of the year, there’s always something going on here.

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Take Golf Lessons

The Arroyo Seco Golf Course is the perfect place to take a golf lesson–or simply play golf if you’ve already mastered the art of the swing. According to the official City of South Pasadena website, the golf course has an 18-hole, Par 3 course, full driving range, 9-hole miniature golf course, and putting and chipping practice areas. Anything a golfer could need is readily available here.

The range was recently renovated, and now features a spacious practice area and  state-of-the-art hitting mats. It’s also an illuminated course, which means it stays open late until 10pm. There are five professional teachers that take up residence at the Arroyo Seco Golf Course.

There’s also a full-service restaurant and bar on site for before or after your game. And lastly, the site plays hosts to weekly events, such as Wine & Song, the Arroyo Seco Men’s Golf Club, and the Arroyo Ladies Golf Club.

Best Kids & Family Activities in South Pasadena

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Although South Pasadena is just 3.5 miles of area, but it packs a strong punch. South Pasadena’s city mission is to stay small, making plenty of room for mom-and-pop shops and creating the perfect family environment. There is a strong sense of community in the area, and kids are the center of that community. The South Pasadena neighborhoods are charming, and parents have plenty of opportunities to keep their children engaged. Here are some of the best kids and family activities in South Pasadena:

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Amy’s Playground

Amy’s Indoor Playground is the perfect place to take your little ones. The business was founded and continues to operate by Amy, a South Pasadena mom that always has the children’s best interest at heart. The shoe-free, carpeted indoor playground is designed to be challenging, stimulating, and a blast for anyone who joins.

What to expect: a huge bounce house with a slide, miniature houses and cars, and even a balloonist once a week that makes awesome balloon creations. And the space is also built to be just as cozy for adults: there’s a quiet reading area, free coffee, picnic tables, and a bring-your-own-food policy (though drinks and snacks are available for purchase). And at just $8 for a day pass, it’s a steal.

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 Visit Garfield Park

If the weather’s on your side, take your kids over to Garfield Park––a South Pasadena staple. This is a town where parks are the focal point of the city, and it shows when you arrive. There are six parks in total in South Pasadena, and Garfield easily ranks at the top for many residents.

This beautifully-landscaped park sits on seven acres, has plenty of picnic tables throughout, two tennis courts, a fire pit, and is even home to the Summer Concert in Parks series. Other events, (especially during the holiday) take place here, too. Keep an eye out for Eggstravaganza, an Easter egg hunt happening on March 31st, and check out the park’s website for more upcoming events. At the northern end of the park is the The South Pasadena Children’s Memorial and Healing Garden, a place reserved to memorialize young Pasadena residents who have passed away.

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Kids Klub Summer Camp

At Kids Klub, there’s an endless supply of fun. Michael Wojciechowski, CEO & President of the Kids Klub, says, “Our philosophy is a ‘Back to Basics’ approach where we provide a safe, clean, and stimulating environment for children to play, learn and grow in, while teaching the children self-esteem, respect, and responsibility.” Part of what makes the Kids Klub unique is their mission to mix fun with education by providing stimulating “Discovery Areas” that allow children to learn in a hands-on environment. There are a variety of services available: infant care, pre-school, after-school, and evening and weekend drop-off services. Prices are provided in “membership” tiers by season. Check out their site for more details.

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The Dinosaur Farm

The Dinosaur Farm is specialty toy and book store in South Pasadena, and if your children weren’t fans of these prehistoric creatures before, they just may be after they step through the Dinosaur Farm door. Everything dinosaur is found here: cups, puzzles, games, merchandise, inflatables, party supplies, and much more.

There are also other collectibles outside of dinosaurs to be found. But it’s not just about buying a handful of toy gear; what makes this place so great is the experience it offers. The store opened in 1994, and has received a handful of awards and press mentions since. Forbes Magazine listed the Dinosaur Farm as one of the Top 10 Amazing Toy Stores, alongside nationally recognized brands like FAO Schwarz.

Partake in Parade Festivities

The city puts on the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade annually, and it’s an event you don’t want the kiddos to miss. Every year, this floral-based event takes on a different theme. In 2016, the theme was “Find Your Adventure,” while 2018’s theme was “Making A Difference.” The event coincides with the Rose Bowl Tournament festivities, where several cities in the area make a float to contribute to the high-energy parade event.

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San Pascual Stables

South Pasadena’s San Pascual Stables make for an ideal day-trip during a warm day. Like many local businesses in South Pasadena, San Pascual is steeped in history. The center has been in operation since 1978 and has been offering premier horseback riding lessons ever since.

The expert instructors work with any type of rider, at all age levels. The Riding Academy also offers “Mommy (or Daddy) & Me” lessons, as well as a summer camp program for children who really enjoy horses. They also host events during the holidays, like the free San Pascual Holiday Horse Show this past December, which offered pony rides, games, and food.

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Kidspace Children’s Museum 

The Kidspace Children’s Museum is Southern California’s premier family destination, and one look at their reviews can attest to this. There are so many activities here, that you’ll have to check the lineup to see what’s happening during a particular time. It’s true that Kidspace has it all: fun physics classes, art lessons, mud to play in, science experiments, playgrounds, and tunnels galore. These sites and exhibitions allow your children to explore, have fun, and learn. Check out the Free Family Night, which occurs on the first Tuesday of every month.

Best Places To Eat In South Pasadena

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There’s a certain charm about South Pasadena, which the Los Angeles Times referred to as a “hip little enclave.” The area is steeped in city landmarks with its range of historic buildings, but that doesn’t mean the city has fallen behind the times. In this neighborhood, you’ll find inventine cuisine along the Gold Line tracks, Indie stores, restaurants steeped in history, and galleries galore. And when it comes to food, there’s little left to be desired. Here are some of the best places to eat in South Pasadena.

Cos&Pi

Cos&Pi focuses on seasonal breakfast and lunch menus. Their philosophy is to let the food speak for itself, and this has worked for the restaurant since it opened. This neighborhood eatery is small in size, so visitors are expected to arrive early to secure a seat. After all, this is one of the highest-rated restaurants in South Pasadena. Check out the breakfast menu here, and the lunch menu here.

What to try: Avocado toast, Breakfast burger, Potato hash au gratin, Egg tostada, Salmon toast

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Fiore Market Cafe

Owners Anne and Bill Disselhorst had a modest beginning. After visiting Italy in 2003, they were so inspired by the aura and cuisine there––particularly the slow pace and locally-grown food––that they decided to bring their own version back to South Pasadena. In a blog post that Bob wrote when the cafe first opened, he said: “It’s our vision and our dream to create a European style cafe with the charm and character of something you would find along the Seine in Paris.”

The market is not just about consuming or purchasing food, but making it, too–– their bread baking classes are a classic, and almost always fill up quickly. You can purchase everything here, from fresh salads and sandwiches to grains to local ingredients. There’s even a live jazz band that performs weekly. Check out the menu here.

What to try: Spicy udon noodles, Cold rare roast beef sandwich, Roasted chicken sandwich with basil walnut pesto, Walnut chocolate cookie

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Nicole’s

Nicole’s is part-gourmet store, part-gourmet dining. It has wide selection of over 200 cheeses from around the world. They also sell high-end French ingredients, imported wines, and fresh breads and croissants. The market and cafe are family-owned by a mother-daughter duo, and just steps away from the local farmer’s market. Check out the breakfast and lunch menus here.

What to try: Cheese plate, Melted brie and tomato, Prosciutto & Pecorino sandwich, Ham, Egg and Cheese on Croissant

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Image Source: Nicole’s Gourmet Food

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Gus’s Barbecue

Gus’ Barbecue began with a culinary mission of transplanting Southern cuisine and hospitality to Southern California. And it achieves this with its South Pasadena location. The restaurant’s meats are seasoned overnight and cooked old-fashioned style over pecan logs. Rubs and sauces are made daily in-house.

The original owners–-three siblings from Cleveland––left their family-owned bar and headed West on Route 66 sampling a plethora of flavors along the way. Today, Gus’s BBQ is the oldest barbecue restaurant in Los Angeles. Founded in 1946, it has stood the test of time and continues to thrive as a city must-have.

When its newest owners, brothers Chris and John Bicos, took over the restaurant in 2006, they decided to keep the family appeal, bring the design of the space up to modern standards (some have said its interior looks more like an upscale steakhouse), and go back in time to more traditional, pan-regional BBQ cuisine. Since then, the restaurant’s remained a Los Angeles landmark. Check out the menu here.

What to try: Beef brisket, BBQ sampler, St. Louis ribs, Carolina pulled pork, mashed potatoes

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Image source: Gus BBQ

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Briganti

Briganti is the go-to spot for traditional Italian fare. This is a sleek, upscale spot with an outdoor patio perfect for sipping wine. The owner also runs La Buca, another well-regarded Italian spot in Los Angeles, though, according to LA Weekly, Briganti is the better of the two. Check out the menu here.

What to try: Fettuccine bolognese, Gnocchi, Crab ravioli, Spaghetti pescatora, Branzino

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Image source: Hometown Pasadena

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Aro Latin

Aro Latin is a contemporary restaurant serving up Pan-Latin cuisine in a rustic, cozy setting (designed by Akar Studios in Santa Monica). The founders are a couple who met in Los Angeles––the husband, Karan comes from India, and the wife, Candy, hails from El Salvador. Together, they wanted to bring savory Latin taste to Southern California. To do so, they traveled extensively throughout Mexico, Central America, and South America looking for ways to reinvent classic Latin flavors without compromising authenticity. Check out their lunch and brunch menu here, and the Aro Latin dinner menu here.

What to try: Chaufa de pollo (Peruvian-style chicken fried rice), Costillitas (baby back ribs cooked in coconut milk with mango relish), Cordero aro (roasted lamb shank slow cooked with honey mustard glaze)

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Image source: LA Dreams Magazine

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Canoe House

Island culture and hospitality are in full force at this tropical-inspired Hawaiian restaurant. The interior is reminiscent of a Hawaiian plantation house, and in addition to the cocktails and cuisine, Canoe House provides the perfect backdrop for a fun evening of dining and drinking. Take a look at their list of menus here.

What to try: Hawaiian strip steak, Spicy tuna on crispy rice, Seared ahi sandwich, Hawaiian fried rice, Pineapple upside down cake

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Shiro

Creative French-inspired Japanese cuisine makes Shiro a uniquely fit place for experimental dining. For thirty years, it’s been one of the top restaurants in Los Angeles, and was even listed as the number one restaurant by Zagat. The menu is revolving depending on the season and availability, but you can check out their most current menu by visiting their homepage. Alternatively, you can view a gallery of food images from its most recent offerings.

What to try: Whole sizzling deep-fried catfish, Roasted New Zealand lamb chops, Sonoma breast of duck, Sea scallops and lobster, Broiled Chilean seabass with soy-ginger-mirin marinade & potato puree

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Image source: Shiro

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Crossings

Crossings was founded in 2011 by Patrick & Stephanie Kirchen, who aimed to create a dining space where people could feel at home, be a part of a community, and create memories centered around delicious American cuisine. Located in the historic Edwards & Faw building, it features two floors of dining space and a patio that’s partially shaded by a 100-year-old oak tree. The menu features locally-grown ingredients and food includes steaks, seafood, and a hearty selection of chops. Check out the Crossings menu here.

What to try: Uni carbonara, Filet mignon, Oysters on the half shell, Salmon with Yogurt, beet, blackberry, smoked roe, and fresh herbs

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Image source: LA Dreams

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The Unique Architecture of Echo Park

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Main image: https://takesunset.com

Echo Park has an eclectic roster of homes, commercial buildings, and public spaces that make the neighborhood a destination of its own. Street art, sunset views, hidden city staircases, boutiques, and eclectic architect make up the foundation of Echo Park.

Early 20th century architecture allows history to speak for itself. On the opposite side of the coin, there’s an industrial-meets-nature vibe about Echo Park, and it’s emboldened in the city’s more modern architecture. This unique architectural flair of the community is what continues to attract new residents from all around the world. Featured here is some of the unique architecture of Echo Park:

Modernist House on Lemoyne Street

Echo Park real estate reached new records when it sold a three bedroom, two bathroom house on Lemoyne Street for $2.275 million––well over its asking price of $1.895 million. The wooden fence outside the house is dotted with bright, techni-colored glass panels and a set of teal concrete steps. The home was designed by was designed by architect Rachel Allen, whose previous work includes Echo Park Bungalows. She’s also currently working on Pershing Square Renew in Downtown Los Angeles and the multi-family residential unit Encore Capital in Eagle Rock.

The house is designed to nestle into the land and transform the space into an urban retreat among nature. The goal for the space was to maximize the architectural connection to the outdoors, and a large portion of the house is composed of floor-to-ceiling windows. A long strip of glass on the ceiling spans the home from one end to the other, making the trees feel just as part of the interior as the concrete floors and sustainably harvested walnut. Check out more photos here.

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Ark House

Situated along Lake Shore in Echo Park is the ultra-modern Ark House. Like other Echo Park staples, this multi-family building was sustainably designed to blend in seamlessly with nature; it features floor-to-ceiling sliding glass “windows” with corrugated metal screens that allow for temperature regulation. In the winter, they’re removed.

Los Angeles Times Magazine said the space represented, “smart, flexible design solutions that raise the bar on the indoor-outdoor connection so essential to life in Southern California.” The three-story building is built primary on concrete––the third floor features an expansive communal outdoor garden and terrace that overlooks Echo Park and downtown Los Angeles. Its design inspiration was based on the concept of a “mini mall” and all units in the building are the same (though each has its own interior flair based on the inhabitants, of course).

Architect Norman Mailer began working on the home in 2006 and  finished his design in 2010. Since then, it’s been included in several Los Angeles home tours, including Dwell on Design.

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The Atwater/ Holi Village Bungalows

We wrote about the Pueblo-style Atwater Bungalows in detail early last year, and they’re worth mentioning in any write-up about Echo Park real estate and architecture. Dr. H. Gale Atwater, an early Echo Park luminary, commissioned the property in the early 1930s, but they were designed by Robert Stacy-Judd. The design was inspired by traditional Hopi kivas in India and the concept of communal living architecture, and Stacy-Judd hoped to evoke the spirit of that. They were built from unfinished adobe to lend it a rustic appearance, and outfitted with pueblo-style windows, staircases, and cone-shaped chimneys.

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Image source: LA Times – http://losangelesrealestateunlimited.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Atwater-1-780×520.png

Victorian Homes on Carroll Avenue

Gingerbread trimmings and gabled roofs galore; this is a Victorian-era dream. Angelino Heights was the first suburb of Los Angeles, and it remains an important staple in the city till this day. Carroll Avenue is lined with grandiose Victorian homes from another era, and has the largest concentration of Victorian homes in the city. Originally constructed during the 19th century for upper and middle class families, today the 1300 block is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, while the entire neighborhood is the first in Los Angeles to be designated Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ).

This area has also had its share of Hollywood fame. Originally built for City Councilman Daniel Innes, 1339 Halliwell Manor is the iconic site of popular television series Charmed––and it still gets plenty of attention from the show’s fans. Walk a little further down, and you’ll reach 1345 Carroll Avenue from Michael Jackson’s iconic “Thriller” video. And a little walk from there is Carroll Avenue, which is “Mad Men” Don Draper’s childhood home.

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Blackbirds

Blackbirds is an 18-unit small-lot housing project from architect Barbara Bestor. Polished concrete, white oak, fancy landscaping, rooftop decks, and tailored cabinetry are just a few features spread across these 18 properties. Bestor aimed to construct a progressive solution for high-quality, dense housing. According to its website, “Blackbirds is an experimental contemporary urban living where community, nature, and design are in balance with each other.” Each two and three-bedroom property is built around public and private outdoor spaces.

Each also features large windows for natural light, patios, and amazing outdoor views.

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Image: Bestor Architecture

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Jessica’s Bungalow

Jessica Fleischmann is the owner of an Echo Park bungalow that, upon first glance, doesn’t look like much of anything out of the ordinary. The fleshy pink siding of the front exterior was kept in tact to preserve the historic character of the place, but Fleischmann, a graphic designer and daughter of Ernst Fleischmann (who led the Los Angeles Philharmonic) wanted a renovation that reflected modernity.

She commissioned architecture firm PRODUCTURA to work on the redesign. Today, it has a steel, grid-like frame in the back with full-glass windows spanning two floors. Oak wood, concrete flooring, and metal all blend together to create an urban oasis of sorts. Check out a full description of the renovation and its photos on Dwell.

The home was also featured in the Mark Ruffalo-featured film, “The Kids Are Alright.” Read more about her experience renting out her home for four days for $15,000.

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Image source: Dwell

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Lento Brick Court

In 2010, the Lento Brick Courtyard was officially declared a Los Angeles historic-cultural monument. This prevents the property from any interior or exterior changes (and demolition) unless approved by the Cultural Heritage Commision in Echo Park. And while there’s nothing overtly historical about this (as with the Victorian homes on Carroll Avenue) or overtly modern (like Ark House), its unique courthouse housing design is a symbol of its time.

Unlike the surrounding area, it uses brick instead of stucco and wrought-iron fencing rather than wood. One writer from Echo Park Now said the design looks like something “you might find in New York as opposed to Los Angeles.”

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What You Need To Know About The Bob Baker Marionette Theater In Echo Park

The Bob Baker Marionette Theatre in Echo Park is, without a doubt, a Los Angeles staple. The theatre hosts shows and events featuring the most talented puppeteers and the most uniquely decorated handmade marionettes.

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Though the theatre caters primarily to young audiences, adults have consistently raved about the performances, and some even consider it a “psychedelic” experience, thanks largely in part to the off-beat soundtracks, wacky themes, and dizzying light show, and sounds.

The puppeteers are ultra-interactive and use the entire theatre as their playground, moving through the throngs of people and gliding across the theatre floor. After a while, most people even forget the puppeteers are there. If you’re interested in checking out a show, you’re in for a treat. Here’s a few other things you need to know about the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre in Echo Park:

The Theatre Is Steeped In History

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater has been a part of the Angelino community since 1963. Since then, it has been indicted as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark. Every year, it utilizes over 2,000 puppets and puts on around 200 performances. Today, the theatre is a nonprofit organization, and its goal is to “provide unique theatrical experiences; to educate, celebrate and rejuvenate puppetry and the allied arts.”

They Host An Annual Festival

Since Bob Baker passed away of natural causes at 90 years old in 2014, the theatre has hosted a FREE annual “Bob Baker Day!” festival on his birthday. On February 24th, the fun and carnival-spirit energy spills out onto the street in front of the theatre. Here’s what you can expect during Bob Baker day this year:

  • Puppet shows
  • Pop-up puppet museum in the theatre
  • Arts and crafts booths
  • Food trucks
  • Exhibition booths from the local community
  • Live entertainment
  • Family-friendly games

Bob Baker Is A Marionette Legend

Bob Baker (1924-2014) started experimenting with puppeteering when he was just eight years old, and went on to become one of the world’s most renowned puppeteers. Over the course of his career, he served as the animation advisor for several studios, including Disney, and his puppetry work has been featured in several shows and films, including Bewitched, Star Trek, Land of the Giants, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Bob Baker’s marionettes have also performed live around the world––even on submarines and Navy ships.

The Theatre Will Expand In 2018

In a long-term plan to preserve the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre for at least another 50 years, the theatre transitioned into a non-profit organization. The company is currently rebuilding and expanding its theatre to accommodate this new mission. The 2018 construction will rejuvenate the current space, allowing the theatre to remain where it’s always been.

The new space will be based on Bob Baker’s original design sketches for the space, allowing the company to live up to its reputation and founder by fulfilling some of his lifelong dreams for the theatre.

In addition to the renovations, they’ll also be adding a workshop, museum, and educational space to engage with the community. These new facilities will also help foster partnerships with other cultural and educational groups. While the new space is under construction, the organization will be a traveling theatre and continue to host shows and events around Los Angeles. Construction is expected to end late 2018, or early 2019.

Birthday Parties Are Welcome

For a one-of-kind birthday party, the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre is the way to go. The Birthday Party package includes a personalized sheet cake from Hansen’s bakery, drinks, a fully decorated birthday area, balloon festival, and meet-and-greet with the marionettes at the end of the show. The party packages are customizable, and families can add additional party favors for a fee. Though there’s no kitchen access, guests are welcome to purchase and serve their own food.

Top Outdoor Activities In Echo Park

Echo Park is a great place to live and play no matter what the season is, but the warmer months offer ample opportunity to partake in some outdoor activities. The neighborhood is centrally located, making it the perfect starting point for a myriad of activities and events. Here’s a few things you can do if you’re in the area:

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Echo Park Lake

You can’t have a conversation about outdoor activities in Echo Park without talking about Echo Park Lake. This historic park underwent a massive makeover and has remained a go-to ever since. The lotus flower blooms make way for the Lotus Festival (mentioned later) and downtown views make for the perfect backdrop to a sunny afternoon. Though you’ll have to keep an eye out for events, there’s plenty to do here on a day-to-day basis. Start your day by heading over to the revived boathouse for breakfast at Square One. Then have a picnic, go fishing, take a stroll through its pathways, or rent a pedal boat and coast along still waters.

Lunch Concerts In Grand Park

If you live in Echo Park but commute downtown for work, why not spend your lunch hours listening to music at Grand Park? The performance lawn will have free music and plenty of food trucks to satiate your hunger. Head over to check out the local talent every other Thursday throughout the year.

Get A Workout On Echo Park Stairs

Echo Park is renowned for its many staircases, some hidden and winding, while others offer phenomenal views of the Los Angeles landscape. Whatever your style, there’s a staircase for you. It makes for the perfect workout and helps build appreciation for the neighborhood. For a challenging workout, the Baxter staircase is your best bet. The 231 steps offer downtown LA views at the top, and you’ll even find a wealth of succulents at the bottom of the steps near Elysian Park. Alternatively, the Delta staircase offers some great views of the northern side of Echo Park and is adorned with natural floral displays growing along the stairwell.

Go To A Dodger’s Game

Head to the Dodger’s stadium and root for your home team. Tickets start at just $12, and it’s a perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon. Go for an infamous Dodger Dog, or head to one of Echo Park’s highly-rated restaurants nearby.

Beach Yoga

There’s little doubt that beach yoga is worth traveling for. Head over to the beach for SUNSET Beach Yoga with Brad. The class is held by Brad Keimach, a Juilliard-trained conductor who’s also a yoga enthusiast and health lecturer. Classes are held on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and while no registration is required, there is a minimum donation of $15 for each 90-minute session. The Santa Monica Business Group voted the class “Best Yoga Business in Santa Monica” for the past three years.

Lotus Festival

Every year, the City of Los Angeles hosts the The Lotus Festival, an Echo Park Lake event that occurs during the lotus flower summer bloom. Each year, the festival is hosted by a different country. Last year, the host was Bangladesh, while this year, its 38th installment will be hosted by China. Expect traditional dancing, food, and other attractions inspired by the Chinese culture. This year, the event will be held July 14th and 15. There will be dragon boat races, free family-friendly entertainment, a silent auction, and much more. Visit the Lotus site for more information.

2018 LA Beer Fest

Starting at just $45, you’ll have access to unlimited beer tastings at the 2018 LA Beer Fest, held at LA Center Studios Studios over the course of two three-hour sessions (one session per ticket). Last year’s event was completely sold out, and this marks its 10th annual event. Expect dozens of domestic and international beers, food trucks, and live music. Proceeds from this event will go towards Noah’s B-ark, Inc, a non-profit organization whose aim is to rescue dogs from shelters and place them in permanent homes.

Best Spots to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Echo Park

Valentine’s Day is a day of love and laughter, and there’s plenty to go around. With a romantic lake at your doorstep, Echo Park is the perfect backdrop for a romantic Valentine’s Day date.

Every year, there are some amazing, eclectic experiences to be had in Echo Park and the surrounding area.

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If you’re looking for date ideas for the perfect February 14th, look no further. We’ve summed up the perfect events and dinner spots to help you and your loved one have an ideal Cupid’s date.

Start With Drinks

Right before you head over to your evening dinner plans, consider stopping at Bar Bandini. It’s dark, sultry, relaxed, and makes for the perfect introduction to a nice glass of wine. The grapes are processed organically with little intervention, and made using native yeast. There are some small fare plates and wine friendly appetizers to hold you over until dinner. A highly knowledgeable staff that will help you choose the perfect taste if you’re overwhelmed by the large list of wine choices. .

Alternatively, El Prado is an Echo Park wine bar that’s fairly mellow during the week. This is a no-gimmick spot with plenty of wine and beer offerings and appetizing bar bites (think: pita and hummus). It has a cozy bohemian feel, impressive vinyl collection, and outdoor patio.

If beer is more your style, there’s no better place than the Sunset Beer Company. There are 500 varieties of beers here, and several selections of wines. There’s everything from California microbrews to rare Belgian ales. The atmosphere is cozy and comfortable for couples who want a relaxing start to the rest of their evening.

Lastly, at restaurant Mohawk Bend (considered a “beer wonderland” by LA Weekly) there’s no shortage of options. California craft beers are paired with American fare at this highly-rated, brick-walled eatery. Almost the entire menu is vegan, but you wouldn’t recognize it from its offerings: expect vegan-friendly pastas, pizzas, and salads.

Take A Cooking Class

Take your date to a cooking class, where you can both learn something new and feast on your own cuisine. There are plenty of amazing cooking classes in Echo Park and the greater Los Angeles area. For example, the Donable cooking class teaches guests how to make traditional Japanese fare while in a small, intimate setting. At the end of the class, you can purchase any of the Donabe ingredients and products to take home with you and try your hand at home.

Over at Eataly’s La Scuola, you can learn to master Italian dishes with renowned Chef Lidia Bastianich, where handmade pastas are the specialty. La Scuola also offers experimental walking tours and paired wine dinners.

For dessert, why not try decorating a cake together? Duff’s Cakemix is hosting a Valentine’s Day cake decorating class where couples can learn the art of professional dessert decorating while having fun. You’ll be able to pipe, airbrush, roll, and execute other techniques alongside pastry chefs. There will be snacks and drinks available, as well as raffles to win some of the bakery’s delicious baked goods. The price is just $60 per couple.

Take A Dance Class

If you enjoy a unique cultural experience and dancing, why not swing to the beat with your partner at a dance class in a train station? That’s exactly what will be happening this Valentine’s day at Union Station. Afro-Cuban dancer Chris Kizomba will be teaching visitors how to dance in the style of kizomba. Expect this to be a high-energy event, followed by a full-on dance party with live music from Ricardo Lemvo y Makina Loca.

Go See A Movie

There’s nothing like cozying up to a romantic film. This year, there will be a Cinespia screening of Roman Holiday (Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck). Tickets for this event are just $33 for General Admission and come with complimentary sparkling wine from Freixenet Cava.

If that’s not your style, head over to the El Capitan Theatre to catch an animated viewing of the classic tale, The Lady and the Tramp. This film will be showing between Feb. 9th – 14th. Before each screening, there will be a live accordion performance by Ed Vodika. If you don’t get a chance to see it, keep El Capitan in mind for next year — they usually show Valentine’s themed movies during this time of the year.

Make It An Experience

Lucha Vavoom is great for couples who want to combine fun and adventurous with your classic V-day date night. Here, you’ll find fun masked Mexican wrestling matches with and knee-slapping comedy, and it’s sure to deliver a great time. The entire event will be Valentine’s Day themed, and there will be plenty of V-day gifts and surprises.

And if you love high-tech and gear, there’s no better (or more unique) way to spend your Valentine’s Day than the Virtual Room. The Virtual Room is where you and your partner work together to solve a mystery via a full-fledged virtual reality experience. The agency’s current “adventure” scheme is as follows:

“The year is 2217.These are dangerous times. Your mission… Choose your Omega team (two to four people) from your most loyal companions and set off through the corridors of time to find the Alpha team and repair the damage caused by the temporal rift – and save the future of the world!”

Each member of your team will have a dedicated room that’s equipped with the latest virtual reality gear. As you maneuver the game, you’ll be able to be to move around the room and collaborate with your other team members virtually.

Classic Dinner Dates

You can’t go wrong with your classic dinner date, and Echo Park has some of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. Among them are Ostrich Farm, Elf Cafe, and Winsome. At Ostrich Farm, the food is made fresh daily and brunch is especially popular. Recommended dishes include the varied and delicious cheese plate, Pork “ossobuco”, and spicy chickpeas.

The Elf Cafe serves Mediterranean food and the menu boasts an all-natural wine list. Many good things have been said about its cuisine and interior. LA Eater considers it one of the most underrated restaurants in Los Angeles, while LA Weekly stated, “Every dinner here feels like a special occasion.” Try the Moroccan vegetable tagine, California risotto, and buffalo oyster mushrooms.

Lastly, Winsome offers a little bit of everything with classic American food with a twist, served in a laidback, lush California setting. Some of its more popular menu items include the Lamb ribs, bone-in pork chop, and potato rosti with eggs.

Free Things To Do In Echo Park

Whether you’re an Echo Park resident or a visitor, it’s good to have a solid arsenal of free things to do when your budget is tight. Fortunately, Echo Park has quite a bit up its sleeve. In addition to the items listed here, take note of the surrounding establishments and check out their websites. You never know what events a local music store or restaurant (near your home or hotel) has to offer, and many Echo Park businesses transform their spaces during the evenings. With that in mind, here’s our selection of free things to do in Echo Park:

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Echo Park Lake

The historic Echo Park lake underwent a two-year renovation before it once again became the ultimate family-friendly destination. Walking along the path or enjoying a picnic on the grass costs nothing. Echo Park Lake is the perfect meeting place for a leisurely stroll, some fishing, or relaxation.

Head over from April to August, and you’ll see dozens of lotus pads, frogs, and turtles. With beautiful views, spraying fountains, free WiFi, and well-maintained grounds, this is the ideal place to take a breather. Additionally, many events are hosted here (including Machine Project events, mentioned later in this article). Check out the park website to learn more about current events in advance.

Go On A Gallery Crawl

Echo Park is a diverse neighborhood with art as an integral part of its foundation. In fact, from the minute you get to Echo Park, you’re greeted by a giant wall mural on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park. With that being said, there are plenty of art galleries to suit your desire. Go on a gallery crawl to get a curated look into the multicultural minds of local artists and designers.

Subliminal Projects and iam8bit are two Echo Park galleries worth checking out. Subliminal Projects is owned and operated by Shepard Fairey, the artist and founder of popular clothing line OBEY, as well as the creative mind behind Obama’s renowned “HOPE” campaign photo. The gallery displays work from local artists, including street art. Iam8bit, on the other hand, hosts pop culture-inspired installations and their receptions are grand affairs with free drinks.

Attend A Literary Event

For book enthusiasts, attending a literary event (for free) is the perfect activity. The Stories Books & Cafe is an Echo Park staple with an outdoor patio and rows of new and used books. Fortunately, many Echo Park bookstores, including Stories, hosts literary events at no cost for attendees. In addition to literary events, the book shop also hosts comedy shows and movie nights for free, with drinks and food available for purchase. In fact, if you bring in your old books, you may even make money from your visit. Use it to buy a nice cup of fair trade coffee from the cafe.

Visit Angelino Heights

Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast or simply appreciate a good home, there’s nothing like a stroll through Angelino Heights — especially on a nice day. The neighborhood, particularly Carroll Avenue (in 1976, the street was added to the National Register of Historic Places), is lined with historic Victorian homes.

Nearly all of these grandiose homes have been remodeled, and they make up Los Angeles’ first ever suburban neighborhood. Several of these homes are a part of the Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments.

If you’ve never been here before, but feel like you have, there’s probably a reason for that. This area also served as a backdrop for Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the Charmed television series, and the Fast and the Furious films. While you can take a walk through the area on your own, there’s a walking tour available for a small fee.

Get A Workout – AND A View

There are 33 different stairways in Echo Park (some that were built before the commercialization of vehicles), each set winding its way through various neighborhoods and points of interest. But none offers a better view or more thorough exercise than the Baxter Street Stairs. With 231 steps and 180-foot vertical incline, you’re greeted with a phenomenal panorama of Echo Park’s northern hills, Downtown LA, the Hollywood sign, and the Griffith Park observatory.

Chavez Ravine Arboretum

Nature lover’s will rejoice at all the green here at Southern California’s first and first and oldest arboretum. The Chavez Ravine Arboretum in Elysian Park is home to more than 100 different varieties of trees from around the world. From the late 1800s to the early 1940s, horticulturists everywhere donated species to this space. A few of the trees here are the oldest or largest of their kind in the entire country. In addition to free admission (it’s a part of the park) and a variety of trees, you’ll also see a variety of birds, ranging from woodpeckers to ravens and hummingbirds.

Attend An Event Hosted By Machine Project

According to their website, “Machine Project is a place for artists to do fun experiments, together with the public, in ways that influence culture.” It achieves this through a series of events, installations, and workshops. Many of Machine Project’s events are free to attend, with suggested donations advertised. Check out their website for current event listings, or browse previous events to get a feel for what Machine Project does.