CityDig: Constructing Griffith Park

When this map was created in 1935, the old zoo was expanding and the observatory was on its way

Griffith Park has a long and colorful history. Jose Vicente Feliz had the original grant to the land; his heir sold it to Antonio Coronel, who sold it to James Lick, who sold it to Griffith J. Griffith. In 1896 Griffith donated a large chunk of the property (nearly 5 square miles) to the city for use as a park and in time gave money to build the Greek Theater in 1930 and the Griffith Observatory in 1935, when this map—shared with us by Los Angeles City councilman Tom LaBonge—was created. At the time the centerpiece of today’s park, the old zoo, was undergoing a makeover, which resulted in the highly criticized steel cages and cramped enclosures that stayed put until 1956 when a bond issue was passed to expand and modernize the facility.

What makes this map so interesting to me is the many little stories it includes about out-of-the-way spots around Griffith Park. The Cricket Ground had four pitches where the Hollywood Cricket Club members Boris Karloff, Ronald Coleman, and Leslie Howard played and movie stars like David Niven, Laurence Olivier, Olivia DeHaviland, Elsa Lanchester, and Merle Oberon could be seen spending their Sundays watching the action. The C.C. camp nearby was originally set up for veterans of the Great War, later housed employees of the Civilian Conservation Corps (1938-1941), and finally functioned as a camp for Japanese-Americans in the sad chapter of internment. The National Guard Airport was originally a small strip donated by Griffith to “further aviation” and became the Griffith Park Aerodrome before it was passed on to the National Guard. The golf courses and girl’s and boy’s camps on the map took root in the flush 1920s before the economy went bust. Notable exceptions are favorite kid places that came later: the Merry Go Round debuted at its current location in 1937 and train and pony rides began in 1948.

Above: Griffith Park Federal Writers Project, Works Progress Administration, Los Angeles c. 1935

Los Angeles Public Library map librarian Glen Creason shares a map from the Central Library’s collection at CityThink each week.