Saturday, July 02, 2016

Olvera Street, Los Angeles

Nothing says "Old Los Angeles" like Olvera Street in downtown L.A. This charming area (the unofficial heart of the city) is a sort of outdoor mall, with souvenir stands and restaurants, and it's a popular tourist destination - as evidenced by the fact that I have somehow acquired some 20 old slides of the place without even trying. All of today's photos date to the 1950's.

Before the 1920's, Olvera Street had become quite rundown, but civic-minded locals rallied to preserve and restore this historic area. If you ever find yourself near Union Station, you can easily walk to Olvera Street. 

Judging from this photo, woven goods were popular, and I assume that leather items and ceramics were as well. They still are! Only now you find a lot more skulls in the mix too. The domes just visible in the upper right are not part of a church surprisingly; they are part of the Los Angeles Postal Terminal Annex.

This next one is from February 1956. You can tell it was a chilly day! Overcoats everywhere. Buy yourself a nice Mexican blanket or two, they're great for picnics. The last few times I've gone to Olvera Street, I've made a day of it and gone to nearby Chinatown as well; and when it was open, you could take a ride on the Angels Flight funicular railroad.

A flag with 48 stars flies above the man with the fedora. I would be mighty tempted to grab some delicious Mexican cuisine at the restaurant. Yuuu-uuum. Thank goodness that Olvera Street is still here to be enjoyed by everybody!


Nanook said...


Love all those 'smart outfits' amply on display in these images. And as you mentioned, El Paseo Inn is still there and a going concern-! Originally established in the 1930's, it moved to its present location (as we see pictured) in 1953. And as they say... It is proud to house one of the oldest bars, designated a historical landmark in the city of Los Angeles. So by all means - drink up, Shriners-!

Muchas gracias, Major.

Mark H. Besotted said...

Man, I'd love a closer look at those postcards. I'll take two of each, please.

Irene said...

I occasionally take the Blue Line/Red Line up to Union Station just to wander around the area. Olvera Street is interesting and colorful. I love to walk a block or two up and eat a double dip beef with coleslaw and a cup of coffee at Philippes - yum. Sad to say Angels Flight is currently not running because of some regulatory problems. I found that out the hard way a few weeks ago when I was wandering Downtown LA and ended up walking all those steps down to Central Market.

DKoren said...

How cool! These are great pics. I loved visiting Olvera Street as a kid and getting taquitos at the Cielito Lindo stand. Best food ever.

TokyoMagic! said...

Irene, I love stopping at Philippe's anytime I am downtown. I can never get enough of those French Dip sandwiches or the coleslaw and potato salad. I haven't been to Olvera St. in years and every time I am leaving Philippe's and drive by Olvera St., I tell myself that the next time I am going to stop there, for sure! I just need to make it happen. I remember when I was a kid, my brother and I got little plastic shrunken heads at Olvera St. Which is now making me wonder WHY they were selling those there?

Debbie V. said...

Around 1960, we took the school bus on a field trip all the way from La Mirada to Olvera Street - about 20 miles. I remember the restaurant at the end on the left and before it was a store with blankets and I think some woven straw goods. The only things I remember buying was about a foot of cut sugar cane and one of those clear bright colored candy on a stick - shaped like a cone with a point at the top.

TokyoMagic! said...

Debbie V., my school also went on the bus to Olvera St., but in the late seventies. I remember those multicolored cone-shaped candies! I wonder if they still make those? I also remember getting fresh "molasses candy" from one of the vendors.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

The last time I went there was when a couple of friends and I had gone to the Greek Amphitheater to see a live performance of A Prairie Home Companion. After the show we went to Olvera Street and had some really awesome Mexican food.

I had an obscure Olvera Street memory from when I was VERY small. One of the shops had a gigantic candle on display, and for some reason it left one of those indelible imprints on my brain. That day after PHC I found that same candle. Needless to say it was a lot smaller than I had recalled, and not only because it had melted into a pile of wax over the years. It was still shaped like a candle though. What a trip it was seeing that thing still in that shop after all that time.

I don’t remember what year that was, but Taj Mahal was one of the musical guests on PHC. What a GREAT day that was.

Nanook already said “muchas gracias”, but gracias nonetheless, Major!

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Oh yeah, TokyoMagic and Debbie V. I also remember those cone shaped lollypops. I particularly remember that the point was VERY sharp, in fact if you were not careful you could really poke your tongue with it.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, it is pretty amazing that a restaurant established in the 1930’s is still going strong today! I believe that I ate there a few years ago, though I probably had a Coke instead of visiting the bar.

Mark H. Besotted, me too! You can see that at least some of them are photos of Olvera Street, but I’m sure there were other great L.A. postcards as well. Wonder if they were only a nickel.

Irene, my main childhood memory is that I didn’t know what Mexican food was, so I didn’t want to eat anything. The waiter brought tortillas, which I put butter on, and then filled them with shredded cheese and rolled them up. They were good, but little did I know what I was missing!

DKoren, now I am hungry for taquitos.

TokyoMagic!, I’ve still never been to Philippe’s. Somehow the idea of dipping a sandwich into that juice and getting the bread all soggy is not appealing to me, though it must be tasty. Little shrunken heads are appropriate for all occasions, which is why they were selling them on Olvera Street.

Debbie V., I still see sugar cane pieces sold at my local farmer’s market (never tried it); I remember those pointy lollipops!

TokyoMagic!, I am sure that somebody must still sell those cone-shaped suckers. Molasses candy, are you sure the Amish hadn’t invaded?

Monkey Cage Kurt, so funny that the big candle made such a lasting impression. But that’s how kid’s brains work! Gee, the Greek Amphitheater is not exactly next door to Olvera Street; you should have gone to Carnie’s on Sunset!!

Monkey Cage Kurt, would you be allowed to take one of those lollipops onto an airplane?

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Dare I say… I really don’t like the chilly at Carneys’, and chilidogs and chiliburgers are what Carneys is all about. I remember liking the fries though.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, you've never had a French dip anywhere else? We used to serve French Dip sandwiches at Knott's in the Cable Car Kitchen Buffet and there is a local restaurant near me that sells them, but they only make them with beef. Philippe's has beef, pork, turkey and lamb. You can have them dip the bread and/or the meat, or not have them dip either one. Some people (like Irene) ask for it to be "double" dipped and they will even "triple" dip it for you. If you are a fan of hot mustard, they have their own version that they make right there on the premises to put on the sandwiches and they even sell it by the bottle. They also have wonderful breakfasts and some darn good beef stew! I know....I sound like I'm a spokesperson for them or something! I'm just a fan!

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Ok I must be mentally ill, now all I can think about is having a chilidog at Carneys. Of corse a French dip from Philippe's sound s good too. I did have one once a long time ago. Oh sometimes I REALLY miss the LA scene!

Major Pepperidge said...

Monkey Cage Kurt, I actually haven’t been to Carney’s (I had to check the spelling of the place), I don’t remember) for a few years. I used to find myself on Sunset Boulevard more often than now. Not for the hookers, I swear! But I liked the chili burgers, myself. Now I just get my chili burger fix at Tommy’s, though there is another Carney’s in Studio City.

TokyoMagic!, I just never thought the idea of dipping a sandwich in juice sounded good to me, so I have avoided French Dip at every opportunity. I thought you dipped the sandwich yourself in a plastic cup of “au jus” yourself; you mean it is “pre-dipped” for you? Arg, that sounds even worse! Hot mustard sounds good, and I like beef stew. Oh well, maybe someday. Another regret is when I lived near Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, but never went there.

Monkey Cage Kurt, it sounds like you owe it to yourself to have *something* special for your 4th of July weekend, be it a chili burger or a French Dip sandwich. I’ll bet there are food options near you that you haven’t tried yet - be adventurous!

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Oh don’t get me started on Roscoe’s,..well…ok. I went there once as well. Saved my appetite by skipping breakfast, PIGGED OUT!!! Best waffles and fried chicken in the world! It was SO GOOD… for the first few minutes, and then I felt so sick. The chicken was off the charts greasy, and not just Wesson oil greasy, talkin Exxon Valdez here. After that my friend and I went to the LA County Museum of Natural History. It took hours to walk it off.

I grew up in OC, but I got a fare share of Sunset Boulevard during my teen years. It was the place to be, and no, not for the hookers. But I think you are right Major, I needs to get me some chili-something for the 4th. Sounds REALLY good! Have I told you lately that you are a genius? Well, you are! Though there are not too many good eatin places in the little town I live in now.

Still no word from Nooks? Hmmm?

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Please disregard last part of last post (wrong conversation). I can’t comment on two posts at the same time. I keep getting confused.