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The Neighborhood of Los Feliz

Los Feliz, also know as Rancho Los Feliz ("Feliz Ranch") is an affluent, hilly neighborhood in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles, California. It is noted for its expensive homes and celebrity inhabitants. The neighborhood is named after its colonial Spanish-Mexican land grantee José Vicente Feliz.

Location

 
View of Downtown LA from Los Feliz and the Griffith Observatory

It lies north of East Hollywood and just south of the Santa Monica Mountains, adjacent to the neighborhoods of Hollywood and Silver Lake. Home to the southern face of Griffith Park, the district includes the Griffith Observatory and the Greek Theatre. Los Feliz is bordered by Hollywood Boulevard to the south, Hyperion Avenue to the southeast, Griffith Park to the north, the Los Angeles River to the east, and Western Avenue to the west. It is traversed by Los Feliz Boulevard.

The 6,647-acre Rancho Los Feliz, one of the first land grants in California, was granted to Corporal José Vicente Feliz. An old adobe house built in the 1830s by his heirs still stands on Crystal Springs Drive in Griffith Park, named for Griffith J. Griffith, who donated over half of the rancho to the city of Los Angeles, which became one of the largest city owned parks in the country. Other sections of the rancho were developed and became the communities of Los Feliz and Silver Lake.

History

The rugged, chaparral covered mountains of Griffith Park rise just a few miles north and west of Downtown Los Angeles. An oasis in a major metropolis, much of the park's land remains in its natural state. One of the earliest leaders and protectors of the pueblo received this land as a token of appreciation by the Spanish government. Rancho Los Feliz had a succession of owners after the Feliz family. One owner, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, donated over half of the ranch to the city of Los Angeles, which became one of the largest city owned parks in the country.

Long before the Spanish settlers arrived to settle near the banks of the Los Angeles River, Indians were the only inhabitants. The Indians established villages known as rancherias throughout the countryside. One of these settlements was located within the boundaries of what was to become Rancho Los Feliz. Archeological surveys have found evidence of a substantial rancheria that existed in the mouth of Fern Dell Canyon in Griffith Park. It is estimated that the Indians first came to this area approximately 10,000 years ago. The traditional name of this village is not known, but the inhabitants were Gabrielinos. This name was given by the Spanish because of the Indians' association with the San Gabriel Mission. When Gaspar de Portola traveled through the vicinity in 1769 his expedition encountered members of this village.

In 1882, Colonel Griffith Jenkins Griffith acquired 4,071 acres of Rancho Los Feliz. The Lick estate still owned the southwest portion of the rancho and there developed the Lick Tract, which later became a part of Hollywood. Griffith never served in any branch of armed forces in the United States, but he was given a courtesy title of "Colonel" from influential friends in the California National Guard. The title remained a permanent fixture to his name.

 
Frank Lloyd Wright: Ennis House

Griffith died on July 6, 1919 at the age of 67. Griffith bequeathed $700,000 and his Los Feliz area to the city of Los Angeles to be used for additions to Griffith Park. The park's area was increased to over 4,100 acres. In 1930 the Greek Amphitheater was built as designed by Griffith himself. Funds from the Griffith estate were used to build an observatory at the peak of Mount Hollywood. In 1935 the Griffith Observatory and Planetarium was completed and opened to the public. Griffith's will also included a provision for a permanent endowment to maintain the theater and park grounds.

 
Shakespeare Bridge over the Franklin Hills in the Los Feliz district

Mickey Mouse was "born" in Los Feliz, Walt Disney drew his first image of the now-legendary character in the garage of his uncle's house which was located on Kingswell Avenue between Vermont and Rodney. Disney's first animation studio was on Kingswell Avenue, just down the street from his uncle's house and east of Vermont. The second, larger studio was located at the corner of Griffith Park Blvd and Hyperion Avenue, on the Silver Lake side of the Los Feliz-Silver Lake boundary. Los Feliz was also home to many other early studios, such as that of D. W. Griffith; the site is currently home to The Prospect Studios (formally known as First National-Warner Brothers and more recently ABC Television Center), at the intersection of Prospect Avenue and Talmadge Street. On Sunset Boulevard was Monogram Pictures (currently KCET public television), where early Charlie Chan movies were filmed, as well as "The Hurricane" starring Dorothy Lamour and the camp classic "Johnny Guitar". (The western street from that movie remained until the mid 1980s when KCET razed the set to make way for a much-needed parking structure—but they threw a huge studio-wide party there on its final days.) The neighborhood has historically been home to movie stars, musicians, and the Hollywood elite. It boasts some of the best known residential architecture in the city, including two homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright: Ennis House and the Hollyhock House, and Richard Neutra's Lovell House.

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