Week 161: Silver Lake

January 27, 2019

10,000 Steps a Day in L.A. #9, Walking with Sir Walter Scott, 4.9 miles

Barbara and I can't count the number of times we've hiked Silver Lake, but each trip unearths new info and history about the artful, eclectic neighborhood with really fun history. Instead of circling the two main reservoirs, Haddad's hike led us on a crooked figure-eight trek NW into SL history, starting at the southwest end of the Silver Lake Reservoir on W. Silver Lake Drive. Silver Lake wasn't always named Silver Lake. Long before Wm. Mulholland built the reservoirs in 1907, the lush, green hills of the area reminded 19th-century developer Hugo Reid (1811-1852) of his Scottish homeland so he named the area Ivanhoe Canyon after the 1819 Sir Walter Scott novel. (Thus, street names like Ivanhoe and Rowena after Scott's characters, St. George after the patron saint of England, and Waverly and Kenilworth after Scott's novels!) And the Silver Lake Reservoir wasn't named for the water's silvery sheen on overcast days—Mulholland tagged his new reservoir after former L.A. Water Board Commissioner Herman Silver. Be grateful locals, he could have gotten chummy and dubbed it Herman Lake. Hard to imagine, but when SL reservoir was built, the surrounding hills were empty, only a smattering of farms dotting the landscape. When the L.A. population exploded in the 1920s, homes and new streets began to fill the hills, with thoroughfares leading to the Red Line route in nearby Edendale. Today, Barbara and I walked along the west end of Silver Lake Reservoir and past its little brother Ivanhoe Reservoir, but instead of circling around we kept walking north on Silver Lake Drive, past the delightful Chandelier Tree at 2811, hung with chandeliers from swap meets and film sets. Daytime photos don't do one of our favorite local landmarks justice, so I copied a nighttime screenshot from an interview with Adam Tenenbaum, its creator (great interview, and thank you, KCET). The tree is just that cool. At the top of Silver Lake Drive and Rowena we passed Ivanhoe Elementary, founded in 1889, one of the oldest LAUSD schools. Heading west on Rowena, we turned onto Hyperion toward Griffith Park Blvd. and a stop at the corner Gelsons, standing on the site where Walt Disney made a $300 down payment and built his first studio (1926-1940). The photo of the old Disney Studio hangs inside near the cash registers. Up Griffith Park Blvd. behind Gelsons is a small colony of 1931 bungalows where some of Disney's cartoonists lived. Hi Ho, Hi Ho, rumor has it that the bungalows inspired the seven dwarfs' cottage in Snow White. Moving on, Barbara and I hooked back on Rowena to Waverly Drive, and then south on Saint George Street to Maxwell, wandering through the architecturally eclectic neighborhood to the "Fantasy Island" of Silver Lake—the Rowena Reservoir. Built in 1901 and drained in 1991, LADWP landscaped the now underground storage tank into an oasis complete with waterfalls and little islands, home to a raft of lucky SL ducks. Retracing our steps, we returned to the Silver Lake Reservoir, this time walking south on the east end, along Armstrong and Silver Lake Blvd accompanied by hundreds of hikers, joggers, and dog walkers enjoying this most beautiful of January days. At the southern tip is the serenely beautiful Silver Lake Meadow, fashioned in 2011 and modeled after Sheep Meadow in NY's Central Park. We crossed to our starting point spent and ready for the real reason we chose Silver Lake for today's hike—a stop at Silver Lake Coffee on Glendale Blvd. for the best mochas that side of Griffith Park.

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