Week 197: Palisades Park Santa Monica

December 29, 2019

10,000 Steps a Day in L.A. #37: Footprints of the Great Bandini, 4.2 miles

Although Barbara and I usually hike at the beach for the zen and the ocean air, today we opted for a historical hike through Palisades Park, the 1.5 mile stretch along the coastal sandstone bluffs on Ocean Avenue from Adelaide Drive to the Santa Monica Pier. I have to admit that when I saw the title of this hike, "Footprints of the Great Bandini," I thought Bandini must have been a famous magician or entertainer who came to fame at the pier. I was so wrong. The Great Bandini was a woman, and a formidable one at that. Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker (1825–1912) was a true Californio—a California-born Spaniard—from one of the richest landholding families in SoCal. Widowed twice, both of her husbands left Arcadia a fortune. She was not only one of the wealthiest women in America at one time, she was a landowner, social elite, hostess, and an accomplished businesswoman who, among other things, created the original map for the Santa Monica city plan and layout. Depending on the source, either Arcadia's second husband, Robert Baker, or her business partner, Senator John Percival Jones of Nevada founded Santa Monica. In the 1890s, when Santa Monica was a tourist attraction for the wealthy, Arcadia and Senator Jones donated the 26.4 acres that became Palisades Park—the first half of today's hike. You could easily walk Palisades Park for the killer view and amazing flora, but if you slow down, like we did, you'll catch small details that capture Santa Monica history. One of our first stops was the bust of Arcadia Bandini in the center of the rose garden (way to go, Señora Bandini.) South of the bust, Gestation III, Baile Oakes' 1991 wooden sculpture that aligns with the setting sun on the winter solstice. Four blocks down, the "founding rock" commemorating Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's discovery of Santa Monica Bay in 1542. And a few steps later, a concrete bench dedicated to Senator John P. Jones who watched the sunset every evening from that spot. At Santa Monica Blvd. the 18-ft., iconic Art Deco statue of the city's namesake, Santa Monica, created by FDR's WPA in 1934. Across the street and down the block, the Georgian Hotel, a 1933 hotel, speakeasy, and celebrity playground too gorgeous (and allegedly haunted) to miss. Barbara and I bypassed walking the tourist-packed pier, but it is worth noting that its sign, built for $2,000 and unveiled in 1940, is a California Historic Landmark. We decided to window shop our way back along the 3rd Street Promenade between Broadway and Wilshire, stopping for a mocha along the way. 

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