Week 142: Wattles Garden Park

August 19, 2018

 Barbara and I assumed we'd be investigating the grounds of the Wattles Estate when we set out on Charles Fleming's hike from the October 18, 2013 issue of the L.A. Times—true, yet this hike paid off with so much more! New to us, little did we know that the community garden tucked between the elbow-to-elbow, 2-3 story apartment buildings along Hollywood Blvd. east and west of Curson, was once the avocado and fruit orchard of Gurdon Wattles' winter home. Wattles, an Omaha banker with a "wow" of a past, literally bankrolled much of early Hollywood. He built his Mediterranean/Mission Revival Mansion winter retreat in 1907 in an agricultural area at the foot of the Santa Monica Mountains with several formal gardens and sloping lawns framing lovely views of the L.A. basin. Now a City of L.A. Cultural Monument and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Wattles Mansion stands as the "only remaining intact example of the once plentiful Hollywood estates from the period preceding the film industry." Barb and I walked up the driveway to the porch, peeked in the windows (of course,) and agreed the mansion would be a swell place to hold a party or event (totally possible, if you have the bucks, thru L.A. Parks & Rec). But our real adventure began after following the driveway north to the gates of Wattles Park, 50-acres above Hollywood Blvd. After checking out a stone brook and what we could see of the gardens in back of the mansion, we took the stepped concrete walkway in back to the Japanese torii gate and into the park west of Runyon Canyon. Makeshift altars with remembrance tokens spidered off the path, a cut granite staircase led to a traditional Japanese shrine, and, along the main trail, stone circles and cairns marked our passage from the center of Hollywood into the utter silence of nature at rest. The trail narrowed, dusty, slippery, and steep in parts, portions accessible only by navigating up rocks and boulders, but the path was so fascinating and Mulholland Drive above seemed so close that we kept going until an iffy stone wall stopped us—the view was incredible, but, not knowing what lie beyond the boulders, we hiked or slid back down the way we came. We found out later that the rock wall wasn't as intimidating as it appeared and connected to Runyon's West Ridge Trail not far above—but we were good. The trails of Wattles Garden Park made it one of our most fun in-the-city hikes so far, and a great alternative to the Runyon scene. We shall be back to complete the loop!



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