Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hollywood History; Cahuenga Pass & La Brea Tar pits

Cahuenga Pass

Sycamore trees and the primitive villages along the valley, and the main passage through the hills to the valley beyond was located immediately east of the Gabrielinos' village. It was known as the Cahuenga Pass.
Cahuenga Pass 1897
During the early years, Cahuenga Pass was covered with a species of cactus known as nopal, and grown as food for chineak, and insect used in the manufacture of dyes. This area of the nopal was known by the Spaniards as Nopalera. After Los Angles was established as pueblo in 1781, the pass became a branch of El Camino Real del Rey, the principal passageway up the coast. The route through Cahuenga Pass was at first just a crude winding trail over which cattle and sheep were driven to and from San Fernando.
Eventually it became a wagon road, and then a paved highway. Finally in 1954 the Hollywood freeway was completed.

Cahuenga Pass 1920  

Cahuenga Bl

Hollywood freeway construction at Cahuenga Pass
Cahuenga Pass Late 40s

Hollywood freeway construction at Cahuenga Pass
Hollywood Freeway Construction at Cahuenga Pass

Canvas covered freight wagons from Los Angeles used the pass on the way to Owens Lake and Panamint Mines in Inyo County. They left the pueblo in the morning and crossed the hills behind Hollywood during the first day's travel, then spent the night by a river near what is now Universal City.
The following morning the mules were doubled up to cross the river. The next night was spent at the San Fernando Mission, which was a hard day's travel in the deep sand of the San Fernando Valley. It wasn't until the 1870s that the first oasis wayside inn was built on the long road north, a two-story wooden toll station known at the Pass Hotel or Eight Mile House.
Kit Carson was among the carriers who used the Cahuenga Pass to deliver the overland mail from the United States to Monterey. The first mail arrived in Los Angeles in May 1848. Ten years later John Butterfield had the mail carrying contract. His famous sages took 23 days from St. Louis to San Francisco through the Cahuenga Pass.
The pass was the site of a number of minor skirmishes that nonetheless were significant in California history. War was declared in 1846 between the United States and Mexico, whose weak government controlled California. General Andres Pico surrendered t the United States within one year, signing the treaty of Cahuengo in 1847 at the Casa Adobe de Cahuenga, Senora Maria Jesus de Feliz's small, tile roofed adobe house at the north end of Cahuenga Pass on the present site of Universal City. The treaty of Peace was signed between the two countries the following year, and California became a U.S. Territory.

La Brea Tar Pits 1910

Rancho La Brea

The Spanish and Mexican governments offered settlers large tracts of unoccupied land at no charge in an effort to encourage colonization of the land acquired throughout the 1870s. A successful petitioner could obtain as many as 44,000 acres. Exact boundaries were considered unimportant and few owners knew where their land began or where it ended. Maps accompanying the petitions were simple sketches showing any important natural landmark that might serve to identify the land.
The westerly half of what is now Hollywood was part of Rancho La Brea, Spanish for the Tar Ranch. The rancho was named for the swamps of tar first noted by portola's 1769 Spanish expedition. The Gabriello Indians probably burned the tar for fuel. Later, settlers hauled it in oxcarts from the swamps and used it for waterproofing of the roofs of adobe houses. Rancho La Brea was granted to Antonio Jose Rocha and Nemisio Dominguez, but neither resident of the Los Angeles pueblo ever lived on the rancho was James Thompson, later a Los Angeles County Sheriff.

 After numerous title transfers, the rancho eventually ended up in the hands of John and Henry Hancock, and John's portion became a large part of West Hollywood. A refinery, which Henry built to prepare the tar for local marketing and for shipment to San Francisco, operated until 1887, producing five tons of asphalt daily for nearly 17 years. Workers at the beds commonly came across bones teeth of saber-toothed cats, wolves and sloths. It wasn't until the early 1890's that the tar pit beds became archeologically important. Henry's son, G. Allan Hancock, gave Los Angeles County the exclusive right to excavate and, in 1915, he donated to the county the 23 acres upon which the fossil beds lay. Thousands of specimens-many dating back thousands of years to the late Pleistocene period-have been retrieved from the paleological gold mine known today as the La Brea Tar Pits.

La Brea Tar Pits Today

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