Stream Dream: Johnston’s Lake

Johnston’s Lake, 1888. Photo courtesy of the USC Digital Archives.

Awhile back, I was re-reading Charles J. Fisher’s book on Highland Park which is brimming with old photos of the Northeast LA area. One photo that caught my attention was of a flock of sheep gathered around a small “natural” lake in the San Rafael neighborhood just north of Highland Park. I figured it was lake that had been filled in and forgotten because if it still existed, we’d know about it, right?

By coincidence, a few days later, I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about a garden in the San Rafael neighborhood which was said to be across the street from a lake. Could this be the lake in the photo? The article provided some geographical clues and with the aid of Google maps I was able to locate the general area of the mystery body of water. Time for a visit to the San Rafael Hills!

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Stream Dreams: Stream Spirit Rising

“Passing Through the Arroyo” 2003, Pearl Beach

A few years ago when I started toying with the idea of doing a series of posts about the old streams of the Eastside, there was not much information up on the internet. Since then, there have been a number of blogs, posts and other information regarding Los Angeles’ hidden and forgotten waterways.

As I mentioned before, the stand-out is the awesome site L.A. Creek Freak. It’s written by people who have been instrumental in the positive changes regarding our watershed and have an excellent understanding and knowledge of the issues. Their passion for our city’s waterways is infectious.

Other folks are covering this topic so well, I was conflicted about whether I should continue with the Stream Dreams posts. Even if I’m repeating a bit of the same information, I decided it’s important to keep people interested in the issues of our Los Angeles wetlands and waterways; it’s such a vital part of our Los Angeles ecology.
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Stream Dreams-Part One: Hazard Park

The title of this post is a nod to the informative and wonderful blog, LA Creek Freak. My discovery of this blog is fairly recently, if I only I had came across it sooner it might have saved me many hours of informal research. You see, for the past two years and a half I’ve been on a meandering quest to find the paths of old streams that once flowed through our urban areas.

When roaming through the city, I look for tell-tale signs: bridges, dips in the roads, large storm drains, stands of old trees, walls and houses made of river rock and street and neighborhood names with tell-tale monikers i.e. Brookside, Willowbrook, Arroyo Ave, River St, Evergreen, etc. Neighbors and long-time residents are also a great source of information. One of the more exciting clues are the actual streams themselves, they often pop up after heavy rains. The water remembers and will often follow it’s old course. It’s why some places in the city continually flood.

The search has been quite fun. Once I think I’ve found a spot, I’ll take photos, go home and check aerial views on Google maps. I’ll look at the way streets curve or sometimes I’ll notice a line of green trees marking the path of the old waterway. I often read through the Los Angeles Times archives and search for references to streams. For instance, I felt like the area around the Fourth Street Bridge and Lorena was a likely place for a stream and while doing research I found a notice by the city placed in the early 1900s, asking for contractors to bid on constructing a bridge over the “stream running at Fourth St.”

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