Historic Olvera Street

California, Los Angeles Guide (A): Historic Olvera Street

Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States with a population of four million. It wasn’t always like that. In 1781, when Filipe de Neve, a Mexican provincial governor, founded El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles (The Village of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels) it was a sleepy village. Los Angeles was the first Spanish civilian settlement in Southern California.
This article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on iTunes App Store and Google Play. You can download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the attractions featured in this article. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Walk Route

Guide Name: Historic Olvera Street
Guide Location: USA » Los Angeles
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 km
Sight(s) featured in this guide: The Pico House   Our Lady Queen of Angeles Church   Olvera Street Plaza   Avila Adobe   The Tribute to Christine Sterling Exhibit/History of Water in Los Angeles Exhibit   Pelanconi House   The Sepulveda House   Chinese American Museum   Plaza Firehouse  
Author: Michael Thal
Author Bio: Michael L. Thal is an accomplished freelance writer. He has written and published over sixty articles for magazines and newspapers including Highlights for Children, The Los Angeles Times, and San Diego Family Magazine. You can read more of Mr. Thal’s work on his Los Angeles Examiner parenting column.
Author Website: http://www.michaelthal.com
The Pico House

1) The Pico House

Across from the Plaza is the Pico House. Built in 1869-1870 it was advertised as the “finest hotel in Southern California.” It was Los Angeles’ first three-story building. Owned by Pio Pico, the last governor of Mexican California, raised the money to build this building by selling his land in the San Fernando Valley. The hotel had 82 bedrooms, 21 parlors, 2 interior courtyards and a French restaurant on the ground floor. Pico lost control of the hotel in 1880 due to a foreclosure. The new...
Our Lady Queen of Angeles Church

2) Our Lady Queen of Angeles Church

The Franciscan Fathers built the Church of Our Lady Queen of the Angeles, a Catholic church. Construction was completed on August 18, 1814. Under the leadership of Reverend Thomas Conaty, the bishop of Monterey and Los Angeles, the church was enlarged in 1912. It is a California Historical Landmark

During the 1980s, when refugees from El Salvador were threatened with deportation, the church served as a sanctuary for these people. Father Luis Olivares, pastor of the church from 1981-1989,...
Olvera Street Plaza

3) Olvera Street Plaza

The Olvera Street Plaza was the center of community life in old LA. The church was nearby, and government and business matters were conducted here as well as local festivals—weddings and baptisms.

The original pueblo, about 45 square leagues, is equivalent to 277 square miles. (LA today is 498 sq. miles). The statue at the east end of the plaza is of King Carlos III. He was the Spanish monarch who ordered the establishment of this outpost for a resting place for his troops in 1781.

Avila Adobe

4) Avila Adobe

Avila Adobe is the oldest building in Los Angeles. Built in 1818 by Don Francisco Avila, a Los Angeles ranchero, the home served as his townhouse and office. His other home, the ranch house or main family residence, was ten miles away at Rancho Las Cienegas. (This is in today’s Wilshire “Miracle Mile” District.)

Francisco Avila was one of many Californios living in Alta California involved in ranching. He raised cattle, horses, and mules. American fur trapper, Jedediah Smith, stayed...
The Tribute to Christine Sterling Exhibit/History of Water in Los Angeles Exhibit

5) The Tribute to Christine Sterling Exhibit/History of Water in Los Angeles Exhibit

The efforts of Christine Sterling saved Avila Adobe from that wrecking ball. Sterling loved history and was appalled at how LA’s roots were about to be destroyed. Plans were in place for a railway station to be built here. With the help of a few wealthy friends, Sterling had the adobe restored and transformed Olvera Street into a Mexican style marketplace. In 1930 Olvera Street was opened to the public as a tourist attraction.

The History of Water in Los Angeles Exhibit exists side by side...
Pelanconi House

6) Pelanconi House

Across the street from Avila Adobe is the Pelanconi House, the oldest fired brick house in Los Angeles. Italian vintner Giuseppi Covaccichi built the home between 1855-1857. Covaccichi and his partner owned a winery across the street.

In 1871, Antonio Pelanconi purchased the house and winery. Sixty years later, Senora Consuelo Castillo de Bonzo acquired the Pelanconi House and transformed it into a restaurant, La Golondrina Casa. Today, La Golondrina Café is the oldest restaurant on Olvera...
The Sepulveda House

7) The Sepulveda House

Built in 1887, the Sepulveda House is located a few buildings south of the Pelanconi House on Olvera Street. This is a Victorian style home built by Eloisa Martinez de Sepulveda for $8000. Originally, it contained 22 rooms, 2 commercial businesses, and 3 residences. Since the early 20th Century, the Sepulveda House has been a bordello, a tearoom, and during World War II, a USO canteen.

After the building was restored it housed the Visitors’ Center and an 18-minute film on the history of El...
Chinese American Museum

8) Chinese American Museum

The Chinese American Museum is the newest museum in El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument. Opening its doors in 2001, it is the only museum dedicated to telling the history of Chinese immigrants to Los Angeles. Its mission is to foster understanding and appreciation of the contributions of Chinese Americans, who lived in the Los Angeles area for more than 150 years.

The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act barring Chinese immigration dwarfs today’s fury over illegal immigration. During World War...
Plaza Firehouse

9) Plaza Firehouse

The Plaza Firehouse began construction in May 1884 and was opened for business four months later. It cost the City of Los Angeles $4665. It was the city’s first fire station. Architect William Boring designed the building following a fashion used in his home state of Illinois. Horses were stabled inside the station, a custom followed in colder climates. A unique turntable was built into the floor making it necessary to back the horses in and out.

At first the fire department was all...

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