When the City first began draining the 21 million gallons of water out of historic Echo Park Lake as part a much-needed, two-year, $65,000,000 rehab there was much speculation over what might be found at the bottom of the 13-acre lake. Amelia Earhart? (Boy, was she lost!) Sister Aimee’s secret diary? A hoard of gangster loot? Alas, nothing has yet turned up so romantic or lurid than rusty shopping carts, barrels and skateboards, but hope does spring eternal.
In spite of the lack of oddities lurking beneath its waves, Echo Park remains a beloved Los Angeles treasure and is well deserving of the much-needed restoration and enhancements it is getting including a leak-proof clay bottom, new pathways and the development of four acres of wetlands at its edge.
The historic lake is a lot older than much of the city that now surrounds it. Its origins date all the way back to 1868 when a 20-foot high dam was built across the arroyo to impound runoff from a nearby stream. Some twenty years later, the City wisely engaged the talented Joseph Tomlinson to convert the former reservoir into a park. The English-born Tomlinson modeled his landscape design on fond memories of his boyhood home of Derbyshire. It was Tomlinson who reportedly gave the park its name when one day he called out to his men who were clearing brush on the other side of the lake and was surprised to hear his own voice echo back at him. Ironically, once the lush vegetation planted by Tomlinson matured it muffled the very effect that gave the park its name.
At the end of the restoration, Echo Park will look the freshest it has since its 1895 opening. In the meantime, however, it is, and will continue to be, surrounded by a high cyclone fence until its metamorphosis is complete. And what’s on the other side is not so pretty for the moment. Therefore, for anyone suffering from Echo Park withdrawals I thought it would be fun to post some of the old postcard images I have so we can all at least take a virtual, if not physical, stroll through Echo Park as it was in days gone by and maybe how it will be in days to come. Enjoy! PS: For more interesting photos of Echo Park drained by Darrell Kunitomi check out the link here to Eastsider LA.