LOS ANGELES PLAZA
A part of the original pueblo lands of El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula founded in 1781 under the Spanish Laws of the Indies during the reign of King Carlos III, the plaza is located close to the site of the original plaza. It was the center of the settlement founded by Governor Felipe de Neve. When the Plaza Church was completed in 1822, this site was reserved as a public plaza. It was landscaped in 1871 and has served since that date as a public park.
Olvera Street is in the oldest part of Downtown Los Angeles and is part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument. There are 27 buildings of various ages still standing on Olvera Street, including the Avila Adobe (1818), the Pelanconi House (1857), and the Sepulveda House (1887). The colorful Mexican marketplace opened on Easter Sunday, April 20, 1930 following a preservation campaign that was spearheaded by Christine Sterling.
STATE DESIGNATED HISTORICAL LANDMARKS
BELL OF DOLORES
This replica of the “Bell of Dolores” was presented to the City of Los Angeles by the Republic of Mexico in 1968. This cherished relic of Mexican history represents not only Mexico’s bid for freedom, but also the beginning of democracy here in California. This bid for freedom began not in Mexico City, but in the little village of Dolores. And it was here that Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was assigned as parish priest, where he became active in politics and sided with the less fortunate of Mexican society. On the night of September 15, 1810, at 11 p.m., Father Hidalgo rang the parish church bell, now known as the “Bell of Dolores” to summon patriots to fight for their independence from Spain. Every year on September 15, the President of Mexico tolls the original “Bell of Dolores” now hung at the National Palace in Mexico City, and cries out “Viva la independencia…Viva America…”, Father Hidalgo’s call to arms beginning the Mexican War of Independence.
This statue of Spanish King Carlos III was a bicentennial gift to the People of Los Angeles from the people of Spain. It was moved to the Pueblo de los Angeles in 1987.
FELIPE DE NEVES
Felipe de Neve (1724–1784) was the fourth governor of Las Californias, a province of New Spain, from 1775 to 1782. Neve is considered a founder of Los Angeles, California and helped to settle towns of Santa Barbara and San José whose surrounding communities became California cities. In 1781, Neve issued the first rules regarding governance of secular pueblos like Los Angeles, the “Regulations for the Government of the Province of the Californias” (Reglamento para el gobierno de la provincia de Californias).
The Hammel Building on North Main Street was constructed in 1909. Originally built as four light industrial shops with a partial basement storage area along Olvera Street, the building now fronts on Olvera Street and houses two ground level shops and two basement shops. Marie Hammel, who built the Italian Hall next door in 1907-8, hired architects Husdon and Munsell to construct the building at a cost of $4,000. In 1913, the Hammel Building passed to Mrs. Hammel’s daughter, Marie Hammel McLaughlin, who enlarged the building on the Olvera Street side. As Olvera Street was transformed into a Mexican Market place in 1930, it was necessary to provide public access to the building from Olvera Street and staircases had to be constructed to the ground floor of the Hammel Building. Small basements were excavated during the 1940s to provide additional shops for Olvera Street merchants. Although the Main Street facade has not changed significantly, the Olvera Street facade has been altered and repaired over the years.
HELLMAN QUON BUILDING
One of the few surviving landmarks of Old Chinatown, the Hellman/Quon building is named for its two long-time owners, a white European builder and a Chinese businessman. When Hellman, the original owner, died in 1920, the building was sold to Quon How Shing, who helped fellow Chinese learn English and taught them how to adapt to American society. The building had a hidden bell to alert occupants to the presence of unwelcome visitors who might take issue with the gambling and opium smoking within. It is now the offices of Las Angelitas del Pueblo, the volunteer organization that offers free tours of El Pueblo de Los Angeles, and El Pueblo Education Center.
MACHINE SHOP BUILDING
Was built as a machine shop fronting onto Main Street. As its architecture resembles other commercial buildings in Los Angeles constructed in 1910, it is possible that it was built in that year. After Christine Sterling transformed Olvera Street in 1930, the building was used for a short time as the Leo Carrillo Theater. Two of the three arched openings on the Main Street façade have been filled in with stucco walls. The central arch had vertical wooden boards and double doors with wrought iron bars.
OLD WINERY BUILDING
The Pelanconi Warehouse was built in 1910 by Lorenzo Pelanconi and his mother, Isabel Tononi for the storage of their wine. Behind it, opening on Olvera Street is a small two-story square building known as the Pelanconi House.
Senora Francisca Gallardo was granted a house lot between Bath Street and Vine Street (later renamed Olvera Street) in 1847. In 1881 she gave the adobe she built there to her niece, Eloisa Martinez de Sepúlveda. When Bath Street was widened and made an extension of Main Street in 1886, Eloisa lost 1,600 feet of her mother’s lot and part of the family adobe. As a replacement, the following year she built a combination business and residential building with an unusual Eastlake design. It had a triangular gable and two large bay windows topped with iron cresting. The rough brick façade on Main Street was painted a reddish brown color and penciled with white paint to resemble the precise lines of mortar between the bricks. The twenty two room building had two large stores fronting on Main Street, and for boarders, fourteen bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor. Senora Sepúlveda’s private quarters in the rear were separated from the stores by a breezeway. In 1901 she gave the building to her favorite niece and goddaughter Eloisa Martinez de Gibbs who had married Edward Gibbs, a City councilman. Several of the Gibbs children were born in the Sepúlveda House. Senora Sepúlveda died in 1903 and the Gibbs family moved away in 1905, but owned the building until the State of California took it over in 1953. In the 1930s, after the Mexican marketplace had opened on Olvera Street, Christine Sterling persuaded Forman Brown and his partners to open their “Yale Puppeteers” in the building. She also invited photographers Viroque Baker and Ernest Pratt to set up their studios on the second floor. In the 1940s during World War II, a USO canteen was located in the building, providing a refuge to the thousands of troops passing through Union Station.
Doria Deighton Jones built what is now known as the Simpson/Jones Building in 1894. The site which had formerly contained a large adobe which she, her husband John Jones and their children occupied. The adobe was torn down when Bath Street was widened in 1886 to become an extension of Main Street. The Simpson/Jones Building was constructed to house William Gregory Engines, also known as Moline Engines. Later tenants were the Diamond Shirt Company and the Soochow Restaurant. When Doria died in 1908, her property was divided among her three children and her daughter, Constance Jones Simpson inherited the three buildings close to the Plaza on Main Street. Mrs. Simpson opposed Christine Sterling’s idea of closing vehicle traffic on Olvera Street and fought the matter all the way to the California Supreme Court. In 1960, the Simpson/Jones Building was altered to create the appearance of a Mexican banco.