Today was our field trip to El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park, better known to most of us as Olvera Street.
While many of us in Southern California think of Olvera Street mostly as a place to get great Mexican food or to buy south-of-the-border kitsch, it is really the historic heart of Los Angeles. It was here in September of 1781 that 44 pobladores, our first families, arrived here and set up a small settlement on the banks of the Porciuncula River. This trip was a way for the student to discover that a surprising amount of early Los Angeles history is still preserved.
As is only right for an urban school journey like this, we took full advantage of public transport. All of this was courtesy of the Metropolitan Transit Authority whose Metro Field Trip Program provided our students with free day passes and tap cards! Thank you, MTA! Many of our students and parents had never been on the subway before, so this was indeed a grand adventure.
Arriving at Union Station, we walked across Alameda to wait for our docents to begin their tour. As we were waiting, we took the opportunity to visit Los Angeles’ first fire station. A gentlemen there told us lots of interesting stuff about how early firefighting worked.
Our docents were fantastic! They pointed out things of interest and told us good stories about early Los Angeles.
For most of our tour, we were on the plaza. All Spanish colonial cities were designed around a central square called a plaza, or, in Mexico, a zocalo. This is ours.
Around the edges of the plaza, by the magnificent Moreton Bay Figs, are various statues and monuments. The settlement of California was authorized by King Carlos III of Spain. Here is a statue of him, a gift from the people of Spain.
The actual planning of this was done by Felipe de Neve. We have no idea what he looked like, and the sculptor of this statue worked for Disney studios. He does sort of look like a Disney cartoon prince, doesn’t he?
This area around the plaza was the prosperous center of a small farming town for almost a hundred years. During this time, many handsome buildings like the Pico House hotel were built.
But starting around 1890, the focus of development in Los Angeles turned south and west. The plaza and its old buildings were neglected. By the late 1920’s, much of its was in ruins.
It was then that a civic-minded reformers – and a shrewd businesswoman – named Christine Sterling decided to make restoring the area her passion. And on Easter Sunday, 1930, the old plaza and one small street that ran off of it were reopened as the Olvera Street we know today.
Of course, our students did more than learn history of this trip. They practiced math, too, and the most practical kind of math there is – using money! This is the only field trip where doing the buying stuff is not only allowed but even encouraged. Our students, accompanied by their fantastic parent chaperones, went through the little puestos or stalls where the vendors were more than willing to bargain with them.
No visit here is complete without a student buying a confetti egg…
… and finding a willing partner to share it with!
Homework: Enjoy the weekend!