Historical Tours and Lectures

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Migration from Boyle Heights to the Mid-City

On this special tour we are going to focus on the migration of Jewish families from the barrio of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles to the mid-city district off Fairfax Ave starting in the 1930s. By the 1950s the Fairfax district was considered the beating heart of the greater Los Angeles Jewish community, and its a community which still has a unique Jewish heritage to share with us.

We are going to go on a nostalgic walk through the history of this famous Jewish community, with a special focus on the restaurants, shops, and institution which relocated from Boyle Height to this neighborhood. And we will revisit the history of some of our favorite spots:

  • Canter’s Deli – founded in Boyle Heights in 1931, they opened their second location of Fairfax Ave. in the 1940s as the Jewish community starting migrating to this area. We will discuss how they grew to be the infamous institution they are today, and how they have managed to keep this family-owned operation going for all these years. We will also discuss it became a chill hangout for celebrities and rockers, and how it remains a favorite nighttime meeting spot; don’t forget to ask about the Kibitz Room!
  • Schwartz Bakery – we will swing by a taste of the bakery counter at the most-loved kosher bakery in town. We will discuss the amazing growth and expanse of the Jewish kosher food market in Los Angeles in the past generation.
  • Solomon’s Bookstore – we will discuss how this bookstore and ritual Judaica shop became the first of its kind in Los Angeles in 1930s, founded by Elimelech and Chaya who had immigrated from Palestine, and who sold items they imported from relatives in Jerusalem.
  • Jewish Murals – we will be taking a look at a couple interesting murals; the Fairfax Community Mural near Canter’s, which in several panels depicts the long Jewish history of Los Angeles, including life in old Boyle Heights; and “Breaking Bread/ Not Somewhere Else, But Here,” which honors a culturally diverse view of empower women, created for National Council of Jewish Women. We will talk about the unique history of muralism in Los Angeles, and how it reaches and inspires beyond the walls of the barrios and ghettos.
  • The Farmers Market – where we will learn the foundational history of the Fairfax-Beverly area.
  • And even a quick pass by the LA Museum of the Holocaust; founded by suvivors, it is the oldest institution in the country of it’s kind. We will discuss the great influx of German Jewish refugees and shoah survivors to this community; some of which still reside in this neighborhood to this day.

We will recall the various shops and bookstores which have changed hands and merged, though have maintain their same dedicated customers for generations. We will reminisce about some of my favorite spots when this was the stomping grounds of my youth, such as the old Simon Rutberg’s Hatikva Music and the original Atara’s Bookstore location run by Mr. Moskowitz… and much more!

On this tour we will also be discussing how the neighborhood is rapidly changing, with a new influx of gentrification and the hip-hop street-wear scene that is competing with many of these beloved old Jewish businesses and long time residents; we will discuss the social dynamics and how they are trying to make it work. We will even explore a few new ones Jewish spots which have opening in recent years.

You don’t want to miss the special tour. This is excellent follow-up tour for anyone who has been on my “Boyle Heights: Memories of Brooklyn Ave.” walking-tour.

Come on this fun tour with me. Then stick around and maybe grab a corned beef sandwich with me after the tour? You’ll be glad you came!

On Sunday, January 6, 2019 will be meeting outside of Canter’s Deli, in front of the Kibitz Room sign, starting at around 11:45am in order to start out tour promptly at 12-noon. There is both metered and paid parking in the area; Canter’s also has their own parking lot.

Public transit rider: From the MTA Red Line, take the 217 South towards Howard Hughes Way via Fairfax Ave. You can also connect to the 217 from any one the buses which travel down Santa Monica Blvd. or Sunset Blvd. Exit the bus at Oakwood Ave., just before Beverly Blvd.

Children 13 and under are free, please contact me to add them to my guest list. Please contact me at shmuel.gonzales@outlook.com, as spaces are limited.

We will be limiting this group to a maximum of 20 participants, and is expected to fill-up quickly. So please sign up today!

"Los Cemeteries of Los Angeles" Walking Tour

Lost Cemeteries of Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles
Sunday, January 20, 2019

Los Angeles has a terrible history of willfully forgetting the past, and this is most ghastly demonstrated in the way the dead of early Los Angeles history have been displaced in the name of progress as the city expanded.

We will be exploring the sites and stories of the four original cemeteries of Los Angeles which were in some cases relocated, in other cases just built right over.

  • The Campo Santo at the Placita Church; the once forgotten Catholic burial site of many indigenous people and early immigrants
  • Fort Moore Hill; the forgotten original Protestant burial site, the first non-Catholic cemeteries
  • Old Jewish Cemetery; the lost original Jewish cemetery near Chavez Ravine, near the site of Dodger Stadium
  • Old Calvary Cemetery; the old Catholic cemetery, and its former chapel site that has also become important to the historic community of Little Italy

We will be exploring these sites with a special emphasis of the often untold multi-cultural history of early Los Angeles.

This is an entirely walking tour, the entire circuit is about 3 miles that will take us from the Los Angeles Plaza up to the old Cemetery Ravine – near Chavez Ravine, just down the hill from Dodger Stadium – and back.

We will be meeting next to the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes gift shop called “La Tienda,” located at 501 N. Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, as our first site to explore is located just steps away next to the Placita church. We will start checking in participants at 11:45am, to start our walking tour promptly at 12:00pm.

The total walking distance is just shy of 3 miles round trip, walking at an easy pace, though we do have a signifant incline at one location to get near the base of Dodger Stadium. An average tour tends to go about 2.5 hours.  We encourage everyone to bring refreshments and snacks; though everyone must bring water, as its important to stay hydrated.

Tickets are $20 + Eventbrite fees. Children 13 and under are free, please contact me to add them to my guest list.

Cancellations must be made at least seven (7) days before the event for a refund. In the unlikely event of rain, we will reschedule this event to another weekend date within the next six weeks.

Your contributions through ticket sales are greatly appreciated, as they enable my activities in community activism.

We will be limiting this group to a maximum of 20 participants. Once again, I expect this to sell out right away; so please sign up today!

Home of Peace Cemetery Tour with Barrio Boychik

Sunday, February 10, 2019
In East Los Angeles sits the oldest Jewish cemetery serving the city and county of Los Angeles. Originally founded around Chavez Ravine in 1854, the cemetery relocated to its current location in 1901. And for generations it was the most important Jewish burial site in Southern California. Today it is still active, and remains just as grand and lovely.We will be talking about the epic history of this site. And also celebrate the lives of some of the most interesting people who are interred here. Here are just a few things we will see and discuss this day:
  • The pioneer burial section. The relocated graves of early Los Angeles Jews going back all the way to the mid-1800s. We will learn the story of why and how these graves were relocated, and how this site became chosen as the new resting place for our dearly departed.
  • The Byzantine/Moorish style chapel and mausoleum. One of the first Jewish mausoleums in the country.
  • We will discuss traditional orthodox burial and modern Jewish practices as well; both of which can be seen at this cemetery.
  • We will visit the great tombs of Hollywood mogul families, the Warners of Warner Bros. and the Mayers of MGM Studios, and other studio families.
  • We will see the often decorated graves of much loved actors; including Curly and Shemp Howard, two of the infamous Three Stooges.
  • We will see the burial sites of our famous rabbis and cantors who rest here.
  • We will talk about Jewish groups who are often under discussed; Sephardic Jews, crypto-Jews and even the fascinating history of the sect of Russian Subbotnik converts to Judaism who are also buried here.

On this tour we will be discussing the story of an ever changing Los Angeles and it how it expanded eastward. And how the Jewish people came to rest in peace here, even before a thriving Jewish community once came to live in this area. And further discuss how this site has remained in the hearts of Jewish families even after they migrating all over the southland.

This is one of the most beloved of local sites, by Jewish and Latino families alike… indeed, by everyone who loves the history of East Los Angeles. Join me on this special, heart warming tour!

We will meet at the front gates of Home of Peace Memorial Park off Whittier Blvd, at 11:45am in order to start our talk and walking tour promptly at 12-noon.

There is parking inside the cemetery, which is to your right hand side as you come into the cemetery.

For public transit riders: You can take the MTA bus 18 east from downtown and exit at Eastern Ave. For Metro rail, our location is also about a 1-mile away from the Maravilla Gold Line station, walking Third Street to Eastern Ave.

Children aged 13 and under are free, please contact me to add them to my guest list. For current Boyle Heights residents, educators, and community activists, I will be offering a few spots on my guest list once again; please contact me at shmuel.gonzales@outlook.com, as spaces are limited.

We will be limiting this group to a maximum of 25 participants, and will once again fill-up quickly. So please sign up today!

Jewish Boyle Heights: Remembering Brooklyn Ave.
Sunday, February 17, 2018

The Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights has long been the crucible of the American immigrant, working-class experience. At one time people of dozens of nationalities and languages called this neighborhood home, and Boyle Heights was once the largest Jewish community west of Chicago. And Brooklyn Ave – today’s Avenida Cesar Chavez – was it’s main shopping corridor and thoroughfare.

We will visiting just a few vital sites that tell the story of the area’s Jewish history:

  • The Breed Street Shul – we will start our tour in front of the grand synagogue that was once the most respected Jewish house of worship on the west coast. It was one of more than 30 Jewish houses of worship in the neighborhood. We will also see the location of the first Jewish religious education institutions in Los Angeles.
  • The original location of Canter’s Deli, as well as the location of other local Jewish bakeries and delis; where pickle and herring barrels once tempted each passerby.
  • We will also see the original location various other Jewish business and institutions which are now located in other parts of Los Angeles.
  • The Old Mount Sinai Clinic – learn about the early history of the two hospitals on the eastside, that would one day become today’s Cedar-Sinai Medical Center.
  • The former site of the Monte Carlo Russian Turkish Baths.
  • Jewish labor socialist organizing locations: Including the Jewish Labor Committee, Workmen’s Circle, International Ladies Garment Workers Union, as well as local anarchist and communist headquarters.
  • The founding location of the Community Service Organization (CSO), we will learn how Jewish and Mexican local progressives helped built a multi-racial coalition and training-ground out of which the first genreation of Mexican-American political and civil rights leaders would emerge.

*Note: We will not be going inside of the Breed Street Shul, but instead focusing on the community surrounding this site.

In this tour we will be retelling the story of how such a diverse immigrant community came together here in the first half of the 20th century. We will also discuss the great social challenges this community historically faced, and the movements they established. We will also discuss the forces of displacement which have historically changed the landscape of the community around us. All in order to understand the heritage of the community, as well as appreciate the challenges which are again being faced by this changing community today.

This is my basic introduction to the history of history of Jewish Boyle Heights, with a special focus on the historic alliances and partnerships established here between the Jewish and Mexican American people in this very community.

This is a wonderful event for the whole family to learn about the history of old Jewish Los Angeles!

We will be meeting in front of the Breed Street Shul – Congregation Talmud Torah, at 11:45 a.m. in order to start our talk and walking tour promptly at 12-noon.

There is limited street parking in the neighborhood. I recommend the city-run toll parking lot (682) just north of Avenida Cesar Chavez off of Breed Street, located on the east side of the street.

PUBLIC TRANSIT: I also highly recommend people taking Metro Gold Line to our event, exiting at Soto Station and walking just one block west and one block north to our meeting location. You can connect to the Metro Gold Line from the Metro Red and Purple Lines at Union Station

Children 13 and under are free, please contact me to add them to my guest list. For current Boyle Heights residents, educators, and community activists, I will be offering a few spots on my guest list once again; please contact me at shmuel.gonzales@outlook.com, as spaces are limited.

We will be limiting this group to a maximum of 20 participants, and will once again fill-up quickly. So please sign up today!

Boyle Heights Heritage Tour
Sunday, March 3, 2018

The Founding History of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles

On this walking tour we will be exploring the history of early Boyle Heights. We will tell the story of this special community, stretching from the Indigenous and Spanish eras, to the Mexican and early-American periods, and to the present. We will delve into the early history of the area to reveal the deep multi-cultural roots which have been laid here in this historical immigrant neighborhood.

This tour will start from Mariachi Plaza and walk around the historic-core of early Boyle Heights. Here are a few of the fascinating sites that we be taking a look at together:

  • The Cummings Block (aka “The Hotel Mariachi”) – here we will discuss the early Californio history of the are known as El Paredon Blanco, on land first granted to the López family in the Mexican-era. We will here talk about the grand Queen Anne style which graces this site, built in 1889 by George Cummings and his Maria del Sacramento López. Here will talk about the various grand styles of architecture found in these oldest tracts of Boyle Heights.
  • The Gless House – The are we will touch on the story of the foundering fathers of the neighborhood; Andrew Boyle, William H. Workman. We will also discuss the French Basque history of this area, as well as begin to tell the early Jewish history of the neighborhood.
  • Hollenbeck Park – Once considered one of the most fashionable parks in Los Angeles the late-1800s, here we discuss how this park attracted people to the newly budding residential community.
  • Santa Fe Railroad Hospital (Linda Vista) – the railroads brought people streaming to Los Angeles as new residents, as also attracted laborers to work for the railways which made their terminus nearby. We will discuss the role the railroads played in the growth of modern Los Angeles.
  • Hollenbeck Home for the Aged (The Palms) – we quickly will swing by the site of the old Hollenbeck estate, which Elizabeth Hollenbeck transformed into a retirement and nursing home.
  • Jewish Home for the Aged – we will also discuss how the Workman estate became the site of the Jewish senior home and convalescent hospital. We will talk about the important role this site has played in the lives immigrant Jewish seniors, and that which it now plays in the lives of immigrant Japanese seniors and their families in the present-day, as the Keiro Retirement Home.
  • The Jewish Orphans Home – we will see the site which once served as a temporary home for Jewish orphans. Though this building also has a dark story to tell as well, of when it was used as a clinic by a quack doctor. It later became a boarding house, and today remains as one of the most interesting residential buildings in the neighborhood.
  • The Jewish Wayfarers Home – the former location of the Hebrew sheltering home and asylum for homeless Jewish refugees. We will discuss how this site became associated with “hachnasat orchim,” the Jewish obligation to welcome and provide for the strangers in our midst.
  • The International Institute – here will will discuss the multicultural programming of old Boyle Heights. And also touch on the important role this building played for the last century in helping immigrants – especially Japanese women – integrate into new lives here in Los Angeles. Throughout the years the institute has helped hundreds of thousands of immigrants and other low-income people overcome the barriers they face in becoming contributing members of society.
  • The Max Factor House – Built in 1909, this Craftsman home on Boyle Avenue rose to fame in the 1920s when internationally renowned businessman Max Factor of settled there with his family, in close proximity to his store on South Central Avenue and the local Jewish community on the eastside. We will learn how his cosmetics, which he first devolped here out of his garage, quickly became a favorite among Hollywood studios and celebrities.
  • We will then will head back to Mariachi Plaza, where will we will bring the story to the present and talk about the role this site has plays in the local musical and cultural heritage of this most important Mexican American community.

This is an essential tour to learn about the foundational history of Boyle Heights. It is also a great opportunity to learn about the changing landscape of Boyle Heights, and to discuss our current challenges to preserving these sites and the character of this historic community.

We will be meeting at Mariachi Plaza1817 E 1st Street, Los Angeles 90033, near the corner of Boyle Ave – congregating at the steps of the gazebo-like kiosko at 11:45am, to start our tour promptly at noon. Note: location of meeting is subject to change in the case of special event in the plaza; our meeting location will be confirmed prior to our event by email.

Kiosko Steps - Mariachi Palaza

The walking tour is expected to last about 2.5-hours. We will be returning to Mariachi Plaza at the end of our tour, where I would encourage our guests to enjoy some treats from our local establishments.

Tickets for this in-depth tour are $20 + Eventbrite fees. Children 13 and under are free, please contact me to add them to my guest list. For current Boyle Heights residents, educators, and community activists, I will be offering a few spots on my guest list once again; please contact me at shmuel.gonzales@outlook.com, as spaces are limited.

We will be limiting this group to a maximum of 20 participants, and is expected to fill up quickly. So please sign up today!