County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation Cultural Resource Assessment

2020 Preservation Award Recipient

There’s no better way to enjoy Southern California’s beautiful weather than spending time outside, in parks and open spaces. While parks are most often valued as places to access outdoor recreation, our County parks also have important layers of history.

In the past, valuable cultural and historic resources have been lost through everyday maintenance activities, capital improvement projects, or planning efforts. The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation (County Parks) realized that some of their parks are treasure troves of Los Angeles history, and wanted to document and evaluate them in order to help guide future planning and maintenance projects at their facilities and keep historic resources intact.

County Parks set out to evaluate all of its properties that are over fifty years of age, those that are home to resources over fifty years of age, or sites that are less than fifty years of age but have other significance to the surrounding community.

Los Angeles County is 4,751 square miles, with parks spread throughout urban and rural areas alike. In all, County Parks evaluated sixty of its facilities, located in communities stretching far across the region, from Lancaster to Palos Verdes, from Whittier to Beverly Hills, and everywhere in between.

As a result of the survey, County Parks identified forty-five historic resources that are listed or eligible for local, state, or national landmark designation.

This evaluation uncovered many layers of history, including places that were traditional acorn gathering sites for Native Americans, projects constructed by the Works Progress Administration, sites with important African American history, community centers and other park buildings designed by notable architects, and more.

As a result of this evaluation, County Parks plans to nominate many of these sites and historic resources for landmark designation as funding becomes available. Already, they have worked with The Descanso Gardens Guild to nominate Descanso Gardens for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. They are also working with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which has commissioned a National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Hollywood Bowl. County Parks also plans to nominate the Chester L. Washington Golf Course as a Los Angeles County Landmark. Located in unincorporated L.A. County just east of Hawthorne and north of Gardena, this course was one of the first in L.A. County to allow players and members of all races.

County Parks has made efforts to shine a light on their historic treasures using online tools. They have a YouTube series titled 60-Second Histories, which highlights a few of their historic resources. The County Parks website includes a historic resources section, where website visitors can find historic resources on a map, as well as memorials and public art.

This project to evaluate County Parks’ resources was a huge undertaking and a tremendous effort, but all Angelenos will reap the rewards. Because L.A. County’s parks are open to the public, our shared history is accessible to everyone at these sites. Through future planning efforts and landmark nominations that this evaluation makes possible, generations of Angelenos will continue to immerse themselves in this history.

In 2020, the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation Cultural Resource Assessment received a Conservancy Preservation Award.