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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A trickle of history runs unnoticed through El Sereno

The Arroyo Rosa de Castilla once coursed its way through the hills and canyons on what is now the eastern edge of El Sereno. Before Spanish and Mexican colonists arrived, the stream helped sustained a Tongva indian village. Under Mexican rule, the sprawling Rancho Rosa de Castilla adopted the name of the stream, which later provided essential water to a sheep herding ranch operated by Argentine immigrants, according to the El Sereno Historical Society. Today, the Arroyo Rosa de Castilla has been mostly forgotten and covered up, with the stream visible in one case for about three blocks as it flows down a concrete channel next to the southbound 710 Freeway before disappearing under a tangle of roads and freeway lanes near Cal State L.A. Now, there is an effort to raise awareness of Arroyo Rosa de Castilla and its role in El Sereno  and Los Angeles history.

While there is a street named Rancho Paseo Castilla, which runs through Cal State L.A., there are no other signs letting residents know of the existence of the Arroyo Rosa de Castilla. The fledgling El Sereno Historical Society would like to change that. On My Historic L.A.,  a website operated by the city’s Office of Historic Resources, the Jorge Garcia of the El Sereno Historical Society said it’s time for a sign:

Maybe it’s time we gave this little known and always-flowing Arroyo the recognition it rightly deserves. A plaque and/or the official recognition of its importance in the annals of LA’s and El Sereno’s history is the least we can do for the Arroy0 …

There does not appear to be any easy public access, however, to the concrete channel, which runs at the bottom of a narrow canyon between the freeway and a dirt path behind a row of homes. Garcia, who spent the past several months visiting libraries, interviewing historians and tracking down aerial photos of the arroyo, said the historical society is open to suggestions about where to place a plaque. “We would like to see it placed somewhere accessible and viewable by all, so that the public can read what the plaque is commemorating.”

Why even bother installing a plaque to honor a stream that has nearly disappeared from view as well as memory? Garcia said that the existence of the stream provided the water that allowed the cattle and sheep ranchers to remain independent. In fact, the Batz family,  which operated a sheep herding ranch on the land after 1852, was able to expand their holdings while other ranch owners were selling off land to subdividers, Garcia said.

“The fact that this Arroyo existed is what truly accounts for El Sereno’s long and unique history,” said Garcias via email. ” I also think that by making the community and public aware of what is here … will help to teach awareness and appreciation of our local history.  There is a need to conserve these special and historic landmarks, so that our future generations are able to learn about them and be able to enjoy them.”
Related Links:
  • The Little Arroyo That Forged El Sereno’s History. ESHS

14 comments

  1. Rather than a plaque, I wish we could naturalize this stream in some way. I just don;t understand the channelization system. In a drought, you need to restore the water table, not send every drop of water out to the ocean.

    I realize the storm channels were put in to prevent flooding in the occasional rainy years, but they seem such overkill. At the very least, a permeable bottom would allow water to seep back into the ground.

    • I hope you’re not suggesting some aspect of LA city planning may have been short-sighted.

      • My grandmothers house is along this channel. When it rains the amount of water that flows through it is quite astonishing. Once you’ve seen the channel flowing with such force you’d understand why the channel was built, it definetly saves property and lives. If you had a permeable bottom the foundation for the walls would be eroded over time causing the channel walls to fail destroying people’s properties and probably endangering lives. This channel goes righ though a densely populated area, it literally runs through back yards.

        • *edit: the section of the channel/river I speak of is in between Copeland pl and farnsworth ave (about 4 blocks south of huntington drive , directly north of the university) not the section next csula.

  2. Thank you for a good piece of East L.A. info.

  3. I applaud the effort to raise awareness of history in a city that always forgets, and I agree with Lisa’s comments about the permeable bottom. I have no engineering credentials but it does seem likely that recharging the water table is important in our parched land.

  4. Glad to see this, once worked with a guy in grocery store who grew up in the community behind CSLA that disappeared in mid-1970s. He told me about playing in the stream there, when it was a free and open stream.

    And another guy who grew up near Atlantic and Garvey in Mont. Park — there was also a stream there, free and full of plants and life. And the one behind Virgil Jr-now-Middle-High, flowed from Shakespeare Bridge through J-Flats, behind Virgil on down to K.T.

    We actually had a lot of streams around town.

  5. Good piece of history, although i grew up on the happy side of Sereno!!!!!!! Budau & lombardy!!!!! Good stuff………..

  6. Having lived in the area since 1958 I also have fond memories of “the creek”, which is what we called it then. Lots of frogs and other wildlife lived there then. I don’t ever remember it overflowing its banks and threatening property despite some years of heavy rains. It would be great of it could at least be partially restored to its natural beauty. What a shame they built the Long Beach Freeway on top of it, to be followed shortly by Cal State L.A. demolishing the neighborhood next to the creek in order to expand its campus.

  7. When we moved into the area 27 years ago, my son and I walked along the channel. I don’t remember which of my neighbors told me that they remember when there was no channel but a stream that ran though the area that is now CSULA. I’m asking neighbors if anyone has photos of the hills before CSULA was built.

  8. It’s good to hear that so many still remember how beautiful the stream used to be. It’s also encouraging to hear that other residents or former residents also want to see the stream restored at some level. While we know it would be almost impossible to see the entire stream restored, to even have the area along the 710 freeway restored and accessible to the public at some level would be a momentous moment in the Arroyo’s history. Not to mention El Sereno’s history.

    As members of the El Sereno Historical Society, we consider the proposed 710 freeway extension a catastrophic threat to the Arroyo’s existence and future. All the current plans have El Sereno as the primary route for the 710 extension. As residents of El Sereno and members of the E l Sereno Historical Society, we are vehemently opposed to any part of El Sereno being used for the 710 and are opposed to the 710 extension overall.

    So much of El Sereno’s history has been lost just in that very area; the native village of Otsungna was said to exist along that stretch where the 710 ends. All evidence of this village has been lost due to the freeways, the University’s, and housing development construction. The old adobe (built in 1776) was also built along that stretch of the stream. Any remnants of it has also been obliterated. Now the stream itself is set to be destroyed, all for a project that neither Alhambra, El Sereno, South Pasadena, Highland Park, or Pasadena want. Metro and Caltrans need to have a better alternative(s) than just shoving this extension down everyone’s throat.

    We hope the public helps us spread the awareness needed in order to stop the 710 from further destroying a unique and important part of El Sereno’s and Los Angeles’s history.

  9. Miguel Rodriguez

    I use to live in Boyle Heights in the late 50’s and early 60’s. I remember walking across the 10 freeway overpass to El Sereno to see friends, or play baseball in a park close to Wilson High School. It was a nice park and nice to walk around in the area too. I hope something will be done to keep this arroyo from disappearing from history. It would be great to be able to view the arroyo and I will have to take a ride out there and take photos for myself.

  10. My parents grew up in East Los Angeles as did I. My mother told me of being taken to a creek by her grandmother to cool off and collect plants. She called the creek Burdick or Berdict. I’ve pinpointed it to running along the Southern side of the I710 freeway below Sybil Brand. I’ve actually seen cranes (the bird kind) flying from there. If you google the ELA and zoom in near the I-710 you can see a channel. I guess this must be a continuation of Arroyo Rosa del Castillo. It sure would be great if it was wild again.

  11. Clara u were pretty close , it was called birlake , we used to walk there from city terrace along the tracks and swim there .

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