A bridge into Boyle Height’s past *

Earlier this year Councilman Jose Huizar and Boyle Heights residents gathered at the south end of Hollenbeck Park Lake to mark the beginning of work to restore and reopen the “Historic” Hollenbeck Park Bridge. “Through the years, countless people have posed on the bridge for photographs for special occasions, such as weddings, quinceañeras and baptisms,” reads the Council office press release. However, for older generations of Boyle Heights residents, the 1970s, era-bridge (pictured below) that floats across the green water is not the historic bridge they remember. What they recall is a much grander structure that was officially known as the Old Sixth Street Wood bridge (pictured above).

“I remember that bridge as a little girl,” said Diana Ybarra of the Boyle Heights Historical Society. “That bridge was gorgeous”

The bridge, which had been closed to vehicle traffic, served as an extension of Sixth Street across the ravine in which the park is located. The bridge appears in a 1905 Los Angeles Times ad for the Hollebeck Heights Tract, which advised potential buyers traveling by street car to “transfer to Hollenbeck Park, then cross bridge to tract.” David Morin, in an oral history, recalls childhood adventures crossing the bridge in a way that its builders had not intended:

“Often times my friend Henry and I would cross the bridge by descending the slope leading to the lake and climbing up on the bridge supports. Then we would wind our way along the beams beneath the bridge, balancing ourselves on the straight-aways and hugging the vertical supports as we went around them crossing the lake in our daring manner.”

There are also postcard images of another, smaller Hollenbeck Park bridge but it’s not clear what happened to that structure. But the fate of the bridge along Sixth Street, which was built in the late 1890s, is better known: it was deemed unsafe and demolished in 1968 despite its historic landmark status.

The city will spend an estimated $450,000 to repair the newer Hollenbeck Park bridge and another $150,000 on other park improvement projects, according to Huizar’s office. The intention was never to rebuild the old bridge, said city engineer Bill Lee.

“I saw some old photos of the that [bridge],” Lee said. “There is no way I can recreate that.”

* Update: The Boyle Heights Historical Society will launch a new walking tour of Hollenbeck Park Lake and the surrounding neighborhood on Saturday, June 6 at 9:30 AM. The tour will begin at the Hollenbeck Park bandstand on St. Louis Street. Reservations can be made by sending an email to ybarradi@yahoo.com

Top photo from the UCLA Digital Archives via Big Orange Landmarks; bottom photo from Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Dept.

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