Destination Main Streets

Olvera Street (Los Angeles), California

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For this tour, we'll take a look at the Olvera Street and surrounding El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument area. This part of town near downtown Los Angeles features some of the city's oldest buildings. It was here that Los Angeles was founded by Felipe De Neve, the Spanish Governor of the Californias in 1781. The town began to grow into a full-fledged city. The area around Olvera Street and the original plaza, now known as Paseo De La Plaza Park, became home to new immigrants, including Mexicans, Chinese, and Sicilians. Eventually, in the 1920s there was talk of tearing down many of the neglected buildings in the name of progress. Preservationist Christine Sterling stepped in to protect the historic buildings, and a renovated Olvera Street reopened in 1930 as a Mexican marketplace and cultural center.

Today, the Olvera Street area is a fun place to visit, full of Mexican gift shops, eateries, and historical structures. Most of the historic buildings and museums detail life in Los Angeles in the mid-ninteenth century. Also, be sure to explore the surrounding area such as Union Station and the old Post Office building. Olvera Street is just off the 101 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles. Olvera Street is a small pedestrian only street, so if you put that in your GPS, it will get you to the area. From there, you can find public parking lots close by. If traveling via rail, the area is easy to get to as well, since Union Station is right there. Union Station is served by Amtrak, the Metrolink commuter rail system, The A (Blue) and L (Gold) light rail lines, and the B (Red) and D (Purple) lines of the LA Metro system.

Photo Gallery Tour

We'll start our tour of the Olvera Street area at the Paseo De La Plaza Park. The Pico House, built in 1869 and 1870, was named for Pio Pico, the last governor of Mexican California, who sold his land to raise money to construct this hotel, also the city's first three-story building.
We'll start our tour of the Olvera Street area at the Paseo De La Plaza Park. The Pico House, built in 1869 and 1870, was named for Pio Pico, the last governor of Mexican California, who sold his land to raise money to construct this hotel, also the city's first three-story building.
The Church of Our Lady Queen of the Angels was founded on this site in 1814. The current building was constructed in 1861. This building also faces the plaza. The surrounding area is known as El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument or Los Angeles Plaza Historic District and is the oldest section of Los Angeles.
The Church of Our Lady Queen of the Angels was founded on this site in 1814. The current building was constructed in 1861. This building also faces the plaza. The surrounding area is known as El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument or Los Angeles Plaza Historic District and is the oldest section of Los Angeles.
There are several statues like this in the area. This one is of Felipe De Neve, the Spanish Governor of the Californias from 1775 to 1782. He was known for having laid out the town of El Pueblo de la Reina De Los Angeles on this spot. Most of the history in the area dates back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries before California was a state.
There are several statues like this in the area. This one is of Felipe De Neve, the Spanish Governor of the Californias from 1775 to 1782. He was known for having laid out the town of El Pueblo de la Reina De Los Angeles on this spot. Most of the history in the area dates back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries before California was a state.
The Hellman/Quon Building was constructed in 1900. According to the historical marker, it was used for many years by the Chinese for shops and lodgings. As you can see on the left, this building contains a Tour Office. Also this building contains a Chinese American Museum with an entrance around the side.
The Hellman/Quon Building was constructed in 1900. According to the historical marker, it was used for many years by the Chinese for shops and lodgings. As you can see on the left, this building contains a Tour Office. Also this building contains a Chinese American Museum with an entrance around the side.
Here is another view of the Paseo De La Plaza Park. Behind this large oak is a gazebo with public bathrooms below it. I wouldn't recommend those bathrooms but we'll pass by other ones later.
Here is another view of the Paseo De La Plaza Park. Behind this large oak is a gazebo with public bathrooms below it. I wouldn't recommend those bathrooms but we'll pass by other ones later.
This is the Biscailuz Building constructed in 1925 and 1926. It was designed as the United Methodist Church Conference Headquarters and the Plaza Community Center. Today, it serves as the Consulate-General of Mexico. In 1968, it was renamed after Eugene Biscailuz, a former Los Angeles County Sheriff who assisted in saving this historic part of Los Angeles.
This is the Biscailuz Building constructed in 1925 and 1926. It was designed as the United Methodist Church Conference Headquarters and the Plaza Community Center. Today, it serves as the Consulate-General of Mexico. In 1968, it was renamed after Eugene Biscailuz, a former Los Angeles County Sheriff who assisted in saving this historic part of Los Angeles.
We now enter Olvera Street where we have shops, eateries, and museums. The inscription on the cross says "El Pueblo de La Reyna de Los Angeles," which means the Town of the Queen of the Angels, which was the city's original name. In the background is the entrance to the Museum Of Social Justice.
We now enter Olvera Street where we have shops, eateries, and museums. The inscription on the cross says "El Pueblo de La Reyna de Los Angeles," which means the Town of the Queen of the Angels, which was the city's original name. In the background is the entrance to the Museum Of Social Justice.
We head down Olvera Street. This is a pedestrian only street. Shops line the historic buildings on either side. Vendors set up in kiosks down the middle. In 1877, the street was given its current name in honor of Agustin Olvera, a judge who fought for Alta California in the Mexican American War, and played a crucial role in negotiating peace with the Americans.
We head down Olvera Street. This is a pedestrian only street. Shops line the historic buildings on either side. Vendors set up in kiosks down the middle. In 1877, the street was given its current name in honor of Agustin Olvera, a judge who fought for Alta California in the Mexican American War, and played a crucial role in negotiating peace with the Americans.
Here is an interior view of one of the shops on Olvera Street. Many of the stores are gift shops aimed at tourists. The area is seen as a symbolic epicenter of Mexican culture, so a lot of the merchandise reflects that.
Here is an interior view of one of the shops on Olvera Street. Many of the stores are gift shops aimed at tourists. The area is seen as a symbolic epicenter of Mexican culture, so a lot of the merchandise reflects that.
Here we see shoppers perusing one of the stalls along Olvera Street. The large brick building in the background is the Plaza Substation, built in 1905. It was an electrical substation that formed a part of the "Yellow Car" streetcar system operated by the Los Angeles Railway from 1901 to 1963.
Here we see shoppers perusing one of the stalls along Olvera Street. The large brick building in the background is the Plaza Substation, built in 1905. It was an electrical substation that formed a part of the "Yellow Car" streetcar system operated by the Los Angeles Railway from 1901 to 1963.
Here is an example of one of the historic buildings now used for retail. Known as the Machine Shop and built some time in the 1910s, the building was originally used for light industrial purposes. For a short time it also served as a theater.
Here is an example of one of the historic buildings now used for retail. Known as the Machine Shop and built some time in the 1910s, the building was originally used for light industrial purposes. For a short time it also served as a theater.
Here we have the Sepulveda House built in 1887 by Eloisa Martinez de Sepulveda in an Eastlake Victorian style. Its original purpose was for stores and a boarding house. Today, the building now serves as the Park's Visitors' and Orientation Center and has exhibits illustrating life in Los Angeles in the 1890s.
Here we have the Sepulveda House built in 1887 by Eloisa Martinez de Sepulveda in an Eastlake Victorian style. Its original purpose was for stores and a boarding house. Today, the building now serves as the Park's Visitors' and Orientation Center and has exhibits illustrating life in Los Angeles in the 1890s.
On the left is the Pelanconi House, which today houses a restaurant. On the right, in the distance, the more modern looking structure is part of the América Tropical Interpretive Center, which is dedicated to the life and legacy of David Alfaro Siqueiros. His mural, América Tropical, continues to have a profound influence on the Chicano Muralist Movement in Los Angeles.
On the left is the Pelanconi House, which today houses a restaurant. On the right, in the distance, the more modern looking structure is part of the América Tropical Interpretive Center, which is dedicated to the life and legacy of David Alfaro Siqueiros. His mural, América Tropical, continues to have a profound influence on the Chicano Muralist Movement in Los Angeles.
You can walk up to the roof of the América Tropical Interpretive Center and get a view of the América Tropical mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros. The mural was controversial when first completed, and it was white-washed over. The 80x18 mural, the oldest in Los Angeles, has since had the layer of white-wash removed and is now available to view again.
You can walk up to the roof of the América Tropical Interpretive Center and get a view of the América Tropical mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros. The mural was controversial when first completed, and it was white-washed over. The 80x18 mural, the oldest in Los Angeles, has since had the layer of white-wash removed and is now available to view again.
Here is an interior view of the Pelanconi House, we saw earlier. The house, built in the 1850s, is the oldest surviving brick house in Los Angeles. In 1924, it was converted into a restaurant called La Golondrina. Still in business today, it is the oldest restaurant on Olvera Street.
Here is an interior view of the Pelanconi House, we saw earlier. The house, built in the 1850s, is the oldest surviving brick house in Los Angeles. In 1924, it was converted into a restaurant called La Golondrina. Still in business today, it is the oldest restaurant on Olvera Street.
Here, we see tourists shopping underneath the towering old trees. In the distance is the Los Angeles City Hall, completed in 1928. Olvera Street is not far from other points of interest in downtown Los Angeles, including the central business district.
Here, we see tourists shopping underneath the towering old trees. In the distance is the Los Angeles City Hall, completed in 1928. Olvera Street is not far from other points of interest in downtown Los Angeles, including the central business district.
This brick building is known as the Old Winery. Wine making was once an important industry in the area with many Italians producing wines in the area's early days. In fact, Olvera Street was once known as Wine Street. Today, there are shops, eateries, and even public bathrooms inside the building.
This brick building is known as the Old Winery. Wine making was once an important industry in the area with many Italians producing wines in the area's early days. In fact, Olvera Street was once known as Wine Street. Today, there are shops, eateries, and even public bathrooms inside the building.
The Ávila Adobe, built in 1818 by Francisco Ávila, it is the oldest standing residence in Los Angeles. For a time, the building served as a restaurant and boarding house and was even commandeered as a military headquarters during the Mexican-American War.
The Ávila Adobe, built in 1818 by Francisco Ávila, it is the oldest standing residence in Los Angeles. For a time, the building served as a restaurant and boarding house and was even commandeered as a military headquarters during the Mexican-American War.
By 1928 the Ávila Adobe had fallen into disrepair and was saved from demolition by Christine Sterling when she famously saved and revitalized the Olvera Street area. Today you can take tours of the Ávila Adobe and see what life was like in the area in the 1840s.
By 1928 the Ávila Adobe had fallen into disrepair and was saved from demolition by Christine Sterling when she famously saved and revitalized the Olvera Street area. Today you can take tours of the Ávila Adobe and see what life was like in the area in the 1840s.
Here is a view of visitors shopping and eating on Olvera Street. There are plenty of places to eat here, including some where you can walk right up to the window.
Here is a view of visitors shopping and eating on Olvera Street. There are plenty of places to eat here, including some where you can walk right up to the window.
Now let's take a look at the surrounding area. Here is Union Station just a block away. It opened in May 1939 and combines Art Deco, Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne styles of architecture.
Now let's take a look at the surrounding area. Here is Union Station just a block away. It opened in May 1939 and combines Art Deco, Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne styles of architecture.
This is an interior view of Union Station. It is definitely worth checking out. Many movies have been filmed here, including Blade Runner, Pearl Harbor, and The Dark Knight Rises.
This is an interior view of Union Station. It is definitely worth checking out. Many movies have been filmed here, including Blade Runner, Pearl Harbor, and The Dark Knight Rises.
Across Cesar Chavez Avenue from Union Station is the U.S. Post Office Los Angeles Terminal Annex. Built in 1940, in Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival styles, it served as the central mail processing facility for Los Angeles from 1940 to 1989. Today, it is used as a data center but is still worth checking out. The lobby features twelve Federal Art Project murals.
Across Cesar Chavez Avenue from Union Station is the U.S. Post Office Los Angeles Terminal Annex. Built in 1940, in Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival styles, it served as the central mail processing facility for Los Angeles from 1940 to 1989. Today, it is used as a data center but is still worth checking out. The lobby features twelve Federal Art Project murals.
Normally when we visit Olvera Street, we love to eat the Mexican food there. This time we went about two blocks north on Alameda Street to eat at Philippe The Original. The restaurant, on the edge of the Chinatown area of Los Angeles, has continuously operated since 1908 and is allegedly the birth place of the French dip sandwich.
Normally when we visit Olvera Street, we love to eat the Mexican food there. This time we went about two blocks north on Alameda Street to eat at Philippe The Original. The restaurant, on the edge of the Chinatown area of Los Angeles, has continuously operated since 1908 and is allegedly the birth place of the French dip sandwich.

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