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The Founding History of
Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles

Next tour dates: 


December 12
January 9
February 13

Sunday, december 12pm to 3pm.


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 developed 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 a special event in the plaza; our meeting location will be confirmed prior to our event by email.


The walking tour is expected to last about 2.5-hours. We will be returning to Mariachi Plaza at the end of our tour.

After our tour I would encourage our guests to stay and mingle with me for a while, and maybe enjoy some great Mexican American food and drinks from one of our finest local establishments, Casa Fina Restaurant and Cantina.

Tickets for this in-depth tour are $25 + 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, 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!

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