Community Spotlight: Westchester/Playa Historical Society plans spring walk through neighborhood

The Westchester/Playa Historical Society is working on creating a new community event this spring featuring a historical walk through the communities of Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista. The event will most likely take place over a weekend in May between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day.

Strategic historical sites will be mapped out, with a specific timeline to visit them, and the tour will focus on locations that have been acknowledged and recognized in the SurveyLA, Los Angeles Historic Resources Survey. The report was prepared by the city’s Office of Historic Resources in 2013 and is specifically related to our local community. The Historical Society Committee will also consider other research and investigative information supplementing the report as the final walking path for the event is created.

The historical walk is designed to bring to life some of the important time capsules and hidden gems tucked away in the community that often get overlooked due to our busy lifestyles. One of these treasures that will be featured on the tour is “The Statue” on the corner of Sepulveda and Manchester that adorns the IHOP Building. The travertine marble statue has been a fixture in the community since it was erected in the 1960s, first to adorn United Savings Bank and then Campari’s Restaurant. The statue was created by artist Millard Sheets who was commissioned in the 1950s to design United Savings’ buildings and to create pieces of art that would enhance his work. Most of his artwork for the buildings was in media other than sculpture, so Westchester is home to a rare piece of art, although most people pass by without realizing its significance.

Some of the other locations on the self-guided tour will take participants as far back as 8000 B.C. during the time of the prehistoric “Los Angeles Man.” Traveling forward in time, participants will be encouraged to visit approximately a dozen local sites, including those that still hold the cultural tapestry of the Gabrielinos, native to the area and arriving circa 2000 B.C. and that pertain to the history of the arrival of the Spanish in the year 1200, seceding to Mexican rule in the early 1800s and California achieving statehood on September 9, 1850.

And no historical tour of the area would be complete without a stop at the Centinela Adobe at the eastern edge of Westchester. Built in 1835, just prior to California statehood, the Adobe is the first home in all the South Bay area from what is now Playa Vista down the coastal communities into Redondo Beach.

The historical walk, or drive if you choose, will also commemorate the visionaries of the last 100 years who contributed to the birth, growth and aesthetics of the Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista communities. Some of these visionaries include Mexican Soldier Ygnacio Machado, Scotsman Robert Burnett, Canadian Daniel Freeman, Midwesterners Fritz B. Burns, William Hannon and Harry Culver, New Yorker Henry
Huntington and Angeleno Ella Drollinger, among others. Further highlights of the weekend will focus on the impact of the oil, motion picture and aviation industries. At the forefront of aviation were such local pioneers as Howard Hughes, Jack Northrop and Donald Douglas, which led to the first homes being built in Westchester, available only to defense industry workers during World War II.

Picture highlights of “then and now” and discussions on the changes the once open lands of the area have seen, will round out the Spring Historical Society Walk.
Stay tuned for more details!

To help encourage the next generation of historians, the Historical Society is also readying to sponsor students interested in participating in National History Day California, who will research topics related to this year’s theme of “Breaking Barriers in History.” This program is open to all students in grades four through twelve, in the elementary, junior and senior categories. For more information, please contact Cozette Vergari at Cozette@LAXLawyers.com.

Cozette is a lifelong resident of Westchester and is leading the charge to reinvigorate the Westchester/Playa Historical Society’s nonprofit status. Together with a group of dedicated volunteers, the organization is working on creating new programming and events to celebrate the history of the area and engage the community in preserving it for future generations.

By Cozette Vergari.

Posted January 2020.