Latinos, Beísbol, and Chavez Ravine ...
Latinos and baseball ...
When I think of Latinos and baseball, my first thought is not of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Dodger Stadium; rather images come to me from my imagination — images of my father and his father, playing baseball in Elysian Park, early in the 20th Century. You see, they both grew up in Solano (my grandfather was born there in 1895), and Elysian Park was their playground.
I am reminded of the Mexican and Mexican-American village in the Stone Quarry Hills that was destroyed, with its three neighborhoods of Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop.
Finally, of course, I am reminded of the Dodgers and Dodger Stadium.
That mental image of my father and grandfather in Elysian Park is suggested by the following photograph, which has been in my family for more than a century.
This is a group photograph of a business-sponsored, semi-pro baseball team in Los Angeles that was taken in Elysian Park in 1912. This particular team was sponsored by the Tufts-Lyon Arms Company. The team is Tufts-Lyon No. 2, and the fourth person from the left is the team's shortstop, 17-year-old Teodoro Manuel Bouett, my grandfather — the only Latino on the team, who was encouraged to play baseball by his maternal uncle, Alfredo Solano, who was a founding member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club and who played for the Athletic' Club's baseball team during the 1880s — and he, too, was the only Latino on the team. Alfredo Solano, my great-granduncle, is standing in the top row, left-hand side. He was about 27 years old when this photograph was taken around 1884.
My primary interest in this area, though, is the history of the village that was destroyed during the 1950s — that is, the neighborhoods of Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop. My grandfather's grandfather, Francisco Solano, bought 87 acres of land in the Stone Quarry Hills in 1866; that land became much of those three Mexican and Mexican-American neighborhoods, plus the community of Solano, which is celebrating its sesquicentennial — its 150th anniversary — this year.
Those three neighborhoods — Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop — have often been called 'Chavez Ravine', presumably a reference to the urban legend that the land once belonged to Julián Cháves, a legend that is categorically untrue. In fact, 122½ acres of the land in the Stone Quarry Hills belonged to members of my family — the Solanos — and became, in addition to Solano, the neighborhoods of La Loma, Bishop, and about half of Palo Verde Northeast of Effie Street. That land remained in my family continuously from 1866 until 1903, when it was sold to developers. The first houses in the village appeared in 1909 in La Loma, 1912 in Bishop, and 1913 in Palo Verde.
So why is the area credited with a mythical connection to Julián Cháves?
So why is the area credited with a mythical connection to Julián Chávez?
I suspect that the origin of that urban legend lies with the 82 acres that Cháves did own in Elysian Valley, or Frogtown, that lies on the flat land by the Los Angeles River to the Northeast of the Stone Quarry Hills. Cháves acquired that land in 1847 during the Mexican Period in Los Angeles from Estefan Quintano, not the ayuntamiento, and in 1856, it was surveyed at Cháves' request by George Hansen, the Los Angeles County Surveyor. To the Northwest of Julián Cháves' 82 acres in Frogtown in 1856 is a 33-acre parcel that belonged to his brother, Mariano; and adjacent to Mariano's land is a 150-acre parcel that belonged to Juan Bouet, my great-great grandfather.
There is a place named Chavez Ravine. It is the first ravine in the Northwest of the Stone Quarry Hills; but it is nowhere near those three neighborhoods. The five ravines in the Stone Quarry Hills are Chavez, Sulphur, Cemetery, Solano, and Reservoir. Bishop's Road runs up Cemetery Ravine, where all of the neighborhood of Bishop was situated. Dodger Stadium is located primarily in Cemetery Ravine, Sulphur Ravine, and against Mt. Lookout. Neither Julián Cháves nor his brother, Mariano, ever owned land in the actual Chavez Ravine; rather, a burro trail up Chavez Ravine crested the summit of the Stone Quarry Hills, then descended through a narrow defile and debouched onto the tract of Juan Bouet, and which provided access to Elysian Valley and the land to the North, like Rancho los Feliz and the San Fernando Valley.
So why the name Chavez Ravine for an area that Julián Cháves literally had nothing to do with?
The answer is probably illuminated in part by a conversation sometime around 1947 between Harold L. Holtzendorf, the Executive Director of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (or HACLA for short), and Robert E. Alexander, whom Holtzendorf recruited to be the chief architect of the Elysian Park Heights public housing project.
The apple of my eye is the Chavez Ravine project.
According to Alexander's oral history, Holtzendorf told him, "The apple of my eye is the Chavez Ravine project."
Just how, and when, Harold Holtzendorf coined the term 'Chavez Ravine' for the area is unknown; but Frank Wilkinson, Special Assistant to Holtzendorf at HACLA, perpetuated the term in his 1950 notification to the residents of the neighborhoods about the Elysian Park Heights project, although Wilkinson's notification was addressed "To the residents of the Palo Verde and Chavez Ravine Areas".
The area that was ultimately condemned did, in fact, include a portion of the actual Chavez Ravine. But from 1950 forward, the area was always referred to as Chavez Ravine by the political power structure in Los Angeles, and especially in the hundreds of articles in the Los Angeles Times about the public housing project. Interestingly, no survivor of the evictions that took place in Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop, nor any of the next generation, for that matter, has ever claimed that they referred to where they lived as Chavez Ravine.
Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not a crusader, and I suspect that there is no way anyone is ever going to drop the term 'Chavez Ravine' from their vocabulary to refer to the three destroyed neighborhoods of Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop; but as an historian, it is important to me to understand the dynamics that were in play that resulted in something so wildly inappropriate as the term 'Chavez Ravine' to refer to the neighborhoods that were destroyed during the 1950s, ultimately to make way for the construction of Dodger Stadium.
About the Author
Bouett is a retired research scientist and registered professional
engineer who now conducts historical and genealogical research
full-time. A ninth-generation Californian, he is particularly interested in the displacement of the nearly 1,100 families that lived in the Chavez Ravine communities of la Loma, Palo Verde, and Bishop to make way, ultimately, for the construction of Dodger Stadium. His ancestors arrived in California with Portolá in 1769 and came to Los Angeles with the founders on September 4, 1781.
"Thank you for such an informative site which highlights the plight of those relocated from Chavez Ravine. My stepfather was a happy child growing up in the Palo Verde area. He had many stories about living in the area and working at the [Ayala] store."