LA Writer Writes Guide to City’s First Landmarks | Arts and events

JRavel writers learn to notice interesting landmarks, even in their hometown.

Journalist and author Mimi Slawoff is a former Los Angeles Daily News reporter who writes for AAA, Travel + Leisure and LA Parent magazine.

She recently published a book called “Oldest Los Angeles” with Reedy Press.

The book acts as a tourist guide for tourists and residents who want to know more about their hometown. With the author’s photographs, the book takes its readers on a journey through the city, showing them the oldest buildings, businesses, neighborhoods and monuments.

When the pandemic temporarily halted Slawoff’s travels, she received a call from a publisher who told her they were looking for an Angeleno native to write a book about the area.

They discussed several titles, ultimately arriving at one that would focus the book on the city’s oldest locations, a focus that was more than just history and took a creative slant.

Slawoff visited each site and carefully studied the stories told about it, sorting legend from facts and filling his book with interesting tidbits in each vignette.

She peppers the book with startling information such as – California’s first gold was discovered in Los Angeles County, not Northern California as many believe.

While many people think that James Wilson Marshall first found gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, but gold was discovered in late 1841 or early 1942 in a Pueblo 35 north -east of Los Angeles.

Francisco Lopez, the butler at the San Fernando Rancho, was looking for stray cattle when he used his knife to dig up some wild onions to eat. Instead, he found gold, and local residents flocked to the area, using rudimentary techniques to pan for gold.

Slawoff said Los Angeles was founded by 44 immigrants and then evolved into the huge metropolis it is today. Although she grew up here, she learned a lot by researching this book.

“Because I’m a first-generation Bulgarian American, I’ve always been drawn to other immigrant stories,” Slawoff said.

“I know LA has a lot of old and early family businesses. So, I started with Downtown LA and managed to get by.

She initially knew what she wanted to write about, but still contacted public relations representatives, local historians, museums and historic sites she found on the Internet.

While some sites were closed during the pandemic, she visited all the spots she understood.

The project landed on its knees at the perfect time as the pandemic prevented Slawoff from traveling.

“It got me out of the house,” Slawoff said. “Many of these places make great day trips.”

The book encourages day trips around the city, with landmarks grouped by region. It started with Downtown Los Angeles, then Greater Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley and then the San Gabriel Valley.

A Glendale landmark is Rockhaven, the nation’s first women’s sanatorium.

“I think it’s one of the most unique landmarks in the area,” Slawoff said. “It was founded by a psychiatric nurse (Agnes Richards) as an antidote to asylums when women weren’t treated well.”

Richards purchased several buildings in a residential area and established a complex where women were treated for mental illnesses.

They took a holistic approach with arts and social activities paired with occupational therapy. Richards insisted that women should always be called “ladies” or “residents” and never patient.

Monthly tours feature Marilyn Monroe’s mother’s bedroom and the small closet window she crawled out of.

Opened in 1915, Fair Oaks Pharmacy in South Pasadena is the oldest pharmacy in Los Angeles. Customers can still visit the soda fountain and enjoy ice cream while waiting for prescriptions.

“They’re known for their good ice cream,” Slawoff said.

Southeast of Pasadena, San Gabriel Mission is home to a 250-year-old vineyard that still produces grapes for wine.

Pasadena is also home to:

• Oldest Annual Parade – Tournament of Roses

• The oldest independent bookstore, the Vroman bookstore

• Oldest Botanical Gardens: Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens

Slawoff suggested visiting the Angeles National Forest and seeing the Mount Wilson Observatory, or heading to Highland Park for the granddaddy of all bowling alleys, Highland Park Bowl.

She and her family visited Highland Park Bowl, which opened during prohibition as an alternative to the speakeasy.

“People could pick up a (alcohol) prescription from the doctors upstairs on the second floor,” Slawoff said. “They would get their prescription for ‘medicinal’ alcohol, then go downstairs to get their whiskey or whatever they were drinking, and they could both drink and listen to live music.”

While bowlers no longer need a prescription to drink alcohol, bowling has retained its vintage look. Guests can see the spindle centers and the operation of the machines.

A 192-page softcover book that sells for $20.95, “Oldest Los Angeles” has 84 thumbnails of 250 to 300 words that have sidebars. Slawoff said she hopes the book will give people new perspectives on the city and its rich history.

“Some people like LA, and some people don’t,” Slawoff said. “I feel like people usually think of LA as Hollywood and beaches. It’s not all LA. There’s so much history here. There are so many older landmarks with beautiful stories.

“Oldest Los Angeles” by Mimi Slawoff

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