El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Park (more recently referred to as the Plaza district) consists of some 27 buildings with 11 of them open to the public. The park or district includes the Plaza circle and the attractions in and around Olvera Street. The El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Park is the site of many community celebrations including the annual Cinco de Mayo party. You can reach the district by stopping at Union Station or the Gateway Transit Center next door, the hub for trains and buses traveling into LA from the outer regions.
The heart of El Pueblo de Los Angeles is the cobblestoned, narrow streets of Olvera. This pedestrian thoroughfare is the place to rub elbows with the real Mexican population of Mexico, the place where the soulful music of mariachis entertain and the aromas of spicy “South of the Border” fare emanate temptingly. Since 1930, the street has been closed off to vehicular traffic, having been converted to a Mexican marketplace.
Today, the lane is lined with stalls selling colorful trinkets, jewelry, bright shawls, leather jackets and purses, and various types of Mexican food. The goods are an interesting mix of authentically old with the garishly new. You’ll find silver from Taxco, lavish children’s dresses, and brightly woven ponchos. On weekends, the restaurants are packed with musicians who play in the central plaza. The street is best visited late on a weekday afternoon when it is quiet and the shadows of its passageways make it a bit of a romantic stroll.
The Sepulveda House is an Eastlake Victorian home that dates back to 1887. It is perhaps the best example, both socially and architecturally, of a blend of Mexican and Anglo cultures. The structure embodies the transformation of Los Angeles from a purely Mexican city to a 20th century American metropolis.
The Sepulveda House features the modestly prosperous, reconstructed bedroom of Senora Sepulveda. The room is somewhat cluttered and is furnished with a “canopied four-poster, oak wash stand”. Senora’s cucina, or kitchen, has been retrofitted with all the modern appliances that were available back in the day, including an egg beater and a stove-top toaster.
The Avila Adobe is the oldest home in Los Angeles and is situated on the other end of Olvera Street. The house dates back to 1818 and was constructed in the traditional Mexican architectural style, branching around a central, open courtyard. Today, it is occupied by two museums. Its rooms sport wooden floors and have been furnished to reflect the look of an 1840s domestic household. One of museums features an idealized view of pueblo-era domestic life, and the other tells of how the LA authorities connived to secure water supply for the city.
La Placita is a Catholic Plaza Church located a couple of blocks west of the Plaza. This church has been used for years as a shelter for Central American refugees. The structure is charmingly Mexican – adobe with a gabled roof – and has been reconstructed and restored several times from 1861 to 1923.
South of La Placita is a red-brick structure called the Old Plaza Firehouse, which was used from 1884 to 1897 as an operational firehouse, and was later converted to a saloon, pool hall, and lodging house before becoming a museum in 1960. Today, the museum showcases old firefighting equipment, as well as the remnants of Italian, French, and Chinese settlements, represented in culturally themed buildings.
The Pico House is across from La Placita and is a mission-style home once resided by the last Mexican governor of California, Pio Pico. It was also once LA’s most luxurious hotel when it was opened in 1870. Next to the Pico house is the Merced Theater, which was LA’s first indoor theater.
The Masonic Hall, built in 1858, was the city’s first of its kind. It still serves as a meeting place for lodge members and as a museum of the Order of Free Masons and Lodge.
The Garnier Building is close to the Masonic Hall and was LA’s original settlement of Chinese immigrants. It is an 1850 brick-and-stone building that recently opened to the public a few years ago. It hosts a Chinese American Museum there today, devoted to the local history of Chinese settlement and culture.
Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial
The Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial is only a couple blocks west of the Plaza circle at Hill Street and Sunset Boulevard. It is a series of bas reliefs depicting early LA political figures who provided the city with water supply. The memorial’s interior wall has a spectacular man-made waterfall that measures 80 feet wide and 50 feet high, a monument to the city’s original officials who secured LA’s aqueous needs.
Union Station was built in 1939 as one of the nation’s last great rail stations. It served as the key entry point to LA before the opening of the city’s international airport. Its design is a mixture of Art Deco and Spanish Colonial revival, and the waiting hall is extravagant in scale with its enormous chandeliers – a setting for many films and TV shows.
Baker, Christopher, Judy Wade, and Morten Strange. California. New York: Macmillan General Reference, 1994. ISBN: 0671879065.
Bluestone, Carissa. Fodor’s California, 2007. New York: Fodor’s Travel Publications, 2007. ISBN: 1400017327.
Dickey, Jeff. Los Angeles, 3rd Edition. Rough Guides, 2003. ISBN: 1843530589.
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 Bluestone, 155-56
 Baker, 116
 Dickey, 55
 Bluestone, 157