Exposition Park is located in Downtown Los Angeles close to the Los Angeles Convention Center. The 125 acre Exposition Park remains one of the city’s leading sports and cultural centers, a district where various event venues and museums are concentrated. For the longest time, Exposition Park has played this public role as a place where the city unites. In 1872, it was established as a 160-acre agricultural park by the Southern District Agricultural Society and dedicated to hosting horse races, livestock shows, and country fairs. Several acres in the western and southern edges were sold off over time and by the turn of the 20th century had decayed into a park where prostitution, drinking, and gambling took place. Local attorney W.M. Bowen was inspired to stem the decline. He launched a campaign in 1913 that succeeded in renaming and rededicating Exposition Park as a center for exhibit halls, public museums, sports facilities, and public gardens. The park was re-landscaped by architect Wilber D. Cook, Jr. and styled in the grand Beaux-Arts tradition.
Today, Exposition Park is beginning to show some wear and tear. It is located next to the University of Southern California campus on one side and the South Central Los Angeles area on the other three sides. The grounds and facilities are showing their age, but its institutions keep growing and developing. The California Science Center is the latest to receive a facelift, having recently received a $350 million renovation. New community facilities were added along with a widening of the promenades and a restoration of the greenery. The new structure sparkles in the heart of the park, bringing a sense of optimism about the district’s future.
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at 3911 S. Figueroa Street is open to the public for sporting and other scheduled events only. This oval 92,000 seat coliseum was built in 1923 at a cost of $1 million. It replaced the Agricultural Park’s motor speedway. Today, the Los Angeles Memorial coliseum remains the city’s preeminent sports stadium, hosting international soccer games, college football matchups, rock concerts, and other outdoor events. Next to the coliseum is the turquoise Sports Arena with its cool seating capacity of 16,000. It was erected in 1958 and, these days, hosts basketball games and various indoor events.
Back in the day, the coliseum had a boosted capacity of 105,000 and was the world’s largest arena. It was the site of the 1932 Summer Olympic Games and the principal venue as well for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games. Outside the eastern peristyle, there is an Olympic Arch that has been erected, depicting a female nude figure and headless male. The arch is a large bronze sculpture crafted by Robert Graham and sits on top of a gateway of two piers.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
The National History Museum of Los Angeles County at 900 Exposition Boulevard is open year-round. It has an extensive collection of over 35 million artifacts and specimens of various fields of earth sciences, life sciences, and history. In the U.S., the museum ranks third in size after New York City’s American Museum of Natural History and Washington D.C.’s National Museum of Natural History.
The museum opened to the public in 1913 but was called the Museum of History, Science and Art at the time. Originally, the institution’s building was a Beaux Arts structure sporting a dignified marble rotunda at its eastern end. The building has been modified and expanded over the years. In 1961, the institution split into two entities, forming the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum.
The highlight of the Natural History Museum is the “Dueling Dinosaurs” at the main foyer, depicting the skeletons of a triceratops and a tyrannosaur at battle. West and east of the main foyer, you’ll find the Halls of African and North American Mammals where realistic displays of animal specimens living in their natural habitats are on exhibit. More specimens can be found in the Hall of Gems and Minerals, which has over 2,000. The Halls of American History is another impressive exhibit; the displays there trace the origins and development of North America from Columbus’ discovery to the Industrial Revolution. The feature attractions include an 1811 bell cast crafted by Paul Revere & Son, a Deering Light Reaper that ushered in the mechanization of agricultural techniques, and a Conestoga wagon representative of the kind of transport vehicles used on the pioneer trail.
The eastern side of the museum offers the Discovery Center where old fossils and bones take up the same room as live reptiles, fish, and other pet creatures. The mezzanine above the Discovery Center has an Insect Zoo with terrariums, scorpions, millipedes, and tarantulas crawling around. The Hall of Native American Cultures exhibits displays of Native American art inside a Craftsman-style bungalow and a replica of a floor-to-ceiling Pueblo cliff dwelling.
On the upper level of the museum, you’ll find the Hall of Birds, which opened to the public in 1989. This hall measures 17,000 square feet and features innovative, interactive, and animated displays including three habitats that visitors can walk through. They include a tropical rain forest, a Canadian prairie marsh, and a California condor’s mountain home.
At the lower level of the museum, you’ll find a permanent exhibit depicting California and the Southwest from 1540 to 1940. On display are replica dwellings, historic artifacts, dioramas, and information about local history. The highlight of the exhibit is a detailed architectural scale model of downtown Los Angeles as it was constructed by WPA artisans for city planners back in the late 1930s.
The Rose Garden is a seven-acre sunken paradise of cultivated roses. Located east of the Natural History Museum along Exhibition Boulevard, the garden opened its doors in 1911. Since 1928, it has exclusively cultivated roses. Today, it boasts more than 190 rose varieties and over 19,000 specimens. While it is enjoyed as a tourist attraction, the Rose Garden seems more popular as a setting for local weddings.
California Science Center
The California Science Center at 700 State Drive is open year-round, except on New Year’s Day, Christmas, and Thanksgiving Day. In the western United States, the California Science Center is the largest and oldest of its kind. It opened back in 1951 as the California Museum of Science and Industry, occupying the 1912 State Exposition Building. The Kinsey Hall of Health opened in 1967 and three other public facilities, the Mark Taper Hall of Economics, the Aerospace Museum, and the IMAX Theater, all became part of the museum in 1984. A decade later, a new building for the 3-D IMAX theater was completed, adding technological updates and interactive exhibits. In 1997, the complex was renamed the California Science Center.
The Science Center has two themed areas – Creative World and World of Life – dedicated to fostering public interest in science and technology and the role of science in daily life. Two other themed areas are in planning phase – the World of Ecology and Worlds Beyond. The former focuses on the ecology and environment of the Pacific Rim while the latter looks at the universe and the solar system. The north side of the building uses a historic brick wall that was part of the original Ahmanson Building of the museum. Next to it is the IMAX Theater, which shows documentary films on science and space flight, natural history, adventure, and other topics. The films are projected onto a five-story screen.
California Aerospace Museum
The California Aerospace Museum is housed in a three-story open space, and features an F-104 Starfighter that looks as if it is going to crash the walls of the museum building. Inside, replica aircrafts such as the 190E Wright glider and other aerospace equipment such as space capsules and satellites are on display and can be seen close-up via the walkways and landings.
California African American Museum
The California African American Museum at 600 State Drive was opened to the public in 1981. This museum presents changing exhibits of artifacts and artworks in three galleries. The focus of the material is on the culture, history, and art of black people in North America. The museum also boasts a central sculpture court.
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California (USC) is directly north of Exposition Park with its main entrance on Exposition Boulevard. The university was founded in 1880 and has grown from 53 students to more than 33,000 students 3,300 full time faculty members today. The original university consisted of one wooden building, but the campus has expanded to its current 150 acres. There are over 100 major buildings, a blend of old Romanesque Revival constructions with more contemporary buildings. In between are a series of courtyards, walkways, and landscaped plazas. The oldest building on campus is the Widney Alumni House, a white clapboard building that dates back to 1880. The Department of Philosophy occupies Mudd Hall, a 1930s Romanesque structure that sports a churchlike library and a cloister inside.
The Fisher Gallery is the main art gallery of the university and has a collection of European and American art, dating from the 15th century to the present. Another highlight is the Cinema Television Center Complex at 3450 Watt Way. This state-of-the-art complex offers one hour tours that give visitors an up-close look at the art of filmmaking. The complex is part of the USC’s School of Cinema-Television, which was established in 1929 and was among the first of its kind in the nation.
Hancock Memorial Museum
The Hancock Memorial Museum at the intersection of Childs Way and Trousdale Parkway is housed within the Hancock Building. It is the headquarters for the university’s Department of Marine Biology. The building was constructed in 1907 and is located at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard. Inspired by the Medici Palace in Florence, the museum consists of a dining room, library, music salon preserved from the original mansion, and a grand reception hall styled proportionally in Palladian. The oil tycoon, G. Allan Hancock, donated the Hancock Building and the museum to USC in 1936.
Opposite the Hancock Building in the northeast corner of the campus is the Shrine Civic Auditorium. Located at 665 W. Jefferson Boulevard, this Moorish building was built in 1926 to serve as a movie-set mosque. Every year, it hosts the Grammies and the American Music awards. In some years, it also hosts the Academy Awards.
Automobile Club of Southern California
The Automobile Club of Southern California at 2601 S. Figueroa Street occupies a building that is an impressive tribute to the Spanish Colonial style. It sports a domed cupola and an octagonal tower. The rotunda has a fountain and incorporates terrazzo tilework imported from Mexico. The patio has a display of antique California road signs.
“California Science Center.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Science_Center>
Michelin Travel Publications. California. Greenville: Michelin Travel Publications, 2001. ISBN: 2060001315.
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