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Old Posted Nov 27, 2012, 9:24 AM
tovangar2 tovangar2 is offline
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Location: West Los Angeles
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El Aliso

.The Maier Brewing Company has been mentioned again on this thread which reminds me of the 400-year old sycamore that Aliso St was named for and which also used to be such a feature in early LA and, for a short time, of the Maier & Zobelein Brewery.

The tree was 60 feet high and 200 feet wide, making it a dramatic landmark back in the era of single-story buildings.
Here is an 1857 photo of the tree, El Aliso. It's on the right beyond the Plaza:

The tree was east of the ancient Tongva village of Yangna (built on higher ground than the tree), but by 1837 the indigenous population of LA had been reduced dramatically, not least by syphilis and other European diseases, plus bizarrely harsh treatment.

In 1837 Frenchman Jean-Louis Vignes opened a winery under the sycamore, building some one-story frame buildings to house his business (and giving his name to Vignes Street). The El Aliso Winery, named for the tree, became the center of LA's Frenchtown, and shipped 150,000 bottles of wine per year.

El Aliso Winery in 1870 with the tree at its center:


El Aliso Winery is shown here between the Plaza and the river:

LAPL Map Collection

Another image of the tree taken in the 1870s. This shot is looking SW over the Macy Street covered bridge. The great crown of the tree may be seen in the distance:


Despite their success, the Vignes family sold out to German immigrants in 1875 who opened the Philadelphia Brewing Company on the site, reusing the frame buildings.

In the 1876 view below, El Aliso may still be seen in the distance, now surrounded by the Philadelphia Brewery:

CC Pierce, USC Library Collection

Seven years later, two more German immigrants, Joseph Maier and George Zobelein (the latter of later Eastside Beer fame) purchased the brewery. They replaced the frame buildings with a huge, multi-storied brick edifice in 1889. The tree, now severely pruned on three sides, remained at the center, providing shade for the wagon yard:

seaver center /nhm

However, in 1892 one of the El Aliso's remaining branches fell and crushed a beer wagon. In a fit of revenge, and over Zobelein's strong objections, Maier had all the branches removed from the tree, leaving only its trunk. By the end of the year El Aliso, which had been growing in LA since Columbus' first voyage, was dead.

El Aliso's lifeless trunk stood in mute reproach until 1895 when local lumberjack Wm Willoughby was hired to fell it. People came from all over to collect wood chips as souvenirs as El Aliso was hacked into firewood, which was then sold. A young boy, Charles Gibbs Adams (1884-1953), later the designer of the Virginia Robinson Gardens in Beverly Hills and co-designer of the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Gardens in Arcadia, counted the 400 rings on the stump. Maier died in 1904.

Los Angeles Times, August 16, 1895:
“An Old Landmark Gone” - The old aliso (sycamore tree) was on the site of the Maier & Zobelein Brewery. It was a landmark from time immemorial when Los Angeles was a mere pueblo. It had been venerated by the local Indians for generations as a guide point and was said to have provided shade for the early Spanish settlers and a campground for General Fremont when he wrested California from the Mexicans. For some years Maier had wanted to remove the tree in order to expand the brewery. Zobelein was very emotional about the old landmark and succeeded at one point in having the brewery built around it. Eventually, branches fell and damaged a building. Finally the old tree died. Maier said, “That tree has cost us already about $8,000 all on account of Mr. Zobelein's sentiment.” Finally it was chopped down. Various persons took turns, but “Mr. Zobelein has felt too mournful over the fate of his old pet to strike any of its death blows.”

Maier & Zobelein Brewery in about 1900, with the wagon yard at center, where the sycamore, El Aliso, once stood:

phiz - wikimapia

Los Angeles Herald 1908

sopas_ej posted about this site earlier. In his photo below one can see the site of El Aliso. According to Nathan Masters ( it was 153 feet north of Commercial St and 88 feet east of Garey. A survey would pinpoint it:

Originally Posted by sopas ej View Post
One last image of El Aliso. In this undated model of LA circa 1850, it's on the right surrounded by El Aliso winery. The model-makers got the location of Yangna right too.
(first published on this thread by jsjansen on page 122)

Yangna was one of dozens of villages in what was to become LA. Each was built at one of the abundant water sources that used to crisscross the land or bubble up from underground (Sacatela Creek for instance).


Most of these villages have been erased almost without a trace, their water sources forced into storm drains before they reach the surface, their sites built over. Some are remembered as present-day place names: Cahuenga ("the mountain place"), Topanga ("place where the mountains meet the sea"), Tujunga ("place of the wise woman"), Cucamonga ("the sandy place"), Pacoima ("place of the rushing waters"), etc.

At least two remain somewhat intact. Siutcangna is now 5-acre Los Encinos State Historic Park, on Ventura Blvd at Moorpark. The spring is enclosed in a 19th-century, stone spring house, but the lake it feeds is still there. The overflow used to run to the Los Angeles River, but is now diverted into a storm drain.

Except for surrounding development, the scene is essentially unchanged from the late 19th century view below. The de La Ossa adobe, built in 1849 is on the left, the Garnier Building (1868) is at rightr, built by different owners of Rancho Los Encinos, one Mexican, the other Basque, The lake is in the foreground. Rancho Los Encinos was originally granted to Francisco Reyes, the mayor of LA from 1793-95, but he was accused of mistreating his indigenous Tongva workers (almost all California vaqueros were Indians), prompting Govenor Pio Pico to re-grant the land to three of these same workers and their families.

Siutcanga had its own big tree, the 1,000-year-old Lang Oak, situated on a traffic island at Louise and Ventura, outside the boundaries of the present park. Over a hundred years older than the Norman Conquest, it was seven stories tall, with a 150' canopy and a trunk diameter of 24'. Weakened by disease and its urban environment, it fell in a storm in 1998.

In 2011 the State of California threatened to close the park as it makes no money. Private donations have, so far, kept this from happening.

water and power

Kuruvungna, is on the SE corner of the University High School campus in West LA, near Barrington Ave and Santa Monica Blvd. The two springs at Kuruvungna produce 22,000 gallons of water per day which is allowed to fill a large pond, with a small island, before the overflow is diverted into a storm drain. The water used to flow out to the vast Ballona Wetlands and then into Santa Monica Bay, as the Los Angeles river once did before its course changed during the 1845 flood.

Kuruvungna is unusual in that it is controlled by the Tongva People who lease the site from the school district. Sometime after Uni was built in 1924 the two springs were landscaped and made a campus feature, the pond surrounded by manicured lawns and rose gardens. However, by the 1980's the area was derelict and used as a dump. The Tongva removed tons of accumulated trash and replanted the area with tule reeds and other native plants. The lower spring is open; one can see the water bubbling up through the sand under the surface of the crystal-clear water. The upper spring, just outside of the Tongva-controlled area, is hidden under a manhole cover, although the water is allowed out for a bit to spill over a little man-made concrete waterfall arrangement before it heads down the storm drain. The site is open the first Saturday of every month. There is also a festival held annually in October.

t2 II

Another place name note: When the Portola Expedition came through in 1769 to found the Missions and Presidios up the coast of Alta California (in order to check the Russians and the English) they stopped at Kuruvungna on August 4th, between their visits to Yangna and Siutcangna:

"...we stopped at a watering place, which consists of two little springs that rise at the foot of a higher mesa. From each of the springs runs a small stream of water...both full of watercress and innumerable bushes of Castilian (native, single, pink) roses. We made camp near the springs where we found a village of very friendly and peaceful Indians, who, as soon as we arrived, came to visit us...I understood that they were asking if we were going to stay and I said, 'No'..." -quoted from an entry in the diary of Fray Juan Crespi with the Portola Expedition, 4 August 1769

Father Crespi renamed the village "San Gregorio", but the soldiers called it "El Berrendo" after a deer they wounded there. Later, incoming settlers called the pair of springs after Santa Monica because they reminded them of the weeping eyes of the saint as she cried for her son. The name was soon used on a grazing permit and the next year, 1828, it was recorded on a land grant for Rancho Boca de Santa Monica and later still on the Rancho Sepulveda y Santa Monica land grant (which actually included Kuruvungna Springs). The name has since been applied to the canyon, the mountains, the city, the bay, the boulevard, the airport and the freeway.

Last edited by tovangar2; Aug 3, 2022 at 3:27 AM. Reason: replace two missing images
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