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Old Posted Nov 28, 2015, 10:33 PM
tovangar2 tovangar2 is offline
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Location: West Los Angeles
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Praeger Park

I kept seeing references to "Praeger Park". The latest was in a 1924 LAT article describing the course of Los Reyes:

"...crossed Sixth over the Solomon Dance Hall site, cut diagonally across Praeger Park and out into the flats."

(Solomon's Dance Hall, S Grand and 9th, scene of church services, weddings, riots and, of course, dancing, probably deserves a post of its own)

I had no idea where Praeger Park was.

There have been many posts on Washington Park/Chutes Park. Running south, on 35 acres, from Washington to 21st, approximately between Main and Grand. Here's just three:

Harris Newmark remembers Washington Park in his book, "Sixty Years in Southern California",

"D. V. Waldron bought about thirty-five acres on the southwest corner of Main and Washington streets, soon known as the Washington Gardens, later Chute's Park. These Gardens, among the most popular pleasure resorts here, were served by the Main Street cars which ran direct to the gate. In addition to a Sunday afternoon variety show that held forth in a small pavilion and secured most of its talent from Wood's Opera House, there was also dancing for those who wished to indulge. I may add that this so-called opera house was nothing more than a typical Western song and dance resort, the gallery being cut up into boxes where the actresses, between the acts, mingled with the crowd. Patrons indulged in drinking and smoking; and the bar in front did a thriving business. An insignificant collection of animals—one of which, an escaping monkey, once badly bit Waldron—attracted not only the children, but their elders as well; and charmingly-arranged walks, amid trees and bowers, afforded innocent and healthful means of recreation. Waldron later went to Alaska, where a tragic death closed his career: alone and in want, he was found, in May, 1911, dead in his hut."

Outside the city limits (like Agricultural Park), Washington Gardens was developed by David V Waldron, starting in ca 1877, on the grounds of the former 1873 Sulphur Springs Hotel. The Park wasn't known for its respectability, but it was known for fun. On one 4th of July 12,000 people danced until midnight under Chinese lanterns. There were 60 musicians, a "Vienna Buffet" and fireworks. The trolleys ran till 1 am.

But the Gardens went downhill. The majority of the land was for sale by 1895.

New ownership in 1899 brought new infrastructure. The old pleasure grounds were developed into 12-acre Chutes Park starting in 1900. By 1901 a baseball park with stadium filled the rest of the site. The two attractions ran concurrently until Chutes Amusement Park (briefly renamed "Luna Park" ) closed ca 1912. Although at least one organization tried to get it going again, all trace of Chutes Park was gone by 1914, replaced by David Horsley's Bostock's Jungle/Horsley Park Zoo and movie studio for making "animal pictures".

Looking SE from the baseball stadium towards Chutes Amusement Park:

ebay/previously posted by HossC

When the jungle/zoo/studio closed in 1919 and the stadium moved to Wrigley Field in 1925 (Avalon/41st St/42nd Pl/ San Pedro, south of Santa Barbara/MLK Blvd), a remnant of Washington Park became the "vacant lot" across from the International Mart/Mode O'Day building, which we've seen so many times, with its giant Christmas Tree, Aimee Semple McPherson's parade and, of course, the Auto Show which went up in flames.

This article's got some errors, but it left a trail of breadcrumbs:

"Billboard" December 31, 1949

The article above seems to be conflating Praeger Park with Washington/Chutes Park. The parks were different entities, with different uses.

Praeger Park, owned by Charles and Mary Praeger, actually ran north of Washington almost to 18th St, also approximately between Grand and Main. It didn't have any infrastructure.

1884. Waldron had opened Washington Gardens in ca 1877:


Baist, 1910, plate No. 10. Hill St had been pushed south by 1910, cutting Praeger Park in two:

historicmapworks (detail)

Charles Praeger died in 1911. Widow Mary sued the executors of Charles' will and won, retaining ownership of Praeger Park.

Nora, David and Fred McCartney owned "McCartney's Washington Gardens", south of Washington. It was David's death that tripped the 1949 sale of Washington Park. Note that the stadium has been enlarged. (Despite it being labeled "McCartney's Washington Gardens" on the 1921 Baist, apparently no permanent attraction existed there after Horsley's facility closed in 1919, or ever again.)

Baist, 1921, plate No. 10:

BTW, By 1894, Austrian immigrant Christian Ganahl, already in business for 10 years, opened a lumberyard near the NW corner of the park. That company later moved to Orange County and remains in business today, the oldest lumber business in California.



In 1904 Roy Knabenshue was filmed circling the parks in his Japanese-silk airship. Knabenshue made exhibition flights in many cities that year:


Film strip of Knabenshue's 1904 LA flight:

googlebook pg 38

In 1918, desperate for a new city hall, and willing to spend up to $3MM for the building and land, at least one City Councilman had his eye on the land at Praeger Park and Washington Park for the new Civic Center. (I would have liked that as it might have saved the Baker Block and, more importantly, the Bella Union.)

Praeger Park may not have had any infrastructure, but that made it ideal for temporary events. All but forgotten now, back in the day it was so famous, it really didn't need an address. At Praeger Park there were revival meetings, sporting events, charity carnivals, industry carnivals, carnivals with boxing, carnivals with beauty contests and auto shows, even used auto shows:

cdnc LA Herald 12 April 1920

In 1911 President William Howard Taft spoke at Praeger Park, after reviewing a parade of presumably "respectable" (and respectful) LA children at Washington Park:

cdnc LA Herald 11 October 1911<-- rest of article at link

But what was most memorable about Praeger Park was the circuses.

(In later decades, this function too was taken over by the remnant of Washington Park as Praeger Park had been platted for building lots. The International Mart/Mode O'Day building (by Raymond Kennedy) went up in 1928):
Originally Posted by rbpjr View Post
In the middle forties I remember the circus coming to the large vacant area across the street...Barnum & Bailey and one other, can't recall the name...
The large main tent and the "sideshow" leading to it...wonderful memories.
Here's some Praeger Park circuses from the teens and early 20s:

cdnc LA Herald 10 April 1915
a bit murky, that one, but I liked the graphics

Sells-Floto bought out Buffalo Bill in 1921.

Buffalo Bill Cody was very proud of "his" Lakota:

cdnc LA Herald 12 April 1915 <-- rest of article at link

cdnc LA Herald 16 Sept 1919

cdnc LA Herald 9 April 1921

cdnc LA Herald 15 March 1917

Barnes got in a certain amount of Mann Act trouble in LA:

cndc LA Herald 20 March 1920 <--rest of article at link

...which maybe led to perjury: "Allege Perjury in Al Barnes Slave Case" screamed the LA Herald headline, but "Show Girl Denies Improper Relations with Al G. Barnes" and etc. LOL, folks love to tut-tut at show people. Doesn't stop 'em going to the shows though.

cdnc LA Herald 27 September 1919

cdnc LA Herald 21 September 1916

cdnc LA Herald 30 April 1918

"Circus girls are like laughing bubbles of mirthfulness" What more could anyone ask for?

And what about that "long planned" 1952 exhibition hall, between 3rd and 5th, with Fremont on the west, mentioned near the end of the article?
I can't quite imagine it in that neighborhood (it was also to be, at one time, the LA Opera House) It must have segued into the Convention Center (not known for circuses).

Looking west from Main. The giant LA Furniture Mart Building, now known as The Reef is on part of Washington Park today, corner of Washington and Hill, facing the International Mart/Mode O'Day Building on its remnant of Praeger Park:


Last edited by tovangar2; Dec 30, 2015 at 12:39 AM. Reason: add link + correct date + add image
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