Griffith Park

Griffith Park

Infobox park
park=Griffith Park

image size=275px
caption=Firefighting at Griffith Park
type=Urban park
location=Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California
coordinates=coord|34|8|3.39|N|118|17|54.87|W|display=title,inline|region:US_type:landmark|name=Griffith Park
operator=Los Angeles Department of Recreation & Parks
visitors=10 million
status=Open all year

Griffith Park is a large public park at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains. It is situated in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. The park covers 4,210 acres (17 km²) of land, making it one of the largest urban parks in North America. It is the second-largest city park in California, after Mission Trails Preserve in San Diego. [cite web|url=|title=The 100 Largest City Parks|publisher=The Trust for Public Land] It has also been referred to as the Central Park of Los Angeles.


After successfully investing in mining, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith purchased Rancho Los Feliz (near the Los Angeles River) in 1882 and created an ostrich farm there. Although ostrich feathers were commonly used in making women's hats in the late-1800s, Col. Griffith created the farm primarily to lure residents of Los Angeles to his nearby property developments. After the property rush peaked, and supposedly spooked by the ghost of Antonio Feliz (a previous owner of the property) he donated convert|3015|acre|km2|1 to the city of Los Angeles on December 16, 1896.

Afterward Griffith was tried and convicted for shooting and severely wounding his wife. [ [ "Death Summons Noble Woman"] , "Los Angeles Sunday Times", November 13, 1904] When released from prison, he attempted to fund the construction of an observatory, planetarium, amphitheater, a girls camp and boys camp in the park. His reputation in the city was tainted by his crime, however, so the city refused his money.

In 1912, Griffith designated convert|100|acre|km2|1 of the park, at its northwest corner along the Los Angeles River, be used to "do something to further aviation." The "Griffith Park Aerodrome" was the result. Aviation pioneers such as Glenn L. Martin and Silas Christoffersen used it. The aerodrome passed to the National Guard Air Service. Air operations continued on a convert|2000|ft|m|-2|sing=on-long runway until 1939, when it was closed, partly due to danger from interference with the approaches to Grand Central Airport across the river in Glendale, but also because the City Planning commission complained that a military airport violated the terms of Griffith's deed. The National Guard squadron moved to Van Nuys, and the Aerodrome was demolished, though the rotating beacon and its tower remained for many years. From 1946 until the mid-1950s, Rodger Young Village occupied the area which had formerly been the Aerodrome. Today that site is occupied by the Los Angeles Zoo parking lot, the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, soccer fields, and the interchange between the Golden State Freeway and the Ventura Freeway.

Film pioneer D.W. Griffith (no relation to Colonel Griffith) filmed the battle scenes for his epic "Birth of a Nation" in the park in 1915, as Lillian Gish detailed in her memoirs, "The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me". Over the years, a number of films were shot in the park.

Griffith set up a trust fund for the improvements he envisioned, and after his death in 1919 the city began to build what Griffith had wanted. The amphitheater, the Greek Theatre, was completed in 1930, and Griffith Observatory was finished in 1935. Subsequent to Griffith's original gift further donations of land, city purchases, and the reversion of land from private to public have expanded the Park to its present size.


Hired as part of a welfare project, 3,780 men were in the park clearing brush on October 3, 1933, when fire broke out in the Mineral Wells area. Many of the workers volunteered or were ordered to fight the fire. Foremen with no knowledge of firefighting directed the effort, setting inappropriate backfires and sending hundreds of workers into a steep canyon. When the wind changed direction they were trapped. In all, 29 men were killed and 150 were injured. Professional firefighters arrived and limited the blaze to convert|47|acre|1. Because of the disorganized nature of the employment, it took weeks to establish the exact death toll and identify the bodies. The Griffith Park fire remains the deadliest in Los Angeles history. [ ['331.html "The Fire of '33"] , "Glendale News-Press", October 1–4, 1993. Accessed 2007-05-08.]

On May 12 1961 a wildfire on the south side of the park burned convert|814|acre|km2|1. It also destroyed eight homes and damaged nine more, chiefly in the Beachwood Canyon area. [ [ A Holocaust Strikes the Hollywood Hills] , Otto Firgens, Los Angeles City Fire Department ]

On May 8 2007 a major wildfire burned more than convert|817|acre|km2|1, destroying the bird sanctuary, Dante's View and Captain's Roost, and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people. The fire came right up to one of the largest playgrounds in Los Angeles, Shane's Inspiration, and the Los Angeles Zoo, and threatened the Griffith Observatory, but left these areas intact. Several local organizations, including, are currently working with local officials to restore the park in a way that would benefit all. [ [,0,3633158.story?coll=la-home-center "City to repair fire damage in Griffith Park"] Ashraf Khalil, "Los Angeles Times" May 11, 2007] It was the third fire of the year. [ [ "Fire Forces Griffith Park Evacuations"] ,, 11:27 pm PDT May 8, 2007] The city announced a $50 million plan to stabilize the burned slopes. [ [,0,3633158.story?coll=la-home-center "City to repair fire damage in Griffith Park"] Ashraf Khalil, "Los Angeles Times" May 11, 2007]


Visitors can attend concerts under the stars at the magnificent Greek Theatre, which was built to resemble a Greek amphitheater. Visitors can study the stars at the newly renovated Griffith Observatory and planetarium. In addition to the observatory and Greek theater, Griffith Park hosts the Los Angeles Zoo, the Museum of the American West and a merry-go-round. The Hollywood Sign is located on the southern flank of Griffith Park's Mount Lee. The William Mulholland Memorial Fountain, which is dedicated to the engineer who built the first aqueduct that supplied water to the city, is located opposite the park entrance. At the Travel Town Museum, one can ride on a miniature railroad operated by the Los Angeles Live Steamers and see retired railroad locomotives, passenger cars and streetcars from bygone eras.

There are two 18-hole golf courses (and the 9-hole Roosevelt Golf Course as well), a baseball field, athletic fields, along with several basketball and tennis courts on the grounds. The park also has a swimming pool which is open during the summer months. The park is laced with many hiking and equestrian trails deep within the mountains away from neighboring residential districts. The local (Angeles) unit of the Sierra Club has been leading free evening and weekend conditioning hikes in Griffith Park every week for almost 50 years.

Sitting atop the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory is featured in the classic film, "Rebel Without A Cause" (1955) starring: James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo, and serves as the backdrop for key scenes that are threaded throughout the movie. Moreover, the steps of the Observatory set the stage for the film’s climactic ending. Notably, James Dean, who played the lead role of Jim Stark in the movie, also shot a Coca-Cola commercial in Griffith Park during his early years as an actor. A bronze bust of him is on the grounds just outside the Observatory's domed building that commemorates the making of the scenes for "Rebel", in addition to other movies that have utilized the site as their scenic locale.

Griffith Park has many other locations familiar to moviegoers. It was used as a location in the first two "Back to the Future" movies. In the first movie it was used for Marty's starting point when accelerating to convert|88|mi/h|km/h|0|abbr=on in the film's climax, and in the second movie it was used for the "River Road Tunnel" scene when Marty was trying to get the almanac back. The same tunnel was used as the entrance to Toontown in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". The park was also featured in the Robert Altman movie Short Cuts and in Disney's The Rocketeer. The park's craggy Bronson Canyon is a popular location for motion picture and television filming, especially of western and science fiction low-budget films, including "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956). A tunnel entrance in this canyon was used as the entrance to the Batcave in the "Batman" television series of the 1960s.

Another seasonal attraction during late November through December is the annual holiday light festival display sponsored by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Spectators can walk or drive their vehicles through it.

Park hours and parking

The park is open 6:00 am to 10:00 pm. All hiking trails and mountain roads close at sunset. Ample free parking is available on the south side off of Vermont Canyon Road inside the park; cars can be left parked at the parking lot next to the Greek Theater until 10:30 pm, even though the park gates are closed to entering cars at sunset.


The Los Angeles Department of Recreation & Parks is currently in the planning stages for future development of the park; their initial Master Plan is posted at: [ L.A] . Opposition to the proposed Master Plan comes from groups such as [ Save Griffith Park] , which opposes the further commercialization and development of the park. The future use of the Toyon Canyon Landfill in the center of the park is one of the points of contention.



Like most parks in Los Angeles County, vandalism, in the form of property destruction and tagging by local gangs, is a noticeable problem at Griffith Park.


Starting in the 1950s, Mineral Wells Canyon (name later change to Toyon Canyon) was the site of garbage disposal. The Toyon Canyon Landfill is near to Amir's Garden, Mineral Wells Picnic area, and Royce's Canyon.



External links

* [ Los Angeles Department of Recreation & Parks: Griffith Park]
* [ Griffith Park History]
* [ Museum of the American West]
* [ Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Archive "The Griffith Park Fire"]
* [ Griffith Park Aerodrome]
* [ Griffith Observatory]
* [ shot of the Griffith Park Fire of May 2007]

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