Offbeat South L.A. bus tour shines a light on fascinating, forgotten neighborhoods
WHAT: Esotouric presents "Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles: South Los Angeles" architecture / urbanism bus tour
WHEN: Bus tour is Sunday, August 1 from 11am-3:30pm
COST: Tour costs $58, or save $40 with a three-tour discount series Banham Bundle ticket ($134), http://www.esotouric.com/banhambundle
WHERE: Tour departs from Philippe's downtown, tour covers Vernon, Bell Gardens, Santa Fe Springs, Downey, East L.A.
TOUR INFO: http://esotouric.com/reyner, 323-223-2767
RELATED TOURS IN THE SERIES: The New Chinatowns (August 7); The Lowdown on Downtown (August 28)
Architecture critic Reyner Banham called them "The Plains of Id" those vast, uncharted flatlands between the freeways of Los Angeles, home to millions of L.A. residents but rarely talked about unless something extraordinary happens-- like the recent scandal over outrageous city salaries in poor, tiny Bell.
But to Esotouric, The Plains of Id are among the most fascinating parts of Los Angeles, deserving more attention than a brief, scandalous blip. And with their unpredictable SOUTH LOS ANGELES tour, they delve deep into the uncharted wonders of two centuries of history through the neglected neighborhoods where some of the city's most compelling and unexpected landmarks rub elbows with stucco taquerias and seemingly endless sprawl. The tour rolls through Vernon (the zone of industry with a lively Prohibition-era past), Santa Fe Springs (a bucolic retreat destroyed when oil was discovered -- but not before Irving Gill built one of the most beautiful houses in Southern California), Bell Gardens (site of the boggling architectural layer cake of an adobe-wrapped-in-a-Victorian-wrapped-in-a-trailer-park), East Los Angeles(an important site in the history of Southland rail transit) and Downey (home of the Carpenters, Kustom Kar Kulture and the grand Rives mansion).
Inspired by the British architectural critic Reyner Banham, who host Richard Schave studied under at UC Santa Cruz, the four tours in the REYNER BANHAM LOVES LOS ANGELES series (South LA, Route 66, The New Chinatowns and The Lowdown On Downtown) offer a fresh way of looking at the urban web of history, mass transit, migration and mystery that somehow holds L.A .together. The SOUTH LOS ANGELES Esotouric bus adventure begins downtown and works its way south through Vernon, Bell Gardens, Santa Fe Springs and Downey, and through the past two centuries, exploring some of L.A.'s seldom-seen gems.
The bus goes into areas not traditionally associated with the important, beautiful or significant, raising issues of preservation, adaptive reuse and the evolution of the city from Spanish ranchos to the 'burbs. The locations all speak to the power, mutability and reach of the Southern California Dream.
Tour stops include:
The Gage Mansion, Bell Gardens (1808).
The oldest adobe structure in L.A. County, this fascinating home sits in the middle of a 65-year-old trailer park on the banks of the Rio Hondo River in Bell Gardens. Between the layers of context at this site is the history of migration and growth in theSouthland, from Spanish land grants to the dust bowl to the vast waves of stucco suburbs.
The Clarke Estate, Santa Fe Springs (1919).
A recently rediscovered masterpiece by tilt-slab concrete innovator Irving Gill, this Mission Revival-inspired dwelling features symbolic leaves pressed into the walls and feels like a time capsule from a simpler California.
East Los Angeles Train Station, East L.A. (1932).
A prominent location in the 1946 film "The Postman Always Rings Twice," it was built to deal with congestion and overcrowding in the existing downtown terminals. Currently a picturesque Mission-style ruin in the shadow of the wacky Citadel shopping center, will it rise again as the rail lines reassert themselves?
Johnie's Broiler, Downey (1958/2009).
A cautionary tale about historicpreservation, this beloved Downey diner with its landmark neon sign was illegally demolished by a renter who wanted to park use cars in its place.The site was barred from further commercial use due to public outcry, and was recently lovingly restored as a Bob's Big Boy.
The Rives Mansion, Downey (1912).
Pioneer publisher and civic leader James C. Rives built this striking Colonial Revival home, which has been a Downey landmark for nearly a century, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Downey's celebrated Cuban sandwich and sweet shop, creators of such temptations as the Choco-Flan, the giant cake-and-fruit-filled Florentine cookie, and the Flan/Cheesecake layer cake. Passengers will enjoy a snack and conversation stop in this charming establishment.
These are just some of the extraordinary buildings and stories passengers explore on the South L.A. edition of "Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles," Esotouric's unique architectural tour series. This tour was also presented as a lecture by Richard Schave entitled "Learning from... Los Angeles" at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal in 2009.
Upcoming Esotouric bus tour and event schedule:
Sun Aug 1- Reyner Banham Loves LA: South Los Angeles
Sat Aug 7- Reyner Banham Loves LA: The New Chinatowns
Sat Aug 28 - Reyner Banham Loves LA: The Lowdown on Downtown
Sun Aug 29 - LAVA Sunday Salon (info at lavatransforms.org)
Sat Sept 11 - Hotel Horrors & Main Street Vice crime bus tour
Sat Sept 18 - Pasadena Confidential crime bus tour
Sat Sept 25 - The Real Black Dahlia crime bus tour
Sat Oct 9 - The Birth of Noir: James M. Cain's So. Cal Nightmare
Sat Oct 16 - John Buntin's L.A. Noir
Sat Oct 30 - Maja's Mysteries: Rapture & Release
Sat Nov 6 - Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles
Sat Nov 13 - Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski's L.A.
Sat Dec 4 - Pasadena Confidential with Crimebo the Clown
Sat Dec 11 - Eastside Babylon crime bus tour
For more info on Esotouric, please visit
Esotouric's Richard Schave and Kim Cooper are proud members of LAVA - The Los Angeles Visionaries Association.
For more on Reyner Banham, see
And the BBC documentary "Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles"