Officially founded in 1781, Olvera Street is not only one of the oldest streets in the city, but is also considered to be the birthplace of LA. Today, this vibrant street is home to some of the oldest buildings in LA, and strives to preserve and showcase the customs and traditions of early California.
The oldest house in LA that is still standing in its original location, Avila Adobe was originally built in 1818, and has served as a home for many families since. This building is not only a California Historical Landmark, but can also be found on the National Register of Historic Places, cementing its significance to the city. Today, the house is a museum open to the public, giving you the opportunity to literally step back into time to see how those in California in the 1800’s would have lived.
Built back in 1887, the Sepulveda House is a magnificent showcase of architecture, displaying the way in which the city evolved from one with purely Mexican traditions, to one that merged these with American culture. In addition to appreciating the unique architecture from the outside, the interior of the house has now been turned into a museum, with different rooms recreating the way in which the house would have looked back in the 1890’s. From Senora Sepulveda’s Bedroom to the Kitchen Exhibit, this is a slice of history that is definitely worth touring.
Olvera Street Marketplace
Olvera Street today is known for being a marketplace that is home to merchants who have descended from those that used to trade here in the early 1900’s. The exteriors of the brick buildings that line the street are filled with a colorful array of Mexican crafts, pottery, hanging puppets, and oversized sombreros, with vendors trying to catch your attention. In amongst the shops are over 30 different restaurants and cafés, making this the ideal place to spend a few hours.
Italian American Museum of Los Angeles
The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles is just a few steps away from Olvera Street, and showcases Southern California’s Italian roots. The museum’s permanent collection tells the tale of everything from early pioneers and settlements to Italian culture and traditions, all of which is closely tied to Olvera Street. One of the highlights of the museum is a mural called America Tropical, created by Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros. This painting is on an exterior wall of the building, overlooking Olvera Street, and although it was once painted over and almost completely lost, those that were passionate about Mexican art recognized its importance and fought to have it restored and preserved.
Over two million people visit Olvera Street each year, as this is one of the best spots in LA to learn more about, and actually experience, the history of the city. While the street only stretches out for one block, there is so much to see, do and taste, so be sure to allow yourself at least a couple of hours for your visit.