Highland Park, located along the Arroyo Seco, is one of the oldest settled areas of Los Angeles. It is situated within what was once Rancho San Rafael of the Spanish/Mexican era. Its boundaries are roughly the Pasadena Freeway (Route 110) and the city limits of South Pasadena on the southeast, the city limits of Pasadena on the east, Oak Grove Drive on the north, and Avenue 50/51 on the west. There are various sprawling parks in the area, including the Arroyo Seco Park and the Ernest E. Debs Regional Park. The light rail Metro Gold Line from downtown LA's Union Station to Pasadena (traversing all of Highland Park) is one of the most enjoyable and dynamic public transportation journeys in the city, because of views offered by the parks, hills and valleys along the meandering route.
On account of its rolling hills, lush vegetation of the Arroyo Seco, and grassy flatlands, the neighborhood appropriately became known as the Highlands, and later Highland Park. Initially used as sheep and cattle grazing land, the area was soon subdivided and portioned into lots, as real estate owners and developers realized the potential value. A major steam railroad, the Los Angeles & San Gabriel Valley Railroad, built through the area in the mid 1880's, brought with it economical, practical transportation, and a dependable, time-saving link to the two important big cities. In spite of a major depression throughout most of the Southland in the early 1890's, the people of the area banded together and, incredibly, forged ahead with their quest for prosperity. A second major railroad, the Los Angeles Terminal Railway, was built through the area in 1890, and offered 24 scheduled trains a day to local riders. Then in 1895, an electric trolley system was built, to compete for the active passenger trade.
Highland Park was annexed to the City of Los Angeles in 1895. Persuaded with a gift of 10 acres of land located at Pasadena Avenue (Figueroa Street) and Avenue 50 in Highland Park, Occidental College moved into the areain 1898, from its former site in Boyle Heights. An influential group of women formed the Highland Park Ebell Club in 1903, and when the elite ladies' organization opened a clubhouse ten years later, more than 20,000 people attended the colorful ceremonies.
The Annandale Country Club was established in 1906, and was visited a few years later by President Taft and by multi-millionaire Andrew Carnegie. After a speaking engagement at Occidental in 1911, Roosevelt toured the area with his longtime friend Charles Lummis, the area's most flamboyant resident. After viewing the Arroyo Seco, Roosevelt remarked, "This Arroyo would make one of the greatest parks in the world." And so it has; twelve years later, at the insistence of Lummis, the Ebell Club and the general public, the City of Los Angeles passed an ordinance to preserve, for all time, 60 acres of land to become the Arroyo Seco Park system.
The homes of Highland Park are some of the most eclectic due to its architecture and location between the Mt. Washington hills, the San Rafael hills and the Monterey Hills. With its Craftsman and Victorian-style houses and small-town feel, Highland Park is one of the most rapidly blossoming neighborhoods in Los Angeles. With home prices increasing in nearby Echo Park and Silver Lake, Highland Park became a natural destination for many. Today the neighborhood is filled with artists, musicians, actors and writers who enjoy restoring and updating their old homes. While gentrification has certainly made a big impact on the area, low rents and affordable homes can still be found, which makes this a popular area for first-time home buyers.