LA’s Barnsdall Art Park brings historic olive grove to life

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Barnsdall Art Park in East Hollywood already has a lot to offer. People of all ages take art classes at the Barnsdall Art Center and learn about art at the Municipal Art Gallery. Hollyhock House, the residence of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed for art lover / philanthropist / oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, is Los Angeles’ premier UNESCO World Heritage Site. But now visitors can expect something new and different: the rejuvenation of the park’s historic olive grove. This is exactly what it takes for a city with a climate similar to that of the Mediterranean, and it fits perfectly with LA’s strategy of planting more trees to combat climate change.

Read on below

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Several players in this project – which involves the City of Los Angeles, the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation, and the Los Angeles Parks Foundation, among others – answered Inhabitat’s questions about what’s going on with the 11.5-acre park and its beautiful olive trees. We spoke with Daniel Gerwin, President, Barnsdall Art Park Foundation; Katherine Pakradouni, project manager and horticulturalist, Los Angeles Parks Foundation; Craig A. Raines, Acting Landscape Architect II, Planning / Maintenance / Construction, Advanced Planning Group, City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks; and Carolyn Ramsay, Executive Director, Los Angeles Parks Foundation.

Related: Los Angeles Is Largest American City To Be Certified A Biodiversity Paradise

black and white image of Olive Hill in the 1930s

Inhabitat: Who first planted olive trees on Olive Hill in the 1890s, and why?

Daniel Gerwin: Joseph H. Spiers, who was a Canadian immigrant and a real estate broker for the Los Angeles Pacific Electric Railway, bought the open land and established a thriving commercial olive grove in the 1890s. article on the history of Olive Hill written by Nathan Masters in 2014, Spiers selected the olives because the crop was three to four times more profitable than the products of the lemon trees. His ultimate goal was to build a large hotel on top of the hill. He never realized that dream and his widow sold the entire 36-acre property to Aline Barnsdall in 1919.

black and white photo of an olive grove in 1924

Inhabitat: How have trees behaved over the years? About how many olive trees are there currently?

Craig A. Raines: The original olive grove included 1,225 trees. Aline Barnsdall, Frank Lloyd Wright and his son, Lloyd Wright, incorporated the olive trees as part of their ambitious vision for the property. Over time, hundreds of trees have been lost as parts of the site have been subdivided into several private developments. In 1992, there were only 90 trees left. The 1995 Barnsdall Park Master Plan, created by Peter Walker William Johnson and Partners, Lehrer Architects, Levin & Associates Architects and Kosmont Associates, proposed to add 1,376 new olive trees. Many dimensions of this comprehensive landscape plan were completed in 2003, including the addition of 315 olive trees.

Catherine Pakradouni: In my preliminary investigation, I determined that there were at least 333 olive trees, including 19 very old trees which probably came from the original commercial olive grove. About a third of the trees in the entire grove require special care to restore them to health.

sample of olive tree

Inhabitat: What is included in the new Barnsdall Olive Grove initiative?

Catherine Pakradouni: The first phase of our project included a study of the quantity and general condition of the existing trees in the grove. I took tissue samples from the roots, stems and surrounding soil of the trees and had them analyzed in a lab to confirm that there was no disease present in the grove. This important information has enabled us to determine that an improved irrigation plan, consisting of deep watering of the roots and a careful pruning strategy, are the most effective ways to restore the health of trees currently in existence. difficulty and requiring special attention.

We are currently exploring the use of GIS mapping software to map the precise locations of each olive tree as part of our ongoing analysis and management of the grove. One of the most exciting discoveries of the project was finding 58 olive seedlings in the understory of the oldest olive fruit trees in the grove. We hope these special seedlings can be turned into vibrant saplings at the Los Angeles Parks Foundation headquarters in the historic Commonwealth Nursery in Griffith Park and replanted at Barnsdall Art Park and other locations around town.

Daniel Gerwin: In addition to providing the necessary funding to care for the existing olive grove, the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation is raising funds for the next phase of our partnership with the Los Angeles Parks Foundation and the City of Los Angeles, which will be used to plant new olive trees. fruit trees in the park.

olive grove full of trees in 2021

Inhabitat: Tell us about the plans for the new landscaping and how it relates to LA’s initiative to plant more trees in parks.

Carolyn Ramsay: The Barnsdall Olive Grove initiative is a key part of the Los Angeles Park Forest program created by the Los Angeles Parks Foundation to fight climate change and help achieve LA’s goal of planting 90,000 trees in city neighborhoods. The hundreds of existing olive trees rejuvenated at Barnsdall Art Park and the new olive trees to be planted there will improve LA air quality and support the region’s wildlife ecosystem.

Inhabitat: What future plans do you have for the olive grove? Harvest? Outdoor events?

Daniel Gerwin: We’re excited to explore new ways the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation can work with the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Parks Foundation to educate the public about the historical and ecological significance of the park’s landscape and actively participate in its upkeep. continued. We have learned that people have fond memories of picking olives in the park with their families, and it would be wonderful to establish a series of community harvest days.

olive grove and Hollyhock House sketch

Inhabitat: What did it mean for Hollyhock House to become Los Angeles’ first UNESCO World Heritage Site? Has it changed anything?

Daniel Gerwin: Hollyhock House is Los Angeles’ first UNESCO World Heritage Site and only the third UNESCO site in the entire state of California. This extraordinary honor has increased public awareness and appreciation for the beloved monument. As olive trees are an integral part of Frank Lloyd Wright and Lloyd Wright’s landscaping, the public-private partnership to revitalize the olive grove honors and preserves the original vision for this internationally renowned destination.

Inhabitat: What do locals or visitors expect when they visit Barnsdall Art Park?

Daniel Gerwin: The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs offers an array of activities for people of all ages at Barnsdall Art Park. The public tours of Hollyhock House are a highlight for fans of Frank Lloyd Wright’s revolutionary architecture. Each year, the Barnsdall Art Center and the Junior Arts Center offer approximately 75 low-cost art classes for children and adults. The Municipal Art Gallery of Los Angeles has presented pioneering contemporary art exhibitions and programs since 1954. The Barnsdall Gallery Theater is a popular venue for various shows and cultural events.

+ Barnsdall Art Park

Images via Katherine Pakradouni, LA Public Library, Stephen & Christy McAvoy Family Trust, Paul Farnham, California Historical Society and William Johnson


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