As part of our Mission to share the history of El Sereno with the community and public, we plan to present a new picture/historic document every month. This will allow us, the El Sereno Historical Society, to continue sharing recent historic discoveries.
But more importantly it will allow you, our readers and supporters, the chance to have any hidden or long-forgotten historic gems be shared with our great El Sereno community. Sharing and learning about our history is a community effort, and we thank all those who contribute and add to our growing historic community's website.
In collaboration with the El Sereno Branch Library, we have created an informational bulletin board featuring the historic Pacific Electric red cars that once ran down the middle of Huntington Drive. The bulletin board is displayed at the main room in the El Sereno Branch Library.
Gravois Avenue School once existed in El Sereno. The now demolished school was located at 5400 Gravois Avenue, where the enormous Cal State LA's parking lot stands today. The school was built in 1928 and closed on June 16, 1972. All that remains from the school are some school photos, maps marking its location, and personal memories. The school was located on land that was part of the Batz's historic Rancho Rosa de Castilla (http://www.elserenohistoricalsociety.org/Spec_Coll.php#ESHS_Research_Articles).
Thanks to Louis Salcido and Chris Miasnik for helping us update our information on Gravois Avenue School.
Gravois Avenue School's location (brown area in the center). The white and green area directly below the school became Los Angeles State College in the 1950s. Eventually, the school would be demolished to make way for an expanding Los Angeles State College. Los Angeles State College was renamed California State University, Los Angeles in the 1970s.
Map is courtesy of The Huntington Library, Rare Books Department.
You can see an orange star in the center of the map and the name Los Angeles State College, Ramona Campus directly below it.
Courtesy of HistoricMapsWorks.com, 1957.
80 year old and a long time resident of El Sereno, Warren Straley, will be retiring after 51 years of service with USC. He has worked as a locksmith at both main University Park and Health Sciences campuses for the last 45 years. Mr. Straley is a stroke survivor who continues to be active and enjoys travelling around the world.
Thanks to El Sereno resident, Megan Kanipe, for sharing this story about her father.
Click on photos to read USC's article celebrating Mr. Straley's long and distinctive service. https://news.usc.edu/103889/the-locksmith-who-owns-the-keys-to-uscs-kingdom/
This month we are presenting a documentary "Somos El Sereno//We are El Sereno" by Torianne Schiff,
a music video shot in El Sereno by the musical group Quetzal,
and a song featuring El Sereno by RT N' the 44s.
Above: picture link to Somos El Sereno//We Are El Sereno documentary by Torianne Schiff.
This month we are presenting photos of the 3rd Annual El Sereno Chalk Fest hosted by folks of El Sereno Community Arts. The El Sereno Chalk Fest was held at Wilson High School.
Wilson Graduates are Ready for College!
Congratulations to Woodrow Wilson High School's first cohort of 26 students who have successfully completed the rigorous requirements for an International Baccalaureate Diploma. Those students who are awarded an IB Diploma have the potential to earn up to a year of college credit for their efforts. The IB Diploma Program at Wilson High School was launched in 2015. It is a two year program that is available to all 11th and 12th grade students.
In this video, several students speak of their Extended Essay, which is a comprehensive research project required of all IB Diploma graduates. Despite the strenuous academic demands of the IB Program, all of these students learned to effectively manage their time to allow for a variety of club, music and sport participation. Wilson High School is one of ONLY three LAUSD high schools that offer the renowned International Baccalaureate Diploma Program.
In June 2017, a total of 340 students graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. 96% are going on to college. 163 students will be attending 4 year colleges/universities. 20 students had a GPA above 4.0. 35 students earned the Superintendents Honor Cord for having a GPA of 3.8 or greater. The graduating class earned over $90,000 in PRIVATE scholarships.
Wilson graduates will be represented at all of the UC's and most of the CSU's (112 will be attending their local CSULA). 55 graduates earned the Biliteracy Award. 45 graduates received the Golden State Merit Seal Award. 36 graduates had perfect attendance this past year.
For additional information about Woodrow Wilson High School's IB Diploma Program, please contact Program Coordinator, Erica Westfall at email@example.com
Video is Courtesy of:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nSCFccgFis
Peter Cabrera, President of Woodrow Wilson Alumni Association and
Jorge Garcia, President of El Sereno Historical Society
Our Picture of the Month features the California Metal Enameling Company that existed in El Sereno (then called Bairdstown). It was located near the northwest corner of El Sereno Ave and Huntington Drive. It operated from the early 1900's up until the 1920's.
Today, a lot of the enameled advertising signs are collectables.
A warm thanks to Louis Salcido for contributing to this post.
News clip courtesy of Louis Salcido
News clip courtesy of Louis Salcido.
This enameled sign sold for over $1000.00 at auction. Photo courtesy of Louis Salcido
Our Picture of the Month features the Palms Auto Tourist Camp. It was located in El Sereno at 4200 Huntington Drive South. Today, there is an apartment complex and the former Rancho Market at this location.
Dr. Frank D. Williams was the builder and owner. He and his wife, Sara A. Williams, were also residents of the camp. Frank D. Williams was a native New Yorker & Sara A. Williams was a native West Virginian. Another resident, Lenard McFarland, was the manager.
Another warm thanks to Louis Salcido for contributing to this post.
You may or may not know that El Sereno was once known as Bairdstown. Many people have asked, “Why was El Sereno called Bairdstown?” Before answering this question, it is important to understand the rural setting prior to El Sereno’s development.
From about the 1850s to early 1900s, El Sereno was a collection of farms and ranches. Some of these early families included the Batz and Lifur. These families were Basque immigrants who became large land owners of what once was the historic Rancho Rosa de Castilla. It was around this time that Llewelyn Baird made his way west.
The Baird family was originally from New York and then moved to Janesville, Wisconsin. There were five brothers, but through research only four names have been obtained: Joe, George, Arthur, and Llewelyn. It was Llewelyn at the age of 17 who decided to come west. Portland, Oregon was his first stop and he remained there for a short time. He then moved to San Francisco where he met Abbie. After a true lovers’ courtship, they were married and moved to El Sereno in 1901.
Llewelyn’s mother had followed him west and was already here in El Sereno with the three other Baird brothers, Joe, George, and Arthur. They quickly bought land and built homes here, including one for their mother.
Although all the brothers were endowed with a shrewd sense of business, Llewelyn had the greatest confidence in the future of this small, remote little settlement, surrounded by rolling hills, with wild barley fields stretching out on every side.
The first Baird subdivision was in the vicinity of Academy Street and was called Baird Park. That proved to be the "little acorn from which the mighty oak grows,” because then one subdivision followed another. Llewelyn built a really far-reaching real estate business and then later combined it with an insurance business.
Both George and Llewelyn began to develop a subdivision around 1900. George Baird subdivided and sold real estate, while his brother Llewelyn had the first grocery store and post office. The grocery store also sold tickets to the Pacific Electric line.
Llewelyn Baird was known for his active role at Farmdale Grammar School. He was the first board member, and later became President of the Farmdale School Board. For many years, Llewelyn Baird constantly advocated for new buildings and adequate staff of teachers. Transportation was a very sore spot, even then, in this little "neck of the wood ' and Llewelyn was instrumental in getting the Pacific Electric Railway to run a short line here. In 1938, Mr. Llewelyn Baird died working at his desk. He was 76 years old.
The Baird brothers were also influential in the development of other communities and businesses throughout Southern California. George Baird owned land in Redondo Beach and built the Redondo Beach Hotel.
The eldest brother, Dr. Joe Baird, started the Free Methodist Seminary that still stands atop one of Hermon's hills and turns out hundreds of Free Methodist ministers, missionaries and other Christian workers.
Brothers Arthur A. Baird, Llewelyn Baird, George W. Baird, and G.H. Prentice (of Bairdstown) were also directors of The California Vineyard and Improvement company, whose purpose of the organization was “the manufacturing of grape juice and denatured alcohol, to furnish water to the residents of North Cucamonga, and other improvements.”
In addition, the brothers George, Llewellyn and Arthur were in the produce business at Third and Los Angeles Streets. Together, they later entered the real estate business and contributed much to the initial conversion of the fields and farms into an urban area.
PHOTO ABOVE: George W, Baird, Arthur A. Baird, Llewellyn Baird from the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce book, 1886. Courtesy of Louis Salcido.
Naming of the area as Bairdstown came about more as an accommodation to the brothers than as a deliberate effort to designate a township or district. It seems that about the time the Baird family was settling here, the well-known Henry Huntington was building a home in what is now known as San Marino. The Baird brothers and Huntington were among the first members forming the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles.
Huntington, a man of substantial means, decided to build, for his personal convenience, a railway from downtown Los Angeles to his home in San Marino. That railway was the predecessor of the Pacific Electric Railway that so recently passed through El Sereno.
Naturally enough, Huntington was more than willing to accommodate his fellow club members—the Baird brothers, and permitted them to make the same personal use of his railway as he himself enjoyed. However, it was a bit difficult for the engineer motorman who operated the train to determine just where, on the unmarked terrain of rolling hills and valleys, to stop the train to permit the Baird brothers to board or disembark. Huntington took care of that detail simply by having a small sign erected at the proper spot. This sign bore the name "BAIRD" as a reminder to the motorman. And that's how the area came to be known as "Bairdstown."
Research and photos by Jorge Garcia. Another warm thanks to Louis Salcido for contributing to this post.
The commercial center of El Sereno in 1905 was the Bairdstown grocery and post office on the corner of Huntington Drive North and El Sereno Avenue. Tickets for a ride on the Pacific Electric Railway, which ran along Huntington Drive, could be purchased there. The store was operated by Llewelyn Baird, brother of pioneer real estate developer George Baird.
By this time, the Bairdstown station had become more than a simple sign along the P & E Railway.
You can buy a lot for $100 to $900 in El Sereno when this photo was taken in front of the Baird Park Track office on North Huntington Drive and El Sereno Avenue back in 1905. The man at the right with legs crossed is Llewelyn Baird, whose brother George was the pioneer real estate developer here. Man in center was identified as a Mr. Houghton, while the man on the left is unidentified. Photo was loaned to Dr. Don Newman of El Sereno by Mrs. Grace Baird Nutsch, Llewelyn Baird’s daughter, who resided in Canoga Park. Llewelyn Baird lived here on Hillsdale Avenue until his death in 1938 but, never owned a house in the local community.
NOTE: Name above door frame reads “G. H. Prentice.” Thanks to the dedicated research of Louis Salcido, we now know a lot more about Mr. G. H. Prentice. You can read about the interesting life and death of George H. Prentice at this link.
Map courtesy of the Los Angeles Central Library, History Department; special maps collection.
1) Historic Farmdale Schoolhouse Museum
2) Gossage, Rosalind: "Sereno Scrapbook", 1948, El Sereno, CA
3) MacDougall, David H. "El Sereno Reporter News" Thursday,
February 28, 1957. El Sereno CA
4) Anderson, Chester B. "Royal Reporter" Vol. 1, No. 1, January
1965. El Sereno CA. Chairman of the Board Royal Savings &
Beautiful picture of the front of Woodrow Wilson High School in 1963. "Old" Wilson was both a Junior High and High School. The school was renamed El Sereno Junior High in 1970, after the "new" Wilson High School opened its doors on the hill in El Sereno.
Wilson High School, 1963. Courtesy of Belinda Arce.
Here is a before and today picture of 1202 Harriman Avenue, cross street Cudahy, in El Sereno.
Photos courtesy of Louis Salcido.
Here are a few pictures of the Martinsen and Burchill Ford Dealership that was located at 5087 Huntington Drive. We have included pictures showing the location in 1932 and today.
Martinsen and Burchill Ford Dealership, 1932.
Research by Jorge Garcia