Friday, April 21, 2017

Los Angeles State Historic Park: Grand Opening of an Urban Oasis

Los Angeles State Historic Park Grand Opening Poster, 2017
Courtesy Los Angeles State Historic Park

Saturday—sixteen years since its establishment and after three years of renovation—is the grand re-opening of the Los Angeles State Historic Park, also known as Cornfield Park. As downtown Los Angeles redevelops, we recall the cultural, historical, and environmental history.of the park, now 34 acres with 1,500 trees, picnic areas, grassy hills, and wildlife habitat just off of Los Angeles's Chinatown neighborhood.

Aerial view of a swollen Los Angeles River showing the Southern Pacific Shops and its Alhambra Avenue Roundhouse, Los Angeles, 1938 -  CHS/USC

It was the site of an abandoned rail yard in downtown Los Angeles. Historically, it is where Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola crossed the Los Angeles River and camped in the area of Yanga (or Yan-gna), a Tongva village. In 2001, it was targeted to become an industrial center. 

But other visions prevailed: make the site—between the river and Chinatown—an urban oasis.

Site of Not a Cornfield, c. 2005
Courtesy Wikimapia

In 2005, artist Lauren Bon acquired a $2 million grant for her “Not a Cornfield” project. Corn seeds from the trains of the Southern Pacific’s River Station year had resulted in their sprouting, and Bon turned the cleaned-up deserted railroad yard into an actual cornfield as a living sculpture.

Steve Rowell (Photographer), Not a Cornfield, 2005
Copyright © Not a Cornfield

California State Parks then took over, after 35 community, environmental, civil rights, civic, and business organizations successfully convinced the state to purchase the site for a park. Los Angeles Historic State Park opened in a small part of the park in 2006. The area was closed to the public in 2014 for the complete development of the space. Construction was intended to be complete in 2015, but drought and budget concerns along with the discovery of trace contaminants in the soil pushed back the timeline until today's opening.

LASHP Master Development Plan Phase I, 2011
Courtesy California Department of Parks and Recreation

Los Angeles State Historic Park, 2012
Courtesy KCET

Los Angeles State Historic Park, 2012
Courtesy, Curbed Los Angeles

Los Angeles State Historic Park, 2017
Courtesy of Los Angeles State Historic Park

Shelly Kale
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager


James Brasuell, “Full Cornfield Park Project Finally Moving Forward,”Feb. 27, 2012;


Robert Garcia, “L.A. State Historic Park: A Deserted Railroad Yard is Transformed Yet Unfinished,” February 23, 2012;


Carren Jao, “Field of Dreams: The Cornfield Throughout Los Angeles History,” April 14, 2017


LASHP Master Development Plan,


Not a Cornfield historic photographs;

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