Saving the Sentinel Trees on Old Bunker Hill, Then and Now
Join Esotouric, L.A.‘s most eclectic sightseeing tour company, for the third in an occasional series of free webinars exploring timely historic preservation issues and how YOU can get involved.
Our guests are Bunker Hill historian Nathan Marsak, musician and writer Annette Zilinskas and distinguished horticulturist Dr. Donald R. Hodel.
Everybody who loves Los Angeles history knows the tragic tale of how the Victorian neighborhood of Bunker Hill was destroyed in the biggest eminent domain land seizure ever, and about how the last two mansions on the hill were moved to Heritage Square in a failed preservation attempt.
But did you know that at least one of the grand old Victorian era sentinel trees that witnessed the growth, decline and eventual demolition of Bunker Hill is still alive in Downtown L.A.?
In this webinar, we’ll introduce you to Morty, the grand old Moreton Bay Fig that was planted near the corner of 4th & Hill Streets around 1890, and grew up into a magnificent specimen, before it too was displaced by the redevelopment agency. You’ll see how Morty looked over the decades in rare photos from Nathan Marsak’s personal collection and learn how and where it was moved in 1981—shortly after appearing as the non-human star of the Ralph Waite film “On the Nickel,” with its poignant theme song by Tom Waits.
But when we recently went out to visit, we found Morty showing its age, with dead limbs, straggly growth and other plants stealing its nutrients. You’ll hear how we’re working with the property owner to help get the tree back to full health and advocating for an historic marker so everyone knows what a special tree Morty is!
Morty was saved once and with a little love and time can be saved again.
But what about Sunshine? That’s the name Downtown denizen Annette Zilinskas has given to a lonely, neglected Queen Palm that stands proudly above 2nd and Hill Streets on the dirt patch, the last piece of unflattened Bunker Hill topography, on a parcel marked for redevelopment for the Colburn School’s expansion.
Annette will share how she discovered Sunshine on a pilgrimage to the endangered Bunker Hill dirt patch, fell in love with the pretty, neglected tree and reached out to Nathan Marsak to learn if it appeared in any historic Bunker Hill photos.
Nathan will share the history of the dirt patch on which Sunshine grows, and Don Hodel will talk about how old the tree could be, and how it’s managed to survive with little or no care. And we’ll hear Annette’s sweet tribute poem to Sunshine the Queen Palm and old Bunker Hill.
Can Sunshine, too, survive Bunker Hill redevelopment? Yes—with YOUR help!
Tune in to learn about two very special Bunker Hill trees and how you can be a part of their happy futures. And we’ll take your questions about old Bunker Hill and its changing landscape.
Watch this short webinar when it airs at 7pm on August 17 (or later, on demand), then go out and visit Morty and Sunshine and take a selfie with both these great Bunker Hill sentinel trees!
This webinar is an illustrated lecture that will bring the history and future of Bunker Hill’s historic trees to life, while inspiring you to look around your own community for ways you can help to keep old places around with fresh new uses. And you’ll find the look of an Esotouric webinar is a little different than your standard dry Zoom session, with lively interactive graphics courtesy of the mmhmm app. So tune in and discover the incredible history of Los Angeles, with the couple whose passion for the city is infectious. Can’t join in when the webinar is happening? You can tune in later, though you’ll miss the opportunity to ask questions in the chat.
FYI: Immediately upon registering, you will receive a separate, automated email containing the link to join the webinar. The webinar is reliable on all devices, Mac, PC, iOS and Android.
About Esotouric: As undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz, Kim Cooper and Richard Schave inexplicably hated one other on sight. (Perhaps less inexplicably, their academic advisor believed they were soul mates). A chance meeting 18 years later proved much more agreeable. Richard wooed Kim with high-level library database access, with which she launched the 1947project true crime blog, highlighting a crime a day from the year of The Black Dahlia and Bugsy Siegel slayings. The popular blog’s readers demanded a tour, and then another. The tour was magical, a hothouse inspiring new ways for the by-then-newlyweds to tell the story of Los Angeles. Esotouric was born in 2007 with a calendar packed with true crime, literary, architecture and rock and roll tours. Ever since, it has provided a platform for promoting historic preservation issues (like the Save the 76 Ball campaign and the landmarking of Charles Bukowski’s bungalow), building a community of urban explorers (including dozens of free talks and tours under the umbrella of LAVA) and digging ever deeper into the secret heart of the city they love.
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After his undergraduate studies in art history at UC Santa Cruz, Richard Schave set out to explore the American interior as an itinerant brick mason. His return to his native Los Angeles coincided with a renewed acquaintance with Kim Cooper, a once-detested academic colleague who would become his bride. Together, fusing scholarly research with new digital tools, they launched the 1947project time travel blog, along with In SRO Land, and On Bunker Hill, as well as the Esotouric tour company. With the success of Kim’s True Crime tours, Richard developed a series of Literary and California Culture excursions. Richard is a dedicated preservationist, and the host of the LAVA Sunday Salon and the LAVA Literary Salon series, named Best L.A. Literary Salon by Los Angeles Magazine. He also curates an ongoing series of forensic science programs at Cal State Los Angeles. Richard is also a reader at the Huntington Library.
Kim Cooper (“one of L.A.’s brightest torchbearers” – Electric Literature) is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including Pasadena Confidential, the Real Black Dahlia and Weird West Adams. She is the author of The Kept Girl, the acclaimed historical mystery starring the young Raymond Chandler and the real-life Philip Marlowe, and of The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles. Her collaborative L.A. history blogs include On Bunker Hill and In SRO Land. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons of LAVA – The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage, vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For Life, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, Lost in the Grooves and an oral history of Neutral Milk Hotel.
I came to praise Los Angeles, not to bury her. And yet developers, City Hall and social reformers work in concert to effect wholesale demolition, removing the human scale of my town, tossing its charm into a landfill. The least I can do is memorialize in real time those places worth noting, as they slide inexorably into memory.
In college I studied under Banham. I learned to love Los Angeles via Reyner’s teachings (and came to abjure Mike Davis and his lurid, fanciful, laughably-researched assertions). In grad school I focused on visionary urbanism and technological utopianism—so while some may find the premise of preserving communities so much ill-considered reactionary twaddle, at least I have a background in the other side.
Anyway, I moved to Los Angeles, and began to document. I drove about shooting neon signs. I put endless miles across the Plains of Id on the old Packard as part of the 1947project; when Kim Cooper blogged about some bad lunch meat in Compton, I drove down to there to check on the scene of the crime (never via freeway—you can’t really learn Los Angeles unless you study her from the surface streets).
But in short order one landmark after another disappeared. Few demolitions are as contentious or high profile as the Ambassador or Parker Center; rather, it is all the little houses and commercial buildings the social engineers are desperate to destroy in the name of the Greater Good. The fabric of our city is woven together by communities and neighborhoods who no longer have a say in their zoning or planning so it’s important to shine a light on these vanishing treasures, now, before the remarkable character of our city is wiped away like a stain from a countertop. (But Nathan, you say, it’s just this one house—no, it isn’t. Principiis obsta, finem respice.)
And who knows, one might even be saved. Excelsior!