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McArthur Park , Los Angeles, USA

September 29th, 2006 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

MacArthur Park (formerly Westlake Park) is a park in Los Angeles, California, named after General Douglas MacArthur and designated city of Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #100. It is located in the middle of a densely populated mostly ethnically Central American part of Los Angeles, although recently there are signs of gentrification in apartments buildings north and west of the park.

The park is divided in two by Wilshire Boulevard. The northern half includes an amphitheatre, band-shell and children's playground; the southern portion includes a lake. The bandshell (presently closed) in the past was host to jazz, big band, and salsa concerts.

The lake is fed by natural springs (although it now has an artificial bottom laid during construction of the Red Line). In the past a fountain with a reflecting pool on the northern end also was fed by springs.

The park, originally named Westlake Park, was built in the 1880s, along with another similar park, Eastlake Park, whose lake is artificial, in East Los Angeles. The park was re-named shortly after the end of World War II; Eastlake Park was re-named Lincoln Park.

Wilshire Boulevard formerly ended at the lake, but in 1934 a berm was built for it to cross and link up with the existing Orange Street (which ran from Figueroa to Alvarado) into downtown Los Angeles. Orange Street was renamed Wilshire and extended east of Figueroa to Grand. This divided the lake into two halves; the northern one was subsequently drained. In the mid-1800s the area was a swampland; by the 1890s, it was a vacation destination, surrounded by luxury hotels. In the early part of the twentieth century, the MacArthur park area became known as the Champs Elysees of Los Angeles.

MacArthur Park is famous for the epic song named after it, written by Jimmy Webb and first performed by Richard Harris in 1968.

Despite the rather poetic homage paid to it, the real MacArthur Park became known for being a violent place after 1985 when drug-dealing, shoot-outs and rumored occasional drownings became somewhat common. The Westlake area also become infamous for the street sale of fake identification cards. When the lake was drained during construction of the Red Line tunnel hundreds of handguns (likely used in the commission of crimes) were found to have been disposed in the lakebottom over the years. Before the decline of the neighborhood, the park featured the traditional paddle-boats and a large fountain in the center of the lake.

Beginning in 2002 the Los Angeles Police Department, and business, and community leaders of the Alliance: Macarthur Park led a revitalization effort that has led to the installation of surveillance cameras, the opening of a recreation center, increased business, a new metro station, the return of the paddle boats and the fountain, and large community festivals attracting thousands. Most recently, in 2005 the park was celebrated for having the highest reduction of crime statistics per resident in the United States.

The park has been featured in a number of movies such as Volcano and 2001 Sundance film, 'MacArthur Park', as well as television shows. It was also the setting for Joseph Wambaugh's novel, The Choirboys.

The Red Line runs underneath MacArthur Park and can be accessed through the adjacent Westlake/MacArthur Park station.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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