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Preserving a Piece of Los Angeles History

The new Los Angeles State Historic Park transforms an industrial brownfield into a world-class green space that provides a place to play, unwind, and explore the city’s rich history.

The Southern Pacific Railroad River Station opened in 1876 and included a wooden depot building, roundhouse, turntable, repair shops, and a hotel. River Station was considered the Ellis Island of Los Angeles because it was the major gateway to the west, allowing goods and settlers to flow between Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as the rest of the nation and world during the land boom of the 1880s.

Over the years, the station became dormant, the rail yard was removed, and the lot grew vacant. The State of California eventually acquired the property in 2001 with plans to create a park to honor its rich history. Funds were allocated, but the project was placed on hold when the recession hit. Finally, a pared-down redevelopment plan was agreed upon, allowing the state to move forward with the new park.

Flanked on all sides by an existing development in the Chinatown area, Metro Gold Line railroad tracks, the Los Angeles River, and major public thoroughfares, the new 32-acre Los Angeles State Historic Park is a tribute to the city’s history and recreates much of the local environment before it was developed. The park is adjacent to the oldest standing industrial buildings in Los Angeles—the Flatiron Building (1890) and the Capitol Milling Company Building (1883). Also in the neighborhood is Dodger Stadium to the north.

Park amenities include a vernal pool and wetlands, welcome pavilion, citrus grove, river interpretive station and park ranger stations, walking trails, and picnic areas. There is also a space designated for outdoor concerts. All public facilities are fully accessible, including telescopes that offer views of the city and surrounding neighborhood.

Information about the park’s place in Los Angeles and California history is on display, from its time as a Spanish mission in the early 1700s to its railroad robber baron days, when land prospecting and the lawlessness of the Wild West was at its height. Archaeological finds, such as the recently discovered 1781 Zanja Madre irrigation system that diverted a portion of the Los Angeles River to what was then the new Los Angeles Pueblo, are also featured.

As prime consultant for the $18 million project, BergerABAM provided design and construction management of the site infrastructure and development, including civil engineering, stormwater analysis, low impact design methods, sustainability, and structural design for five pedestrian bridges. The project team also provided oversight of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing for the welcome pavilion and ranger station buildings.

The Los Angeles State Historic Park provides park visitors an opportunity to engage in the past, present, and future of Los Angeles. Final construction of the park is slated for early 2016.