Thursday, October 16, 2008

Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract Cut in 1905

Photo: Diane Edwardson, 2005. Modjeska Street entrance to Elysian Park from the Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

We're reviewing the photographic history of our neighborhood surrounding the 2 Freeway, in anticipation of the EIR for the 2 Freeway Terminus Project.

Unfortunately, we have no neighbors' photos from the early days of the Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract, other than when it appeared in the background of photos posted earlier. However, the 1905 Articles of Incorporation for the Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Association shed some light on the the design of the tract.

The Articles of Incorporation clearly state the purpose of the Association was "to acquire, operate and maintain permanent camp grounds in the County of Los Angeles." (In 1905, the Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract was just outside Los Angeles City limits.) The purpose of such campgrounds was to hold meetings "devoted to the maintenance and spreading of the religion of Modern Spiritualism, its philosophy and its phenomena."

They designed the tract so there were hundreds of tiny lots subdivided and sold to their members. The tiny lots surrounded one large central lot for camping, meetings, "mediums," lectures and concerts. The typical lot size within the tract is 2500 sq. ft., with some as small as 600 sq. ft., surrounding the 3 acre lot in the center.

The large 3 acre parcel was later subdivided into 3 lots in the 1970s. In the 1980s, even though a series of engineers disappeared in the process, City Planning approved a zone change for 30 units, now since expired.

Currently, a developer is attempting to subdivide the 3 lots into 16 lots, which would require cutting down almost every tree on the parcel and removal and grading of 95% of the slope. Neighbors are currently appealing the approval by City Planning.