Oldest Palm in Los Angeles?

Posted on 15 January 2014

Arcade Palm

In 1888, at the close of L.A.’s first great real estate boom, the Southern Pacific Railroad transplanted a California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera) from San Pedro Street—the edge of the historic William Wolfskill orchard (then being subdivided)—to the entrance of the new Arcade Station downtown. The tree announced to prospective homeowners that Los Angeles would be different by nature. In 1914, ahead of the demolition of the Arcade Station, the pueblo-era palm that had been relocated to the depot back in 1888 was moved yet again—this time to South Figueroa Street next to a historical plaque that proclaimed: “It and its sentimental associations will be permanently preserved.” As shown on the right (a picture of my own from 2012), the nearly forgotten historic tree, gaunt and pockmarked, persists at the edge of Exposition Park, in line with the torch of the Coliseum. Recently, L.A. history bloggers, including Nathan Masters and D. J. Waldie, have brought renewed attention to this tree, quite possibly the oldest palm in Los Angeles. It symbolizes a state of being—”rootedness through transcience,” to borrow Waldie’s fine phrase—distinctive of Angelenos.

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