I’ve been going past North Hollywood Park since I was a kid, but I’ve hardly ever set foot in it. Lately, though, every time I’ve gone by I’ve felt like I needed to check it out. So I finally decided to take the time.
God knows what possessed me to go over there at seven in the morning. I’m barely awake at that hour. But it was cool because I had the park mostly to myself. The sun was just coming up and the only other people around were the dog walkers and the joggers. Not that the park was quiet. It’s bounded on all sides by major roadways, occupying the triangle made by Chandler, Tujunga and the Hollywood Freeway.
You can see the traffic backed up on Tujunga. And you can also see St. Paul’s First Lutheran Church in the background. I looked on the net for a history of the church, but didn’t find much. Their web site said the congregation has been active in the area since the twenties, but didn’t offer too many details. I was curious about the campus, because it’s an interesting mix of old and new styles.
Also across the street from the park is Masonic Lodge #542.
Freemasonry has pretty much disappeared these days, but it played a large part in European and American history for hundreds of years. Ben Franklin, W. A. Mozart, Simón Bolívar, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie were all Masons. The history of Freemasonry is long and complex, and because it was a secret society there’s much that will never be known. Some people see it as an important fraternal organization that helped shaped democracy, others see it as a band of power mad imperialists who wanted to rule the world. If you’re into conspiracy theories, you can’t go wrong with the Masons. There are all sorts of crazy stories out there. But to get back to Lodge #542, in its heyday its members included many Hollywood luminaries like Clark Gable, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and Audie Murphy. The Los Angeles Conservancy has a nice write-up about the building’s design.
Inside the park itself is the North Hollywood Amelia Earhart Library. This beautiful little Mission style building was originally constructed in 1929, and it was designed by architects Lewis Eugene Weston and Lewis Eugene Weston, Jr..
In the decades since it was built, the library has undergone a number of transformations. Like so many buildings, it’s been adapted over and over again as the community around it changed. To learn more, follow the link below.
If you’re wondering why this branch library is named after Amelia Earhart, it’s because she was living in nearby Toluca Lake at the time she took off on her final flight. There’s also a statue of Earhart in the park at the corner of Tujunga and Magnolia.
Honestly, until yesterday the only thing I knew about this early aviator was that she died trying to fly around the world. After doing a little reading, I found out that she racked up a number of impressive accomplishments in her short life. You might want to do a little reading about her yourself.
Even though there wasn’t a lot happening at seven a.m., the park is often crowded when I go by in the afternoon. Activities are offered for people of all ages, and there are plenty of folks who go there just to hang out. In spite of the cars rushing along the park’s perimeter, once you get away from the traffic it’s easy to forget about the city buzzing around you. The paths wend their way through large expanses of grass. There are fabulous old trees rising up above you.
For years I’ve been rushing past this beautiful park, convinced I didn’t have the time to stop and linger. We get so caught up in being busy that we tell ourselves we can’t take a break. We’re plugged into so many different things that we’re bombarded with stimulus all day long, and we convince ourselves it has to be that way. It doesn’t. We need to step away from the traffic, phones, TV, etc., and let ourselves walk on the grass, feel the breeze, lose ourselves in the blue of the sky.
We need to take the time for a walk in the park.