Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

Arts and Entertainment

Photos: Back When Silver Lake Had A 'Jail' Cafe & Amusement Park

Stories like these are only possible with your help!
You have the power to keep local news strong for the coming months. Your financial support today keeps our reporters ready to meet the needs of our city. Thank you for investing in your community.

When we think of Silver Lake today, thoughts pop up of hipsters, Intelligentsia Coffee, and pretty expensive housing. (Some are even likening it to Santa Monica.)

But back in simpler times in the early 1900s to 1950s, the Silver Lake neighborhood was just getting its start. From the photos above, we can see there was a farm that is now where is what we know as Benton Way and Pacific Electric "Red Cars" went through the streets of Silver Lake. A popular Jail Cafe (where El Cid now sits) opened in the '20s, with dining booths located in different "jail cells" and waiters dressed as "convicts." We also had an amusement park called Lucas Kiddie Land, a Los Angeles Public Library located inside a tiny shack, and the streets weren't bustling with road rage-inducing traffic.

Before Silver Lake was known as Silver Lake, the area was called Ivanhoe right before the turn of the century. In the early 1900s, the Department of Water and Power built reservoirs like the Ivanhoe Reservoir and Silver Lake Reservoir, which was named after Herman Silver, a member of Los Angeles's first Board of Water commissioners. The reservoir would eventually inspire the neighborhood name of Silver Lake.

The neighborhood would become a hotspot for film studios, like Mack Sennett (which still stands) and Tom Mix. Walt Disney built a large studio on Hyperion Avenue in the 1920s, a place where he produced classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In 1940, the studio would move to Burbank, but there's still a nod to Hyperion in the world of Disney. California Adventure Park has a movie theater sign that says "Hyperion," and there is Hyperion Books, a Disney publisher.