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

Share This

News

Photos: Olvera Street Honored As One Of The Top 'Great Streets In America'

LAist relies on your reader support, not paywalls.
Freely accessible local news is vital. Please power our reporters and help keep us independent with a donation today.

Olvera Street—arguably the historical heart of Los Angeles—has just been recognized as one of the top-5 "Great Streets In America" by a non-profit urban planning group.

While we've always been fans of Olvera Street—downtown L.A.'s charming Mexican-style marketplace and the city's oldest street—it seems the American Planning Association has come on board. The organization, which follows urban development around the country, named our short, historical street as one of top 5 favorite streets, as well as one of the top 15 places this year for their annual list. According to a release from the APA, they look for great streets, neighborhoods and public spaces that have "attributes that enrich communities, facilitate economic growth and inspire others around the country."

"Olvera Street is a focal point of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument; it is a place where visitors can get a taste of Mexican culture and a sense of the history that still stands preserved in the buildings and plazas that surround the street," the APA explains in their designation of Olvera Street. "Family owned storefronts and cafes have been around for nearly 100 years and are evidence of the deep roots many have on Olvera Street."

While some Angelenos may think of Olvera Street as more of a tourist attraction, the street is still a thriving part of city life for many people. Whether you're wanting to learn more about L.A.'s history, check out a traditional festival like Dia De Los Muertos or the Blessing of the Animals, or just in need of a new luchador wrestling mask, this is the place to be.

Support for LAist comes from

The block-long, pedestrian-only Olvera Street began as a small street of the central plaza of the original Pueblo de Los Ángeles, which was founded in 1781. Olvera was first known by the classy name of "Wine Street" due to all the Italian winemakers who set up shop nearby. It was then given its current name in 1877 for Agustin Olvera, a judge who fought during the Mexican-American War for Alta California, according to KCET. Olvera lived on the street along with many of the city's most prominent players at the time. But as the decades went and L.A. expanded, the street was largely neglected in the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1930, Christine Sterling—credited as the "Mother of Olvera" street—helped to revitalize the area as a historical site. With the help of others, she helped turn the run-down street into a pedestrian-only Mexican marketplace with vendors and musicians. She also managed to save—and live in—the once-dilapidated Avila Adobe, considered to be the oldest standing residence in L.A.

Sterling's efforts obviously succeeded and Olvera Street remains a bustling destination to this day—one worthy of national recognition.

"There is a striking contrast between Olvera's tight quarters in the sprawling context of what has now become of the second largest city in the U.S.," explains the APA. "Olvera Street continues to be a living monument to the city's history, with a festive atmosphere of celebration that adds to an unmatched and authentic liveliness reflecting the city's birthplace."