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Los Angeles
Silver Lake

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Echo Park Lake near Silver Lake (drive time approx. 5 min)

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The Golden Era of Films lives on in Silver Lake, where photos, films and even some of the original buildings and filming locations remain, thanks to the efforts of locals who have worked to preserve a piece of history that changed the world as we know it. This is where Roy and Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse in 1928, followed by Pluto, Goofy, Donald Duck, and the rest of the Disney gang. From their Hyperion Avenue offices built in 1925 as Disney Bros. Studio, two brothers created an empire, working 14 years in the location. This is also where Mack Sennett Studio produced classic films featuring Laurel and Hardy, Keystone Cops and Charlie Chaplin. 

Silver Lake is a community with a chamber of commerce and local associations that work for the interests of this region which is a part of the City of Los Angeles..  It's located approximately five miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles and just east of Griffith Park. Originally called Ivanhoe, Scotsman Hugo Reid saw rolling hills that reminded him of home so he named the area after a famous Scottish novel Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott. Many of the streets in Silver Lake have Scottish names, or names that are related to characters from the novel, such as  Ben Lomond, Hawick, Rowena and Kenilworth. The Department of Water and Power established reservoirs in the early 1900s as part of the city-wide system of water storage & delivery that today has 10 open reservoirs remaining. When Silver Lake Reservoir was built in the early 20th century,  the district changed its name after the Department of Water and Power's Herman Silver, a member of Los Angeles’ first Board of Water commissioners. 

Generally bounded by Sunset Boulevard on the south, Riverside Drive on the north, Hyperion on the west, and the Glendale Freeway and Glendale Boulevard on the east, the area features houses, shops, parks and busy roadways and streets, plus the centerpiece Silver Lake Reservoir, which is operated by a park district. At one time Pacific Electric Red Car rail passed through the community and  provided transportation to Southern California beaches. While the Red Car train system and many buildings from the early 1900's disappeared, an involved community has succeeded in several efforts that restricted a high density project slated for the area, saved the famed Max Sennett Studio site and kept the beloved Silver Lake Reservoir from being demolished and paved over. The community is alive with history in buildings and houses that speak of a time when the likes of famed architect Dion Neutra designed homes for the rich and famous. Highly describable hillside neighborhoods contain houses diverse in style and affordable to the tune of $500K upwards. The location is great for access to downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena and the film studios in nearby Burbank. There's a creative flair in shops and decor in a community considered gay-friendly, sporting several nightclubs catering to same sex audiences.

Like other regions of Los Angeles, Silver Lake feels like a city unto itself. It has its own name, character and connection to a special past uniquely its own. Silver Lake's "Early Film Connection"  is described in a wonderful web site, silverlake.org.  According to this web site- The Silver Lake and adjacent Edendale and Echo Park areas were home to many early motion picture studios.  The Mack Sennett Studios, Tom Mix, Disney, Monogram (which is now KCET) Talmadge (ABC), were located here and drew creative people to the area. Many locations in Silver Lake and Edendale/Echo Park appeared in these early motion pictures.  For example the famous Laurel and Hardy short film "The Music Box" was filmed here, and many of the Keystone Cops chase scenes were shot along Glendale Blvd.  Many of these early films are still showing at nearby theaters. Mack Sennett worked with actors whose names are still remembered today: Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, Ford Sterling, Harry Langdon, Mabel Normand, Slim Summerville, Fatty Arbuckle, and scores more. 

According to the Echo Park Historical Society, the Mack Sennett studios were on both sides of Glendale Blvd and one of the old studio buildings is now Public Storage building.  The AM/PM gas station across the street is where the "cyclorama" was located.  This was a revolving set which provided a moving landscape for the performers, who could run in place. Not only was area home to many of the early studios, numerous filmmakers, actors, directors, etc. also lived in Silver Lake.  These included Laurel and Hardy, Antonio Moreno and many more. Source: silverlake.org

For more information on Silver Lake and its community activities and evens such as an orchestra forming, a weekly farmer's market, an annual Queen of Silver Lake Pageant and more, check out these resources:

  • Silver Lake Recreational  Center, 1850 W. Silverlake Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90026 (213) 669-9509 or (213) 660-0566
  • GaySilverLake.com for events, gay or gay-friendly, in Silver Lake. 
  • Silver Lake Community Web Site www.silverlake.org
  • Silver Lake Chamber Web Site www.silverlakechamber.com