Eastside Los Angeles landmarks: 12 of the community’s favorite places

A virtual tour of East Los Angeles and neighboring communities

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The Sears, Roebuck & Company product distribution center is in the art deco style. (Jathniel Coronado/UT)

Jathniel Coronado, Community News Reporter

Many of us are stuck indoors during the COVID-19 but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the places and landmarks that make the Eastside so special. The UT’s Community News section asked Eastsiders for the spots around the area that have the most historical, cultural or community value.

Here is information about a dozen of them, along with photos, including some unique aerial shots.

Whittier Boulevard may be on the Southern end of East Los Angeles, but it is considered by many to be the heart of the community. It is filled with street vendors selling hot dogs, fruits, garments and Mexican food. Taco trucks appear frequently on Whittier Boulevard.

Photo of a street, Whittier Blvd, during the daytime. Photo by Jathniel Coronado
A sign across Whittier Boulevard greets drivers. (Jathniel Coronado/UT)

The former Golden Gate Theater building, which now houses a CVS pharmacy, is among a handful of former neighborhood movie palaces remaining in Southern California and the first East Los Angeles building listed in the National Register of Historic Places, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy.

A photo of the former Golden Gate Theater building, which looks white and is decorative near the top. It now houses a CVS.
The former Golden Gate Theater now houses a CVS. (Jathniel Coronado/UT)

El Mercado de Los Ángeles, sometimes referred to as El Mercadito, is a market located in Boyle Heights on the corner of 1st and Lorena streets. El Mercado is a three-floor indoor shopping center that offers dining and restaurant services, entertainment with live mariachi bands and shopping from various vendors.

El Mercadito is a mall with many shops and vendors and it looks like a large warehouse from the outside.
El Mercadito looks like a large warehouse from the outside. (Jathniel Coronado/UT)

Los Cinco Puntos is located at the crossroads of Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. The name, Los Cinco Puntos, refers to the five points at the intersection of East Cesar Chavez Avenue, Lorena Boulevard and Indiana Street.“Los Cinco Puntos/Five Points Memorial contains two plots honoring Mexican American veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Together, these two memorials—Morin Square Memorial and War Memorial—pay tribute to the strong presence of the veteran community in the Eastside,” according to the L.A. Conservancy.

A small pointed landmark that looks like a mini-tower.
Los Cinco Puntos means “the five points” in Spanish. (Jathniel Coronado/UT)

Maravilla Handball Courts were apparently “built brick-by-brick by East L.A. residents,” according to the L.A. Conservancy, which reports they are the oldest of their kind in the city and people still use them.

A red brick wall is the outside of these handball courts.
Families and others enjoy playing at the Maravilla handball courts. (Jathniel Coronado/UT)

James A. Garfield High School, which is 95 years old, played a key role in the East Los Angeles Walkouts, or Chicano Blowouts, in 1968. The high school also became famous after Jaime Escalante, along with principal Henry Gradillas, built an advanced placement Calculus program they built up over a few years. “By 1987, only four high schools in the country had more students taking and passing the AP calculus exam than Garfield,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The success was captured in the film, “Stand and Deliver.”

The front of James A. Garfield High School looks like a light beige color and it is modern looking.
The front of James A. Garfield High School as modernized. (Jathniel Coronado/UT)

Roosevelt High School also played a key role in the East L.A. Walkouts of 1968. The R Building served as the primary setting for activities associated with the walkouts on campus, including a sit-in that students staged on the lobby stairs and an assembly held by district officials in the auditorium.

The front of a high school during daytime.
Roosevelt High School is in Boyle Heights. (Jathniel Coronado/UT)

Sears, Roebuck & Co. mail order building is a historic landmark in Boyle Heights that was one of the company’s mail-order facilities with a retail store on the ground floor. When it opened, employees filled orders by roller-skating around the building because it was one of the so big, according to the L.A. Times. The story reports that it drew more than 100,000 visitors during its first month of operation.

A historic-looking, tall white building in an urban area.
The former Sears, Roebuck & Co. product distribution center building is architecturally notable for its art deco style. (Jathniel Coronado/UT)

Mariachi Plaza has been a hotspot for mariachi musicians since the 1930s. They meet up at the plaza hoping to be hired by visitors. The plaza is fashioned after Mexico’s famed Plaza Garibaldi.

A birds' eye view of Mariachi Plaza, marked by a gazebo-liked structure.
The jewel of Mariachi Plaza is a gazebo-liked structure.(Jathniel Coronado/UT)

East Los Angeles Civic Center includes the East Los Angeles Library and Belvedere Park Lake. The pond is also known to locals as “El Parque de los Patos” because of the ducks and other birds found there. The park is a popular place for festivals and community gatherings and many musicians have performed in its amphitheater.

Two shots of the civic center complex with a building on the top and a lake on the bottom.
The East Los Angeles Library and Belvedere Park Lake are part of the civic center complex. (Jathniel Coronado/UT)

East Los Angeles College, known as ELAC, draws many people from the community because of its art museum and the East L.A. Classic, the homecoming game for Roosevelt High School and Garfield High School.

A red and white building with a group of people in front of it.
Visitors gather outside an East Los Angeles College building. (Photo courtesy of ELAC)

California State University of Los Angeles was called Los Angeles State College when it was founded in 1947 and it shared the Los Angeles City College campus for a decade while the current campus was being built, according to Cal State LA’s website. The college was officially renamed California State College at Los Angeles in 1964, and became part of California’s state college system. It then received university status in 1972 and was renamed California State University, Los Angeles. “Notable achievements include the establishment of the nation’s first Chicano Studies program in 1968 as well as the development of Cal State LA’s Charter College of Education, the first such college of higher education in the nation in 1993,” according to the university’s website.

A college campus viewed from above.
The Downtown L.A. skyline can be viewed from Cal State LA’s campus. (Photo courtesy of Cal State LA)

Community News reporters are enrolled in JOUR 3910 – University Times. They produce stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected]