I ventured to the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains for today’s hike. I consider Griffith Park to be a bit of a crown jewel in the metropolis of Los Angeles. With over 4210 acres (1703 ha) of both natural terrain and landscaped parkland, it’s one of the largest municipal parks with urban wilderness areas in the United States.
Most of the land was purchased in 1882 by Griffith J. Griffith, who made his fortune in gold mine speculation. In 1896, he bequeathed it as a Christmas gift to the people of Los Angeles to be used as parkland.
“It must be made a place of recreation and rest for the masses, a resort for the rank and file, for the plain people,” Griffith said on that occasion. “I consider it my obligation to make Los Angeles a happier, cleaner, and finer city. I wish to pay my debt of duty in this way to the community in which I have prospered.”
So noble, right? But Griffith Griffith was not exactly an all-round good guy. He shot his wife in the head in a Santa Monica hotel room (she survived) and at the trial it was revealed that he was not, in fact, a teetotaller but a secret drunk with paranoid delusions. He was deemed to be suffering from “alcoholic insanity” and so served less than two years in jail. He went on to die of liver disease in 1919.
Be that as it may … as a member of “the rank and file, the plain people”, I am very grateful for Griffith Park. While I would never describe LA as a happy, clean or fine city, I have to say that the Park tilts things a little more in that direction.
Griffith J. Griffith, San Quentin State Prison. Public Domain.