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The Monterey Trailer Park – A Place in Los Angeles where Time is Forgotten

Aug 12, 2010 by Lisa Newton

And where you’re a million miles from the city, but still in the city.

It’s located in Highland Park/Hermon and is the only California trailer park that has historical designated status in the entire nation.

If you didn’t know it was there, you’d probably pass right by it leaving it unseen and untouched. The locals like it that way, By the way, it’s called the Monterey Trailer Park, Los Angeles’ Historical Cultural Landmark #736, located at 6411 Monterey Rd.

On it sits 1.7 acres of indelible, beautiful, and unique Los Angeles history.

It’s origins go back to 1923, when Elmer Drummond, who owned a gas station just down the road, decided to conceive and build an “auto camp,” which allowed drivers to stop for the night, in order to get some rest in one of its 10 original buildings or set up their own camp, and then continue on their respective journeys.

A precursor to today’s motels, auto camps were mainly meant to park automobiles, such as the Model T, which were equipped with a tent, cooking tools, portable chairs, and adventure.

Some automobile owners viewed themselves as pioneers and reveled in their ability to camp on the outskirts of towns, or anywhere along the road. Camping was also inexpensive, and many vacation destinations offered no other type of accommodation. Source: National Parks

As time passed, “campgrounds” and the precursor to “modern” motels, starting springing up, thus negating the value of an auto camp; so the Monterey Auto Camp evolved into the Monterey Trailer Park.

Now, once you step onto the road leading down to the Monterey Park, you’re suddenly surrounded by tall Monterey pines, Cypress pines, and a pair of California redwoods, to name a few. In front of you are about 22 RVs, a few dating back to the 1950s, and a couple of the original buildings used in the auto camp, which have been converted to private residences, remain intact.

Be that as it may, none of the one-of-a-kind residences were given the historical designation. That was given to the Park itself.

What is most surprising about this story is that the owner of Monterey Park isn’t the person who sought its historical status. In fact, he opposed it.

Another long term resident, a travel trailer historian of sorts, who wanted to purchase the Monterey Trailer Park, failed to secure whatever blessings he needed to achieve his dream. So if he couldn’t own it, he wanted to make sure that everybody could, so he moved to have the park designated as a historic landmark–thus tying the hands of the owner from making any significant changes to the property.

With the support of the Los Angeles Conservancy and the Highland Park Heritage Trust, Monterey Trailer Park gained a unique place in Los Angeles history in April of 2002.

After visiting there and researching the Park, I can understand the decision. Los Angeles is sometimes joked about because our “history” is so new, but on the other hand, it’s also quite unique and the definition of “historic” becomes only one of situational relevancy and loses its meaning. In other words our history here in Los Angeles, is just as old to us as the other parts of of the nation that may have colonial roots.

After all, when Travelin’ Local, our iconic and Southern California archetypes are borne of a fierce independence!

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Culture, East LA, SoCal
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