Watts Station

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Watts Station
Watts Station, May 2008
Watts Station is located in California
Location:1686 E. 103rd St., Watts, Los Angeles, California
Coordinates:33°56′35″N 118°14′34.80″W / 33.94306°N 118.243°W / 33.94306; -118.243Coordinates: 33°56′35″N 118°14′34.80″W / 33.94306°N 118.243°W / 33.94306; -118.243
Built:1904
Architect:Unknown
Architectural style:Late Victorian
Governing body:Private
NRHP Reference#:74000523
LAHCM #:36
Added to NRHP:March 15, 1974[1]
 
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Watts Station
Watts Station, May 2008
Watts Station is located in California
Location:1686 E. 103rd St., Watts, Los Angeles, California
Coordinates:33°56′35″N 118°14′34.80″W / 33.94306°N 118.243°W / 33.94306; -118.243Coordinates: 33°56′35″N 118°14′34.80″W / 33.94306°N 118.243°W / 33.94306; -118.243
Built:1904
Architect:Unknown
Architectural style:Late Victorian
Governing body:Private
NRHP Reference#:74000523
LAHCM #:36
Added to NRHP:March 15, 1974[1]

Watts Station is a train station built in 1904 in Watts, Los Angeles, California. It was one of the first buildings in Watts and, for many years, it was a major stop for the Pacific Electric Railway's "Red Car" service between Los Angeles and Long Beach. It was the only structure that remained intact when stores along 103rd Street in Watts were burned in the 1965 Watts Riots. Remaining untouched in the middle of the stretch of street that came to be known as "Charcoal Alley," the station became a symbol of continuity, hope and renewal for the Watts community. It has since been declared a Historic-Cultural Monument and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Contents

Construction and operation as a "Red Car" station

Ticket windows at Watts Station

Watts was built on the old Rancho La Tajuata. In 1902, the family of Charles H. Watts, for whom the community was later named, sought to spur development of the rancho by donating a 10-acre (40,000 m2) site to the Pacific Electric Railway. Watts Station was built on the site in 1904, serving for more than 50 years as a major railway depot and stop for the Pacific Electric's "Red Car" service between Los Angeles and Long Beach. The station is a single-story, 2,200-square-foot (200 m2), wood-frame structure divided into three rooms.[2][3] It was one of the first buildings erected in Watts and is one of the few remaining from its early years.[2] It also served as a model for later depots built in La Habra, Covina and Glendora.[3]

When the station opened, it drew people to the area, so much so that the community that grew in the area was initially known as "Watts Station." A vintage 1906 photograph of the station from the USC Digital Archives can be viewed here. Another classic image of the station from the collections of the Los Angeles Public Library can be seen here.

The building remained an active depot until passenger rail service was discontinued in the 1961.

Colorful and violent history

From its beginning, Watts Station had a colorful and violent history. Incidents occurring around Watts Station in its early years including the following:

Symbol of hope along "Charcoal Alley"

View of Watts Station from tracks

In August 1965, the Watts Riots resulted in the destruction of buildings up and down 103rd Street—the main commercial thoroughfare in Watts. Watts Station was situated in the center of the one-mile (1.6 km) stretch of 103rd Street between Compton and Wilmington Avenue that came to be known as "Charcoal Alley" due to the widespread destruction.[12][13][14] One observer recalled: "Both sides of 103rd Street were ablaze now. The thoroughfare was a sea of flames that emitted heat so unbearable that I believed my skin was being seared off."[15] Another account of the riots along "Charcoal Alley" states: "On the third day of the Watts Riots, 103rd St. was burned to the ground."[16] In the middle of the rubble and widespread destruction along "Charcoal Alley", the Los Angeles Times reported that "the train station was the only structure that remained intact when stores along 103rd Street burned during the Watts riots."[17] The survival of the old wood-framed Watts Station, whether an intentional omission or a mere coincidence, resulted in the station becoming "a symbol of continuity, hope and renewal" for the Watts community.[17]

Historic designation and restoration

Four months after the riots, the station was declared a Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM #36) by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission.[2][18] It was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. In the 1980s, after the station had been vacant for many years, the Community Redevelopment Agency spent $700,000 to restore the structure to its original exterior design. The station was re-opened in 1989 as a customer service office for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and a small museum of Watts history.[3][17] Mayor Tom Bradley attended the dedication ceremony and said: "Those days of glory are going to return, and we are going to be at the heart of the action right here at the Watts train station."[17]

In 1990, the Metro Blue Line resumed train service from Los Angeles to Long Beach along the old Pacific Electric right of way. Though the old Watts Station does not serve as a passenger platform or ticket booth for the new Blue Line,[17] the trains do stop at a new "Watts Station", 103rd Street-Kenneth Hahn, on 103rd Street, at a location next to the old Watts Station.[19] Unfortunately, the Blue Line has brought back the fatalities that plagued the Red Cars, with more than 87 motorists and pedestrians having been killed at Blue Line crossings since 1990,[20] making it the deadliest and most accident-prone rail line in the country.[21]

See also

References

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natreg/docs/All_Data.html. 
  2. ^ a b c "Watts Station Declared: 'Of Historic Significance'". Los Angeles Sentinel. 1965-12-09. http://dbase1.lapl.org/webpics/calindex/documents/12/521491.pdf. 
  3. ^ a b c "Historic Train Depot in Watts Set For $310,000 Restoration". Los Angeles Times. 1986-11-09. 
  4. ^ a b c "Dies Awful Death To Save Her Child". Los Angeles Times. 1904-05-19. 
  5. ^ "Ground To Death: Miss Mary Ryan Steps Before Pacific Electric Flyer to Shocking Fate". Los Angeles Times. 1904-12-28. 
  6. ^ a b c "Duke of Watts Was 'Pinched': Scared Italian Grocers Had No Passports; Terrance Mulligan Ordered Them Out of His Dominions, and They Flew to the City to 'Get the Law on Him' - War Busted Loose on the Pacific Electric". Los Angeles Times. 1905-05-14. 
  7. ^ "Stepped to His Death: Laborer Employed by Pacific Electric Killed by Long Beach Car at Watts Station". Los Angeles Times. 1905-07-30. 
  8. ^ "Cannot Recover: Mexican Struck by Car Near Watts Station Sustains Injuries Which Will Prove Fatal". Los Angeles Times. 1906-02-19. 
  9. ^ "Motorman May Die: He Is Pinched Between Two Cars of Work Train at Watts Station; Taken to Hospital". Los Angeles Times. 1906-12-09. 
  10. ^ a b "Shoots Into Car Window: Woman's Bad Aim Endangers Many Passengers; Mrs. Welsh Fires on Mate at Watts Station; Climax to Numerous Stormy Domestic Quarrels". Los Angeles Times. 1906-01-27. 
  11. ^ a b "Says He Can't Get Fair Trial: Trolley Car Guard Wants a Change of Venue; Declares Gangsters Menace City Court at Watts; Faces Disturbing of Peace Charge for Doing 'Duty'". Los Angeles Times. 1919-09-16. 
  12. ^ Ray Hebert (1966-02-27). "Hope Brightens for Riot Areas: Action Promises Revitalization of Forgotten Slum". Los Angeles Times.  ("In Watts, for example, a mall is being discussed for a stretch of 103rd Street -- the riot's infamous 'charcoal' alley between Compton and Wilmington Ave.")
  13. ^ Mitchell Landsberg and Valerie Reitman (2005-08-11). "Watts Riots, 40 Years Later". Los Angeles Times.  ("They had just secured one of the hardest-hit areas of Watts, a stretch of 103rd Street that had been dubbed 'Charcoal Alley.'")
  14. ^ Art Berman (1965-12-06). "Watts Scars Heal Slowly: Businessman's New Store Looted". Los Angeles Times.  ("Along a mile of 103rd Street in Watts -- dubbed 'Charcoal Alley' after 41 commercial buildings were destroyed by fire during the riot -- block after block is dotted with bare or rubble-filled lots or blackened shells.")
  15. ^ Betty Pleasant (2005-08-03). "Eyewitness Account of the Watts Riots". The Wave Newspapars. http://www.wavenewspapers.com/default.asp?sourceid=&smenu=71&twindow=&mad=&sdetail=4048&wpage=1&s%20keyword=&sidate=&ccat=&ccatm=&restate=&restatus=&reoption=&retype=&repmin=&repmax=&rebed=&rebath=%20&subname=. 
  16. ^ "Charcoal Alley". Community Walk. http://www.communitywalk.com/location/charcoal_alley/watts_riots/910695. 
  17. ^ a b c d e Paul Feldman (1989-03-17). "Watts New? Reopening of Historic Red Car Station as Museum and DWP Office Seen as Symbol of Hope, Renewal". Los Angeles Times. 
  18. ^ Los Angeles Department of City Planning (2007-09-07). Historic - Cultural Monuments (HCM) Listing: City Declared Monuments. City of Los Angeles. http://www.cityprojectca.org/ourwork/documents/HCMDatabase090707.pdf. Retrieved 2008-07-08 
  19. ^ "Blue Line Train Kills Pedestrian at Watts Station". Los Angeles Times. 1999-06-25. 
  20. ^ "Summary of Blue Line Train/Vehicle and Train/Pedestrian Accidents". Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. June, 2007. 
  21. ^ "Light rail fatalities, 1990-2002". American Public Transportation Association. 2005-05-20. http://www.usatoday.com/news/2003-01-07-rail-fatalities.htm.