Silver Lake was home to many early motion picture studios – it was all here way before Hollywood! The area of Silver Lake on Glendale Blvd starting at Rowena and extending down into the Echo Park area near Sunset Blvd was known as Edendale. It was home to the early Sennett and Keystone silent movie studios, and the site of many movie firsts, including Charlie Chaplan.
During the 1930s, Walt Disney built his first large studio in Silver Lake at the corner of Griffith Park Boulevard and Hyperion Avenue, which is now the site of Gelson’s Market. As consequence, the name “Hyperion” is of great significance to the Walt Disney Company, with many company entities carrying the name, such as Hyperion Books and the Hyperion Theater in Disneyland, how awesome is that little piece of triva?
There are almost 50 public staircases in the Silver Lake area that crisscross up and down the signature hills that were mostly built for access to the long-gone Red Car trollies. Among these are the Descano Stairs, the Redcliffe Stairs, the famous Laurel and Hardy short film “The Music Box” (aka. The Music Box steps) was filmed here, and familiar comedy trio, The Three Stooges stared in “An Ache in Every Stake” filmed in 1941 on the stairs just off of Cove Avenue.
The area was originally named “Ivanhoe” before the turn of the Century by a Scotsman named Hugo Reid, who thought the rolling hills reminded him of his homeland Scotland. He named the area after a famous Scottish novel Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott. This is why you’ll notice many of the street names in the neighborhood are Scottish or names of characters of the novel such as Herkimer, Rowena, Kenilworth, Ben Lomond, Hawick, St. George, (that’s a fun scavenger hunt!)
The Silver Lake neighborhood was named for Water Board Commissioner Herman Silver, who was instrumental in the creation of the Silver Lake Reservoir, located within the neighborhood. Not a bad gig, ugh?
In the Silver Lake community lies the namesake reservoir composed of two basins, with the lower named Silver Lake and the upper named Ivanhoe. The lower body of water was named in 1906 after the commissioner, and the upper body received its name after the Ivanhoe novel.
By the 1920’s and 1930’s, with the growing number of residential developments, and the equally growing movie industry, city planners saw the development opportunities and started making the investments in underground utilities and cement streets. One of the most notable developers was the silent film star Antonio Moreno (the Moreno Highlands) whose development projects resembled Mediterranean villages he visited. This landmark home, the Canfield-Moreno Estate set the architectural tone for many of the homes on the west side of Silver Lake by the reservoir hills.
Besides Silver Lake, the reservoirs are owned and maintained by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and could provide water to 600,000 homes in downtown and South Los Angeles, holding 795 million gallons of water! Only the smaller of the two however, Ivanhoe, remains online.
The reservoir is a focal point in the Silver Lake community and has evolved as a regional recreational resource, which includes the Silver Lake Recreation Center, and the adjacent city park and popular dog park; the Silver Lake Walking Path, (stretching 2.25 miles around); and the Silver Lake Meadow, modeled after N.Y.C.’s Central Park Sheep Meadow. On the northeast corner of the property is the Neighborhood Nursery School, which since 1976 has been at the corner of Tesla Avenue and Silver Lake Boulevard. It is a parent participation cooperative preschool, affiliated with the California Council of Parent Participation Nursery Schools.