Los Feliz News
Griffith Park Celebrates 115th Anniversary
By Damian Kelly
Dec 28, 2011 - 10:19:09 PM

LOS FELIZOn Friday, December 16, the 115th Anniversary of Griffith Park was celebrated by Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge with a special ceremony at Griffith Observatory.  Joined by Observatory Director Dr. Edwin Krupp and numerous members of the public, LaBonge, who represents District 4 (which includes Los Feliz, the site of Griffith Park) hailed Griffith Park as “the greatest gift the City of Los Angeles has ever received.”

The Griffith Park 115th Anniversary Celebration. Photo courtesy of Tom LaBonge's website
Commenting in a news release from his office, LaBonge explained the significance of Griffith Park’s anniversary.

“My love for Griffith Park is on-par with the family I have and the family I come from,” said LaBonge. “It’s part of my family. Celebrating this anniversary is a big part of life in Los Angeles. Every year during the holidays, we remember the greatest gift the City of Los Angeles has ever received ”¦ a gift that keeps on giving. And ”“ on a personal note ”“ I’m pleased to have a daily relationship with Griffith Park, where I’ve been hiking nearly every day since 1978.”

According to historian Mike Eberts, who wrote “Griffith Park: A Centennial History,” and was mentioned in the news release that discussed the park’s anniversary on LaBonge’s website, the site became officially apart of L.A. after 46-year-old mining industrialist Colonel Griffith Jenkins Griffith arrived at L.A. City Hall on December 16, 1896 accompanied by approximately four dozen men to deliver a roll of papers to then-L.A. Mayor Frank Rader.  The papers turned out to be an offer by the Welsh-born Griffith to donate 3,015 acres of his Rancho Los Feliz property, which was located 1 mile north of city limits (at the time) to the City of L.A.

Griffith’s donation was not without its conditions as he asked that rail fares be kept at 5 cents to allow people rich and poor to ride out to the park enjoy “the fruits of fresh air and sunshine”, which Griffith considered the “first requisites of sanity and health.”  One other condition Griffith stipulated was that the new park be named Griffith Park and remain that way forever.  After Griffith’s donation, he laid the ground work for major additions to Griffith Park.

According to the Griffith Observatory’s website, Griffith made an offer of funds in 1912 to the L.A. City Council for a public observatory.  The offer was accepted by the L.A. City Council but rejected by members of the Griffith Park Commission.  Griffith did not live to see the observatory open as he died in 1919 of liver disease at age 69 but allowed a way for the projects he had envisioned to become a reality after he passed on.  Griffith left funds in his will that would pave the way for construction of what would become the Griffith Observatory, which opened to the public in 1935.  In addition, Griffith also left funds for the construction of the Greek Theatre.

Besides those additions to Griffith Park, the park has remained the same for the most part except for a land acquisition that was completed in 2010.  In a campaign that was led by LaBonge, 138 acres of Cahuenga Peak (which is located just west of the Hollywood Sign) was purchased and incorporated into Griffith Park with the help of big and small private donors which included film director Steven Spielberg, actor Tom Hanks, Tiffany & Co. and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.  The purchase of Cahuenga Peak, which provides a 360 degree panorama of the L.A. Basin and the San Fernando Valley, ensured it was protected from development adjacent to Mount Lee and the Hollywood Sign.

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