Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park records
Scope and Content
- 1965 - 2019
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
This collection chronicles the life of Grace E. Simons almost as much as it does the Committee which she established--at least the last twenty years of her life. Without Simons' vision and foresight, Elysian Park might look very different today--much less "park-like."
Grace E. Simons was a journalist who worked for a French news agency in China where she met her husband, Frank Glass, who was an organizer for the Communist Party. They came to Los Angeles in 1939 where Grace worked as a reporter and editor for the California Eagle, an African-American newspaper that finally folded in the early 1960s. During an interview for the Eagle, Simons met Malcolm X who was impressed by Simons' sharp questioning of him concerning his attitude towards women's rights.
It was in the mid-1960s that Simons first became involved in protecting the historic park when the city threatened to take 63 acres for what has become the Convention Center on Figureroa Street. Seeing what had happened with Dodger Stadium, Simons and a few neighbors banded together to become the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park (CCSEP). Serving as President of the Committee for many years, Simons led the fight in a series of battles that it won against proposals for an airport, oil drilling by Occidental Petroleum, an Asian Cultural Center, a child care facility, a restaurant and parking lot on Radio Hill, and several condominium projects.
The committee experienced its share of losses, among them a move to expand the Los Angeles Police Academy.
In 1979 the Sol Feinstone Environmental Award was conferred upon Simons--one of only five persons to receive the award nationally.
Grace Simons passed away in 1985 at Barlow Hospital, right next to Elysian Park. Her husband, Frank Glass, passed away in 1987. A memorial sculpture to Simons and Glass designed by ceramicist and sculptor Peter Shire was dedicated in 1994 and is located at Angel's Point in Elysian Park.
Elysian Park is Los Angeles's first and oldest park. It was part of the original 1781 land grant to the pueblo of Los Angeles from King Carlos III from Spain. The initial 550 acres of Elysian Park were, "...forever dedicated to the public..." in 1886, and by 1937 had grown to a little over 600 acres. The park is the site of the first Botanical Garden in Southern California. In the 1880s about 37,000 eucalyptus trees were planted on park land, and in the 1890s the Los Angeles Horticultural Society began planting many specimens of rare trees including the double row of wild date palms north of Stadium Way. About 67 species remain of the original plantings.
Elysian Park serves as an enormous backyard for the families who live in nearby neighborhoods such as Echo Park, Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, and Elysian Heights. Notable sites and buildings at or near Elysian Park include the Portola/ Fremont Gate, Victory Memorial Grove, the Chavez Ravine Arboretum, the Avenue of the Palms, the rock garden at the Police Academy, the Recreation Center in the Solano Canyon section of the park, Barlow Hospital, tunnels on the Pasadena Freeway, Arroyo Seco Parkway, and the Buena Vista Reservoir. Trees are regularly purchased and planted in Elysian Park by CCSEP members and friends as loving memorials to the living and the dead.
Before the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park was formed in 1965, the Pasadena Freeway had already split the park and Dodger Stadium had been built on part of Chavez Ravine and Elysian Park. When a group of promoters presented a plan to take the Avenue of the Palms for the Los Angeles Convention Center, the committee organized itself with Grace E. Simons as its first president. They successfully stopped the development and continued to fight many more battles over the years in an effort to preserve Elysian Park as a public park and an oasis in the heart of Los Angeles. The CCSEP felt that Elysian Park was essentially Los Angeles's Central Park or Golden Gate Park, but had historically not been given the same status or protection as its more famous parks. It was their opinion that the greatest danger to park survival was combined public indifference and special interest pressures to take park land for non-park purposes. All of the Citizens Committee's volunteer energies were aimed at arousing public and official awareness of the value of saving public park land and in preserving the section of the Los Angeles City Charter which reads, "All lands heretofore or hereafter set apart or dedicated as a public park shall forever remain to the use of the public inviolate..."
22 Linear Feet (21 boxes and 1 oversize folder)
Language of Materials
- California. Dept. of Transportation -- Archives
- Chávez Ravine (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Archival resources
- Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Archives
- Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Archives
- Echo Park (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Archival resources
- Elysian Park (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Archival resources
- Los Angeles (Calif.). Dept. of Water and Power -- Archives
- Los Angeles Convention Center -- Archives
- Los Angeles Police Academy -- Archives
- Neubauer, Sallie -- Archives
- Parks -- California -- Los Angeles
- Roads -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
- Simons, Grace E. -- Archives
- Tule elk
- Uncovering California's Environmental Collections Project
- Yorty, Sam -- Archives
- Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park (Los Angeles, Calif.) (Organization)
- Simons, Grace E. (Person)
- Finding Aid for the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park records
- Jacqueline Morin
- 2010, 2016
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Processing of this collection was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program.
- 2016: Additional materials were donated by Sallie Neubauer in the spring of 2016.
- 2020 January: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub to include accrual of additional materials (housed in box nos. 16-21).
Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository
Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States