Through the Viewfinder at the Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, ca. 1920s

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

It is a natural feature that most people see while whizzing by on the 134 Freeway, but it is probably little known that the Eagle Rock, a sandstone outcropping some 150 feet high, is a City of Los Angeles historical landmark.

Situated in the 5400 block of the appropriately named Eagle Rock View Drive on the border of the Eagle Rock community and Pasadena, the rock and a little over 2 acres around it were given some attention earlier this decade when the city recreation and parks department and engineering department along with other organizations worked on a project to install new plantings and a landmark sign.

The Homestead collection includes a circa 1920s snapshot showing the Eagle Rock from a vantage point to the southwest, probably where a residential area is south of today’s 134.  Standing on a paved road, the photographer captured the rock, with its distinctive eagle on the side, but, whereas today there is the freeway, residences and, on the other side of the feature, apartments that go right up to it, the landscape was all chapparal and gently sloping hillsides.

Eagle Rock Los Angeles Calif 2006.124.1.7
This circa 1920s snapshot from the Homestead collection shows the Eagle Rock natural sandstone formation, or outcropping, from a nearby street.  Today, the rock and a couple of acres around it are a City of Los Angeles Historical Landmark.

To me, when the photo is enlarged, it appears as if the rock is a partially buried skull with the eyes and part of the nasal cavity at the lower left and the eagle looking like a significant crack at the center top of the cranium (I know–morbid, right? But, tell me it isn’t obvious!).  Because of changes to the area over the decades, it’s impossible to get that view now and grading and development have altered the landscape.

So, this image gives a unique perspective to one of the most notable natural features in Los Angeles.  For an online article on the historical landmark project, here is a piece on the rock’s “makeover.”  The great Curbed LA site has this nice feature on historic lakes, trees and rocks in Los Angeles.  Finally, the Los Angeles Parks Foundation has this locator page for the Eagle Rock.

To see the location of the landmark sign, here is a Google Maps link at street view.

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