Griffith Park: A Centennial History.
By Mike Eberts.
Los Angeles: Historical Society of Southern California, 1996. Photographs, maps, notes, bibliography, index. xvi + 448 pages. $37.50 Paperback.
San Diego’s defining urban park (now called Balboa Park) began when foresighted leaders set aside land for it in 1868. Los Angeles’ major urban park, Griffith Park, came into being a generation later (in 1896) when philanthropist Colonel Griffith J. Griffith gave the city the 4,000 acre Rancho Los Feliz. Since then, the plot has been transformed into a major part of the Los Angeles community. It houses open space hiking and horse trails, an observatory, a Greek theatre, a zoo, the Gene Autrey Museum of Western Heritage, and many other attractions. Mike Eberts, a mass communications teacher at Glendale Community College, has put together a very informative history of the park’s first one hundred years. As would be expected, the story of the park is more than just the story of the park; it also gives insights into the history of Los Angeles, and to the nature of the city it has become. There is one very annoying drawback. The author has chosen a style of presentation which involves a series short sections (each under a subheading) grouped together into chapters. There are no transitions between sections — or the chapters — so the book does not flow as one continuous story; rather it jerks along in a disruptive, staccato-like manner. This proves the standard exhortation of history professors to their graduate students: subheads are no substitute for good transitions. Aside from this irritating stylistic device, this is a sound book which will benefit both the scholar of urban parks and the Angeleno who wants to know about a significant part of their heritage.