An Evening at Angels Flight

At the golden hour, Gordon Pattison gazes into the Angels Flight station house
At the golden hour, Gordon Pattison gazes into the Angels Flight station house

Last evening, we met on Bunker Hill, old friends coming together for an old friend, Angels Flight. As the sun set, the orange and black station house along with the cars, Olivet and Sinai, were bathed in its soft, orange glow. As the evening darkened, Angels Flight’s arches and cars were lit by the low amber light of dozens of incandescent bulbs. It was a magical time, and for a moment, I was transported back to the time when I lived on Bunker Hill in its old Victorian neighborhood in the 1940’s – 1960’s. That neighborhood has been gone for more than 50 years now, and Angels Flight is all we have to remind us of it.

As I looked out over the city from the top of Angels Flight, the twinkling lights of Grand Central Market came on, beckoning to us longingly. The Market stays open until 10:00 pm now, and it was filled with people enjoying its attractions. I thought, how nice it would be to board Angels Flight to go down there as I did years ago, have a bite to eat and join the people who looked to be having such a good time. They seemed miles away, though, at the bottom of long, daunting flights of stairs. That’s exactly why Col. Eddy built Angels Flight 115 years ago, to join Bunker Hill and Downtown. What foresight! What a wonderful service to fill a civic need! And for decades, Angels Flight filled that need happily, faithfully, asking for little in return.

But sadly, Angels Flight is not running. For two years now, Angels Flight has sat quietly, waiting patiently for Los Angeles to come back to it. While Angelenos go busily about their lives, Angels Flight sits forlorn and vulnerable, largely ignored by the community it once served and we hope will serve again.

Richard Schave and Gordon Pattison scrub graffiti off Olivet
Richard Schave and Gordon Pattison scrub graffiti off Olivet

Angels Flight is not a nostalgic anachronism. It was and remains an important civic asset. Not just for its historic significance, but as an important piece of public transportation, carrying people from the heights of Bunker Hill to greater Downtown and back again.

When we came together at Angels Flight last evening, we came to pay attention to an old friend and to bear witness to its plight. We cleaned away graffiti that had thoughtlessly desecrated it. We had a 3-D scan done on Angels Flight so that anyone can board it online and take a vicarious ride. Angels Flight has served our city well and can again. But it needs our support and loving attention, or one day we will drive by and wonder why it’s not there anymore. Then all we will have are photographs and memories. It’s a lot more fun to actually ride it.

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Author: Gordon Pattison

Gordon Pattison is a native son of Bunker Hill. His family owned the Salt Box and the Castle, the last two homes standing after the neighborhood was cleared for redevelopment. To learn more, see Gordon's LAVA Sunday Salon presentation Old Bunker Hill: One Family's Perspective. Gordon can also be found talking about Angels Flight Railway on Off-Ramp, visiting the few remaining pieces of his family's houses at Heritage Square Museum, on KCET's Lost L.A. series Lost Hills episode, L.A. As Subject's funicular feature and remembering novelist John Fante at his square dedication and atop Bunker Hill. He can also be found on Esotouric's The Lowdown on Downtown tours, sharing memories of lost Bunker Hill.

3 thoughts on “An Evening at Angels Flight”

  1. I enjoyed reading this blog post. Thank you. I often walk down grand or hill and try to imagine what it was like when angels flight was there. There is a great picture of it hanging at Specialties down the street.

  2. My grandfather took Angels Flight everyday for years to come and go to work as a draftsman downtown… Los Angeles needs to have more respect for its history

  3. hello,

    My  great grandmother Bridget Ohara Fitzgerald, at one point in time ran the Touraine Apartments, Or she owned it. (I am not sure.) I cannot find any history of this, and wonder if you can help me. I would be very greatful. She died June 9th, 1948 in Los Angeles, on Green St. in those Apartments she owned.

     

    Thank you,

    Christine Hennessy

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