Silver Lake, Los Angeles

Silver Lake is a residential and commercial neighborhood in the central region of Los Angeles, California, United States which takes on the full hipster lifestyle. Originally named Ivanhoe in the 1900s by a resident from Scotland,[1] it was built around what was then a city reservoir which gives the district its name. The "Silver" in Silver Lake is not because of the water's color, but named for a local politician who helped create the reservoir. The area is known for its restaurants and hipster hangouts, and many notable people have made their homes there. The neighborhood has several public and private schools.

Silver Lake
The hills of Silver Lake
Silver Lake boundaries as drawn by the Los Angeles Times
Silver Lake
Location within Central Los Angeles
Coordinates: 34°5′40″N 118°16′3″W
Named forPolitician Herman Silver


Silver Lake is flanked on the northeast by Atwater Village and Elysian Valley, on the southeast by Echo Park, on the southwest by Westlake, on the west by East Hollywood and on the northwest by Los Feliz.[2][3][4]

Street and other boundaries are: the Los Angeles River between Glendale Boulevard and Fletcher Drive and Riverside Drive on the northeast, the Glendale Freeway on the east, Effie Street, Coronado Street, Berkeley Avenue and Fletcher Drive on the southeast, the Hollywood Freeway on the south, Virgil Avenue on the west and Fountain Avenue and Hyperion Avenue on the northwest.[5] The prime real estate around the lake is known by realtors as the "Moreno Highlands."

The Silver Lake neighborhood council has mapped the boundaries of its council region.[6]


During the 1930s, Walt Disney built his first large studio in Silver Lake at the corner of Griffith Park Boulevard and Hyperion Avenue, currently the site of Gelson's Market. As consequence, the name "Hyperion" is used by Walt Disney Company and its subsidiaries, with company entities past and present carrying the name, such as Hyperion Books and the Hyperion Theater at Disney California Adventure Park.[7] The fictional Seattle neighborhood of Hyperion Heights in the final season of the Disney-owned ABC series Once Upon a Time also traces its name to the same origin.

Several blocks away on Glendale Boulevard was the studio of early Western films' star Tom Mix. The location is now occupied by the Mixville Shopping Center. It is rumored that Mix buried his steed "Tony, the Wonder Horse" on the property.[7] The neighborhood is crisscrossed by numerous municipal staircases that provide pedestrian access up and down the neighborhood's signature hills. Among these are the Descanso Stairs, Redcliffe Stairs and the Music Box Stairs. The famous flight of stairs in Laurel and Hardy's film The Music Box are located between lower Descanso Drive and Vendome Street, as it winds up and around the hill.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Silver Lake was home to a middle class Latino community. The community was formed by people who worked in the then-bustling manufacturing hub of downtown Los Angeles. In the 1970s, outsourcing brought to an end the group's prosperity, as they saw their jobs shipped overseas to Taiwan and China along with manufacturing. The neighborhood lost its prominence amid urban decay.

Beginning in the 1970s, the neighborhood became the nexus of Los Angeles' gay leather subculture, the equivalent of the SoMA neighborhood in San Francisco.[8] Since the late 1990s, gentrification has changed the area by pushing out public sex and "gay cruising",[9] and by facilitating the opening of many independent upscale boutiques, coffee shops, fitness studios, and restaurants.

LGBT community

In the 1930s Silver Lake and Echo Park still comprised Edendale, and acted as a space where members of the LGBT community were able to express their identities. Prominent female impersonator Julian Eltinge built his house in Silver Lake and performed until the city passed laws criminalizing cross-dressing, after which he continued to recount his drag performances to audiences.[10]

Silver Lake was also home to Harry Hay, credited with founding the first gay organization, the Mattachine Society, which began as Bachelors Anonymous. Hay lived and had meetings in Silver Lake at the time the group began in 1950. Kevin Roderick wrote in his eulogy for Hay in Los Angeles that many consider the house located near Silver Lake to be the birthplace of the gay-rights movement.[11]

The Black Cat Tavern, a fairly popular bar that has now become a historic-cultural monument, was the site of a brutal police raid in 1967 that spread to adjacent bars, becoming a full-blown riot and resulting in more than a dozen arrests. The protests in response to the raid predated the Stonewall riots by two years.[12]

Los Globos is another popular bar that has become the site of Banjee Balls where the LGBT youth come together.[13] Voguing is a large part of the balls and brings a Paris Is Burning vibe into Los Angeles night life. The building was originally one of the earliest American Legion halls.[14] Circus of Books was a bookstore and gay pornography shop that was notable as a gay cruising spot of the late 20th Century.[15]

As the AIDS epidemic gripped the USA in the 1980s tensions between gay men and the LAPD escalated. Several LGBT activists in Silver Lake claimed they felt unsafe reporting hate crimes against them to the police, whom they felt harbored anti-LGBT sentiments. Their complaints grew to the point that then-City Council member Michael Woo advocated to establish a hotline to relay information to police indirectly and compile statistics on the frequency of gay-bashings.[16] Some bath houses, which acted as social spaces for gay men, were shut down by the city government in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. The ensuing controversy reflected a nationwide debate about whether this type of action constituted public health policy or perpetuation of discrimination against the LGBT community.[17]

In 1992 about 85 activists protested gay-bashing and violent acts against homosexuals in the area, carrying banners emblazoned with “Stop the Violence” along Sunset Boulevard.[18]


The neighborhood was named for Water Board Commissioner Herman Silver, who was instrumental in the creation of the Silver Lake Reservoir in the neighborhood, one of the water storage reservoirs established in the early 1900s.[1] This is one of ten that still remain in Los Angeles.[19]

In the community of Silver Lake lies the namesake reservoir composed of two basins, with the lower named Silver Lake and the upper named Ivanhoe. The lower body of water was named in 1906 for Herman Silver; the upper body received its name from the 1819 Sir Walter Scott novel Ivanhoe.[20]

The reservoirs are owned and maintained by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP), and could provide water to 600,000 homes in downtown and South Los Angeles;[21] however, only the smaller of the two, Ivanhoe, remains online. At capacity, they hold 795 million gallons of water. The Silver Lake Reservoir's water resources will be replaced by the Headworks Reservoir, an underground reservoir north of Griffith Park, slated for completion by December 2017.[22]

Also within the grounds of the reservoir are several popular recreational facilities: the Silver Lake Recreation Center, which includes an adjacent city park; the Silver Lake Walking Path, which circumnavigates the reservoirs (2.25 miles); and the Silver Lake Meadow, modeled after NYC's Central Park Sheep Meadow. On the northeast corner of the property is the Neighborhood Nursery School, which since 1976 has been at the corner of Tesla Avenue and Silver Lake Boulevard. It is a parent-participation cooperative preschool, affiliated with the California Council of Parent Participation Nursery Schools.[23][24]


As of 2019, Silver Lake is represented by Los Angeles City Council Members Mitch O'Farrell and David Ryu and the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council.[25] The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council (SLNC) was formed in the early 2000s and certified as part of the City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council system in February 2003. Its 21-member governing board is elected for two-year terms in September.[26] Recent projects have included "Street Medallions" created by artist Cheri Gaulke, "ArtCans", the "Electrical Art Box Project", and the second annual "Make Music LA"[27] created by several different artists, groups, and the SLNC Arts & Culture Committee, whose current co-chairs are Renee Dawson and Jenifer Palmer Lacy.[28]

The Silver Lake Residents Association,[29] the Silver Lake Improvement Association,[30] the Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy,[31] and the Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce[32] are all active in the area.


The 2000 U.S. census counted 30,972 residents in the 2.75 square miles (7.1 km2) neighborhood—an average of 11,266 people per square mile, about the same population density as in the rest of the city but among the highest in the county. In 2008 the city estimated that the population had increased to 32,890. The median age for residents was 35, about average for Los Angeles, but the percentages of residents aged 19 to 49 were among the county's highest.[5]

The neighborhood was highly diverse ethnically. The breakdown was Latinos, 41.8%; whites, 34%; Asians and Asian Americans, 18%; blacks, 3.2%; and others, 3.1%. Mexico (26.6%) and the Philippines (15.7%) were the most common places of birth for the 41% of the residents who were born abroad, about the same rate as the city at large.[5]

The median yearly household income in 2008 dollars was $54,339, about the same as the rest of Los Angeles, but a high rate of households earned $20,000 or less per year. The average household size of 2.3 people was low for the city. Renters occupied 64.3% of the housing stock, and house or apartment owners the rest.[5]

The percentages of never-married men (52.6%) and women (38.6%) were among the county's highest.[5] Both statistics are likely due to the large numbers of LGBT members in the community.


36% of the neighborhood residents aged 25 and older had earned a four-year college degree by 2000, an average figure for the city.[5]


The schools within Silver Lake are as follows:[7][33][34]

  • Allesandro Elementary School, public K–5, 2210 Riverside Drive
  • ASA Silver Lake School, private K–10, 2772 Rowena Avenue
  • Bellevue Primary School, public K–1, 610 North Micheltorena Street
  • Clifford Street Elementary School, public K–5, 2150 Duane Street
  • Ivanhoe Elementary School, public K–5, 2828 Herkimer Street
  • Kids' World School, private K–12, 2132 Hyperion Avenue
  • Micheltorena Street Elementary School, public K–6, 1511 Micheltorena Street
  • St. Francis of Assisi Elementary School, parochial K–8, 1550 Maltman Avenue
  • St. Teresa of Avila Elementary School, parochial K–8, 2215 Fargo Street
  • Thomas Starr King Middle School, public 6–8, 4201 Fountain Avenue


The Silver Lake District is also served by the Silver Lake Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. It is located at 2411 Glendale Boulevard, in northeastern Silver Lake between the reservoir and the I-5 freeway.[35]

Entertainment and night life

Silver Lake, known as one of "the city's hippest neighborhoods",[36] has many bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Since the 1990s, the neighborhood has become the center of the alternative and indie rock scene in Los Angeles. It was home to two major yearly street festivals: the Silver Lake Jubilee,[37] held in May and the Sunset Junction Street Fair, held in August. The last Sunset Junction festival was held in 2010 and abruptly cancelled in 2011 just days before it was supposed to take place, after years of neighborhood controversy.[38][39] The Silver Lake Jubilee, the more recent addition, featured live music by local musicians, local artists and community businesses. It moved out of the neighborhood to private grounds near the Los Angeles River and changed its name as of 2013.[40]

Since the indie rock music scene is particularly prominent in this neighborhood, comparisons are often drawn between Silver Lake and New York City's Williamsburg district. As a result, it is sometimes referred to as the "Williamsburg of the West".[41][42]

Film and television

In addition to being the site of early Western films' star Tom Mix's studio on Glendale Boulevard,[7] Silver Lake has been used as the film location for several films and television shows.

Notable residents

See also


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