The View from Dodger Stadium in 1877

Before Dodger Stadium, there was Mount Lookout — one of the best vantage points for sweeping views of Los Angeles.

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If Instagram had been around in 1877, Dodger Stadium would not have been the world’s second most geo-tagged site — a distinction it attained in 2014. Not an inning of baseball had yet been played on the site, a steep hill and gaping ravine unaltered by mechanized grading equipment. Wild scrub brush rather than manicured Bermuda grass carpeted the ground. No life-sized bobble-head figures populated the upper deck.

Angeleño Heights (1909 lithograph)

But at least one of the ballpark’s chief attractions was already present. Long before earthmovers carved Dodger Stadium’s amphitheater into its northern flank, Mount Lookout (elevation: 726 ft.) was renowned for its sweeping views. To the south, the growing city of Los Angeles sprawled into the surrounding countryside. To the north, hazy mountain ranges floated on the horizon.

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Sometime in late 1876 or early 1877, an artist named Eli Sheldon Glover scampered up Mount Lookout to capture those sights. His drawing became one of L.A.’s earliest birdseye city views. The Daily Star described Glover’s vantage point:

The drawing was executed from a point which presents a beautiful view of Los Angeles proper and the delightful and growing suburbs of East and West Los Angeles [present-day Lincoln Heights and University Park, respectively]. On the whole, it presents a truthful picture of the city looking south from the hill north of town, with the ocean and intervening objects in clear prospective [sic].

Six years later, hopeful that the city would transform it into a public park, the Los Angeles Herald heaped praise upon the “grand and lofty hill”:

No one who has not ascended this hill has any idea of the beauty and comprehensiveness of the scene that is spread out before the vision of the beholder. This hill, one of the highest in the city limits, towers above all the hills towards the sea, and its summit is a point where a magnificent view can be obtained by anyone who takes the trouble to ascend by either of the two trails which lead to the top….At the summit the view is wide-spread and grand. In addition to the distant and near places seen during the ascent…the four cemeteries, almost the entire city, the ocean, a glimpse of Anaheim, Azusa, Vernon, Florence, Wilmington, Compton, with the dark eucalyptus groves below the city are plainly in sight…To the North, a glimpse is obtained of some fine ranches in the hills, but the intervening hills partially obstruct the view.

Though Dodger Stadium’s construction eventually shaved some elevation off its summit, the truncated hill remains one of the best places to gaze at the downtown Los Angeles skyline. A 2013 renovation by Mia Lehrer and Associates enhanced those city views, framing them between palm trees and other landscaping. Today, Dodger fans — Instagram users or otherwise — can stand outside the top deck and recall the Herald’s description of the site: “a beautiful mount of vision for those who delight in scenes of beauty.”

The view looking north from Mount Lookout in 1898. In the foreground is Cemetery Ravine — now entombed beneath Dodger Stadium’s parking lot. Courtesy of the USC Libraries – California Historical Society Collection.
Mount Lookout appears as the prominent hill on the right in this 1877 lithograph of Los Angeles, drawn from Boyle Heights. Behind it rises Cahuenga Peak and the hills of present-day Griffith Park. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Imposing Mount Lookout rises above Sonoratown in this circa 1892 photograph. Courtesy of the Photo Collection – Los Angeles Public Library.
Mount Lookout rose between Chavez and Cemetery ravines. 1928 topographic map courtesy of the USGS.

This articles was previously published in 2014 for Lost LA, a collaboration between the USC Libraries and KCET featuring the member collections of L.A. as Subject, a research alliance dedicated to preserving and telling the sometimes-hidden stories and histories of the Los Angeles region.