The Spanish built the original pueblo of Los Angeles, but the area blossomed in the era of Mexican independence. From 1821 until the start of the Mexican-American War in 1846, its population more than tripled. New buildings were connected by bustling streets, with Olvera Street, officially designated in 1877, at the heart.
The colorful alley has always reflected the city’s diversity, from early Mexican inhabitants to a later wave of immigrants, largely from China, that filled the plaza by the start of the 20th century. In 1926, amid a tide of anti-Chinese tensions in the city, railroad executives won approval to build Union Station right in the center of the plaza, demolishing what had become L.A.’s first Chinatown—and the original Pueblo de Los Ángeles in the process.
That was when entrepreneur Christine Sterling, fascinated by the history of Olvera Street, launched a campaign to save the area from the Union Station project. She found an ally in Harry Chandler, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, who appreciated the idea of a tourist attraction honoring the birth of Los Angeles. Together they rallied financial and political support, and the district was spared demolition (the station was built on the other side of Alameda Street instead). Olvera Street was restored and reopened to visitors in April
The alley is now part of the 44-acre El Pueblo de Los Ángeles Historic Monument. An estimated 2 million visitors walk Olvera’s brick-lined pedestrian path annually, enjoying vendors and restaurants.
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