Editor’s Note: This article has been published in our November 2022 Print edition. Enjoy.
Whenever Los Angeles County residents are not sitting in traffic on freeways, they are sitting in traffic on seemingly endless streets across 88 cities.
By Reina Esparza
Be it a boulevard, an avenue or a court, each one has a name that many in this county may use to navigate or an identifier of a point in time in their lives. Still though, some may take a break from staring at illuminated tail lights to gaze upon a street sign and wonder why this particular street has a unique or puzzling name.
This inquisition has now become a prominent part of Mark Tapio Kines’ life, with the creation of LAStreetNames.com.
“It’s just one of those things that doesn’t really seem interesting until you decide it is interesting,” he said. “When you actually do stop yourself and say, ‘Why is it called that? Who is that person? Is it somebody’s name, what’s the story behind it?’”
For Tapio Kines, there were two sparks that led to doing this project. The first was an old friend of his who once lived on a Mid City street named Commodore Sloat Drive, which made him wonder how it got that name in the first place. The second and main spark was his work on the HBO show Treme in which he had to research trivia and facts about the city of New Orleans via books about its history and street names.
“I thought wow, someone should do this for Los Angeles, maybe I could do it for Los Angeles,” he said. “And it only took me ten years to actually get around to doing it.”
Originally started as a lockdown project in May of 2020, Tapio Kines has taken it upon himself to delve deeper into the streets many of us know and possibly frequent, uncovering the stories behind them and the real-life people some of them are named after.
“I get to solve mysteries,” he said. “A lot of the information that I dig up is stuff that people haven’t looked at for decades. So I get to learn about these long forgotten Angelenos and long forgotten stories from the past. I dig through old newspapers all day long.”
By scouring through old newspaper archives, public and library records as well as other sources, he reconstructs the lives of these people of the past, putting faces and names to the streets many cruise down every day.
“It’s incredible, just the stories,” Tapio Kines said. “These people have such dramatic lives. Consider that the sort of people who engaged in real estate speculation in the early 19th century, early 20th century, were colorful figures. They took risks and as such, they were usually fairly prominent people.”
According to Tapio Kines and his research, newspapers of the past used to be more regional, like ColoradoBoulevard.net. They would report on virtually everything the significant figures in their community did in their lives. Be it a vacation or a family death, it would be printed nonetheless.
Though there can be difficulties, such as following a theory about a name only to reach a dead end, Tapio Kines continues to work, with hopes that he finds a few descendants of these street namesakes to add to the history and stories stitched together through these streets.
Here is the story behind the name of our very own Colorado Boulevard:
Arcadia, Eagle Rock, Monrovia, Pasadena
In 1874, when the San Gabriel Orange Grove Association subdivided the colony that would become Pasadena, three new east-west streets were laid out: Colorado, California, and Columbia. (Colorado and California became “boulevards” years later.) Whoever christened them – possibly Calvin Fletcher – never wrote down the why behind these names, but we can guess: each starts with “C”, each is four syllables long, each evokes the spirit of the wide-open West (the Colorado and Columbia rivers; California itself) that had attracted the colony’s founders from parts east. Considering the effort that went into coining “Pasadena“, these founders evidently strove for mellifluous names, and Colorado, California, and Columbia certainly make for a harmonious trio. At any rate, none of the founders hailed from Colorado, which didn’t even achieve statehood until 1876.
To learn about how our local streets got their names, visit LAStreetNames.com.
We hope you appreciated this article. Before you move on, please consider supporting the Colorado Boulevard’s journalism.
Billionaires, hedge fund owners and local imposters have a powerful hold on the information that reaches the public. Colorado Boulevard stands to serve the public interest – not profit motives.
While fairness guides everything we do, we know there is a right and a wrong position in the fight against racism and climate crisis while supporting reproductive rights and social justice. We provide a fresh perspective on local politics – one so often missing from so-called ‘local’ journalism.
You can access Colorado Boulevard’s paywall-free journalism because of our unique reader-supported model. People like you, informed readers, keep us independent, beholden to no outside influence, and accessible to everyone.
Please consider supporting Colorado Boulevard today. Thank you. (Click to Support)