By Aaron Blevins, 10/24/2013
It may have taken a bit longer than the community wanted, but the Wattles Garden Park erosion and drainage improvements have officially been completed after 18 months at the historic property in Hollywood.
On Oct. 17, Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, and other city officials celebrated the improvements and cut the ribbon on the 47.58-acre property that was constructed by wealthy Nebraska banker Gurdon Wattles in 1909.
“It’s quite beautiful,” architect Tom Gibson said. “It’s been restored to [U.S.] Secretary of Interior standards, and we’re very proud of it.”
He said the officials were celebrating the grand opening of the property’s American gardens, though the city had also recently completed the work on its terrace areas, where the Spanish and Italian gardens are kept.
“Most of the money, you don’t see above ground,” he said of the park construction.
Workers improved the erosion and drainage systems while repairing or replacing the existing irrigation system, which consisted of retention banks, an infiltration system, a seating wall and a catch basin. They also planted new trees, shrubs, ground covers and vines while restoring the turf and lying new sod.
Officials expected to complete the project sooner, but a contractor accidentally broke some unmarked irrigation pipes that had been covered by landslides over the years, said Neil Drucker, a program manager for the city’s Bureau of Engineering.
“This project took a little longer than we had hoped, but … it took a lot to get here,” he said, adding that many issues came up during construction and a “significant” amount of redesign was needed.
Drucker said the effort was “truly an inter-departmental project,” as several city entities — the Department of Recreation and Parks, Bureau of Engineering, Bureau of Contract Administration and Fourth Council District Office — were involved.
“We’re really impressed with the fact that it was done in-house,” he said. Drucker noted that a lot of work was to keep water from flowing down and eroding the hillside, which was among the reasons that the property had fallen into disrepair.
“So a lot of work was done. I just want to thank everyone involved. The community — a lot of you have had to wait a long time, and I’m glad to say that this park is back open.”
LaBonge also referenced the trouble that contractors encountered while working on the more than 100-year-old property.
“It took great thought to be able to create a direction here,” he said.
But the effort has been worth it for community members such as Toby Leaman, a member of the Los Angeles Community Garden Council, who said she used to visit the park when she lived in West Hollywood. At the time, the park was in disrepair.
“It was in terrible shape, so it looks wonderful now,” Leaman said. “You all deserve a very big hand. I’m just so happy.”
The city-owned property consists of four different gardens that were created by Wattles, who referred to the property as “Jualita”. It essentially has three parts: the community garden, the mansion and the park.
The rear gardens directly behind the mansion also reopened recently. They had been closed for quite some time as workers cleared brush, fixed drains, repaired irrigation systems and resurfaced the area using the original bricks.
The mansion itself is scheduled for upgrades as well. However, it does not appear that the city has a timeline for restoring the historic structure.
During the ceremony last week, officials displayed poster boards with the city’s plans to re-establish a small, existing parking lot on the east side of the mansion. A design has been completed, but it was unclear when the work may begin.
Officials have been using Prop. K and Quimby funding to make the repairs.
The park is located at 1824 N. Curson Ave.