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MacArthur Park

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MacArthur Park

MacArthur Park
MacArthur Park looking towards Downtown Los Angeles
Type Urban park
Location Westlake, Los Angeles
Created 1880s
Operated by City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks
Status Open all year
Public transit access Westlake/MacArthur Park Station
Designated May 1, 1972
Reference no. 100

MacArthur Park (formerly Westlake Park)[1] is a park in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, named after General Douglas MacArthur and designated City of Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #100.[2]


The park is divided in two by Jugaremos en Familia (a live event hosted by Memo Flores for the Hispanic community). MacArthur Park's bandshell has been recently renovated as the Levitt Pavilion and is once again the host of jazz, big band, salsa music, beat music, and world music concerts.[3] Since reopening, it hosts at least 50 free concerts each summer between June and September.

The lake in MacArthur Park is fed by natural springs (although an artificial bottom to the lake was laid during the construction of the Metro Red Line, opened in 1993). In the past, a fountain with a reflecting pool on the northern end was also fed by the springs. The Westlake/MacArthur Park Red Line station sits across the street.[4]


Postcard view from the 1900s

The park, originally named Westlake Park, was built in the 1880s, along with a similar Eastlake Park, whose lake is artificial, in Los Angeles. Westlake Park was renamed May 7, 1942; Eastlake Park was renamed Lincoln Park. Both Westlake and Eastlake (as well as Echo Park) were built as drinking water reservoirs connected to the city's systems of zanjas (small conveyance channels or trenches). When the city abandoned the non-pressurized zanja system for a pressurized pipe system, these smaller, shallow reservoirs located at low points no longer provided much benefit and were converted into parks.[5]

In the mid-19th century the area was a swampland; by the 1890s, it was a vacation destination, surrounded by luxury hotels. In the early part of the 20th century, the MacArthur park area became known as the Champs-Élysées of Los Angeles.

Wilshire Boulevard formerly ended at the lake, but in 1934 a berm was built for it to cross and link up with the existing Orange Street (which ran from Alvarado to Figueroa Streets) into downtown Los Angeles. Orange Street was renamed Wilshire and extended east of Figueroa Street to Grand Avenue. This divided the lake into two halves; the northern one was subsequently drained. During the 1950s the lake featured the rental of electric boats, with the names of comic book animal characters.

According to a Los Angeles Times news story from 1956, two swans, named Rudie and Susie, hatched their five new cygnets on the island in MacArthur Park Lake, and according to the park superintendent, these were the first swans born in the park in over a decade.[6]

For many years, Filipino World War II veterans protested in the park named after their former commander regarding promises made when they enlisted that the United States had reneged on.[7] In 2009 as part of the stimulus package, Congress awarded lump-sum payments of $15,000 to Filipino veterans who are American citizens and $9,000 to those who are noncitizens.[8]


Despite the rather poetic homage paid to it in the 1968 song, MacArthur Park became known for violence after 1985 when prostitution, drug dealing, shoot-outs, and the occasional rumored drowning became commonplace, with as many as 30 murders in 1990.[9] The Westlake area has also become famous for the sale of false identification cards, especially those allowing non-US citizens (principally from Mexico and other Central American countries) to work in the United States. When the lake was drained in 1973 and 1978, hundreds of handguns and other firearms were found to have been disposed of in the lake.[10] Gang-on-gang violence still occurs occasionally in and around the park, as in the following cases:

In 1995, a small, local gang in the Westlake and Downtown area, the Burlington Street Locos, got into an argument with a man who was believed to be in a rival gang, called the Crazy Town Locos. A few days before, a member of the Crazy Town Locos had struck a man from Burlington Street Locos across the face. Seeking revenge, members of the Burlington Street Locos went looking for members of the rival gang and thought that a man who looked like the target was him. Mistakenly, they fired a couple of rounds into his chest, killing him. They put the body in a garbage bag and threw it in the lake.

In 2002, members of the 18th Street gang saw a member of a rival gang and beat the victim until he was in critical condition. A day later, members of the victim's gang approached members of the 18th Street gang and started firing with semi-automatic pistols. This event led to the death of two 18th Street gang members and an injury to an innocent bystander.

In 2008, a shooting occurred while a birthday party was being held. Members of the 18th Street gang started firing toward a crowd filled with rival gang members. This led to the death of three people: a rival gang member and a mother and child.

May Day Mêlée with the Los Angeles Police Department

On May Day, May 1, 2007, a rally calling for US citizenship for illegal immigrants[11] took place in MacArthur Park. The incident has been dubbed the May Day Mêlée. That evening, police commanders declared the gathering an unlawful assembly and gave the order to disperse. The police then cleared the park, using what some thought was excessive force against those who disobeyed the order. Sanjukta Paul, an observer with the National Lawyer's Guild, was beaten repeatedly by a Los Angeles Police officer, including a blow to the kidneys, as she attempted to impede the police's progress.[12] Another police officer was seen throwing a news camera from a cameraman and beating news reporters attempting to access their news vans.[13] Protestors clashed with members of the LAPD, reportedly suffering excessive force and property damage, with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters being used on a mostly peaceful crowd by police officers in full riot gear.[11] At a subsequent press conference, LAPD Chief William Bratton said that an investigation was underway to "determine if the use of force was appropriate" and that "the vast majority of people who were [at MacArthur Park] were behaving appropriately."[11][14]


Beginning in 2002 the Los Angeles Police Department and business and community leaders led a revitalization effort that has led to the installation of surveillance cameras, the opening of a recreation center, increased business, early-morning drink vendors, a new Metro station, the return of the paddle boats and the fountain, and large community festivals attracting thousands. In 2007, Levitt Pavilion MacArthur Park opened, offering over 50 free concerts each summer and attracting families from around the city. Most recently, in 2005 the park was celebrated for having the highest reduction of crime statistics per resident in the United States.

In 2007, the paddle boats returned.[15] They were available for rent on the weekends in 2009.[16][17] By early 2010, the boathouse was closed. Eventually, the paddle boats were removed. The boathouse was torn down in 2014.

Popular culture

  • MacArthur Park is famous for the song named after it, written by Jimmy Webb and first performed by Richard Harris in 1968. Ten years later, American singer Donna Summer released a multi-million selling vinyl single disco version of MacArthur Park. In 2013, Jimmy Webb returned to the Levitt Pavilion to sing the iconic song in MacArthur Park for the first time.
  • MacArthur Park/Westlake Park and its boats figure prominently as the scene of a murder in the 1949 film noir Killer Bait (also known as Too Late for Tears) with Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea and Arthur Kennedy.
  • MacArthur Park is featured in the 2008 video game Midnight Club: Los Angeles.
  • In the Simpsons episode "A Fish Called Selma", Troy McClure's agent, voiced by Jeff Goldblum, is named "MacArthur Parker."[18]
  • The MacArthur Park bandshell was painted by local artists and graffiti artists under the direction of Otis Parsons. Some of the artists involved were: Robert Williams, Skill, John "Zender" Estrada, Hector "Hex" Rios, Geo, Exit, Trip, Hate Prime, Relic, Galo "MAKE" Canote, RickOne and others.[19][20] Some of the artwork was featured in the book Spray Can Art by Henry Chalfant and Jim Prigoff.
  • The park was the setting for Joseph Wambaugh's novel The Choirboys.
  • MacArthur Park was featured in the 1997 film Volcano, as well as the 2005 film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
  • MacArthur Park was also featured in the 2001 Sundance film MacArthur Park.[21]
  • In one episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Carlton Banks decides to take a trip to MacArthur Park after dark in an attempt to win a bet and prove to Will that he can "make it" in Compton, California.
  • In Grand Theft Auto San Andreas the Park caled Glen Park
  • In the horror novel World War Z it is said that MacArthur Park is being used as a potato farm.
  • Jimmy Webb's song "MacArthur Park" is referenced in the Michelle Shocked song "Come a Long Way": "I heard the screams of the dying dark/Through the sweet green icing of MacArthur Park."
  • The song "Leave It" by the progressive rock group Yes, from the album 90125, includes the line "MacArthur Park in the driving snow".
  • In the Gym Class Heroes music video for Cupid's Chokehold (the As Cruel as School Children version) directed by Alan Ferguson, Travis McCoy and fictitious girlfriend Katy Perry meet in MacArthur Park along with dancing cupids
  • In the movie Training Day, Jake stops two drug addicts from raping a 14-year-old girl near MacArthur Park.
  • Rob Dyrdek's MTV show Rob & Big featured MacArthur Park in an episode where Rob broke two skateboarding world records bringing his total that day to a total of 21 separate skateboarding world records.
  • The song "Lazy Days" by the pop group Shwayze, from the album Shwayze, mentions "walkin' through MacArthur Park."
  • In the film Havoc, Allison meets Hector in MacArthur Park the afternoon before she is arrested.
  • In the film Money Talks, Chris Tucker's character named Franklin Hatchet goes to a nightspot looking for someone named Aaron. A doorman opens and Franklin proceeds to explain how he knows Aaron. "Tell him I was there when he shot Baby Bro at MacArthur Park."
  • On the television show The Shield, Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) instructs a Salvadoran gangster Guardo Lima (Luis Antonio Ramos) to place $50,000 in a trash can by the lake.
  • MacArthur Park also appeared in the Numb3rs episode "Hangman" (season 6, episode 1).
  • MacArthur Park is featured in the 2011 video game L.A. Noire.
  • MacArthur Park is featured in the 2011 FX series American Horror Story.
  • In the 1987 sci-fi thriller The Hidden, a sociopathic alien that can possess human bodies leads the Los Angeles Police Department on a high-speed car chase through MacArthur Park.
  • The bridge that inspired Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to write "Under the Bridge" is sometimes claimed to be in MacArthur Park.
  • MacArthur Park plays a large part in a story Harris Wittels shares on an episode of the podcast, You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes. In the episode, Wittels mentions going to the park, several times, trying to buy heroin after relapsing following a stint in rehab.

See also


  1. ^ "It's General MacArthur Not Westlake Park From Now On," Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1942, 1
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth", Blake Glumprecht, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1969,
  6. ^ MacArthur Park Swans Welcome Two Cygnets: Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File). Los Angeles, Calif.:Apr 26, 1958. p. 3 (1 pp.)
  7. ^ Filipino Veterans Chain Selves to Statue in Protest
  8. ^ Filipino Veterans Benefit in Stimulus Bill
  9. ^ - Beyond Blade Runner: Urban Control (1)
  10. ^ MacArthur Park Lake's muddy bottom yields raw materials for free-form sculptures that are also time capsules
  11. ^ a b c
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Weary Paddle Boats Are Returning To Echo Park Lake ( visited 2/14/2012)
  16. ^ Pedaling around MacArthur Park ( visited 2/14/2012)
  17. ^ This will be your last weekend to ride the Echo Park Lake pedal boats ( visited 2/14/2012)
  18. ^
  19. ^ Robert Williams, Skill, John Zender Estrada, Hector "Hex" Rios, Geo, Exit, Trip, Hate, Prime, and others, Underpass murals, MacArthur Park, Los Angeles
  20. ^ Sculptural and Mural Works in MacArthur Park and in Lafayette Park, Los Angeles
  21. ^

External links

  • Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks - MacArthur Park
  • Levitt Pavilion - MacArthur Park
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