The land on which Griffith Park sits was once a part of a Spanish settlement known as Rancho Los Feliz. The Spanish Governor of California bequeathed it to Corporal Vincente Feliz in the 1770s.
The land stayed in the Feliz family for over a century, being subdivided through generations, until Griffith J. Griffith, a wealthy mining speculator, purchased what remained of the rancho in 1882.
In 1896, Griffith donated the land to the people of Los Angeles and Griffith Park became one of the largest urban parks, greatly exceeding that of NYC's Central Park, in the United States.
Here are five things you may or may not know about LA's very own Griffith Park:
Great Park for a Great City: Griffith J. Griffith was born in Wales in 1850 and came to America as a teenager. He worked as a journalist and mining advisor before making his fortune in Mexican silver mines and, subsequently, southern California real estate.
During a tour abroad, Griffith had discovered the great public parks of Europe and decided that his home, Los Angeles, would need a "Great Park" for the public in order to become a great city. On December 16, 1896, he donated 3,015 acres of Rancho Los Felis to the City of Los Angeles in order to create a public park in his name.
Autry National Center: Located in Griffith Park, the Autry National Center of the American West, is a museum dedicated to exploring and sharing the stories, experiences, and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West. The center is named after Gene Autry, the legendary recording and movie star whose career spanned some 60 years in the entertainment industry.
On display in the Autry’s galleries are significant Native American objects and depictions of the American West by famous artists and entertainers. The Autry's collection of more than 500,000 pieces of art and artifacts includes the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, one of the largest and most significant in the United States.
Griffith Observatory: 1912, Griffith J. Griffith offered the City of Los Angeles $100,000 for an observatory to be built on the top of Mount Hollywood to be fully owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles. The dedication and formal opening of Griffith Observatory took place amid much fanfare on May 14, 1935.
The observatory has been featured in numerous tv shows and movies, most notably the classic film, Rebel Without A Cause, and features a bronze bust of the late James Dean just outside the dome.
L.A. Zoo: In 1912 the original Griffith Park Zoo opened it's doors to the people of L.A. with much fanfare and 15 animals. By the 1956 the Griffith Park Zoo had outgrown its facility and Angelenos approved a new bond to build a bigger, grander zoo on 133 acres within Griffith Park. In 1966 the L.A. Zoo and Botanical Gardens were opened to the public.
The abandoned Griffith Park Zoo is still standing and has become an eerie, yet popular location for tourists, locals and movies alike.
Griffith Park Railroads: There are several attractions in Griffith Park related to trains, including a Railroad Museum devoted to the preservation of locomotives through model trains
The miniature train, Griffith Park Southern Railroad has served the public since 1948. The track stretches over a mile and takes the rider through a lush green meadow, through an old Western town, and past a Native American village.
In addition, Griffith Park is home to Walt Disney's personal train collection.