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“Oldest Los Angeles” Author Mimi Slawoff at Chevalier’s Books Wednesday

“Oldest Los Angeles” author Mimi Slawoff will be at Chevalier’s tomorrow evening at 6 pm to talk about her new book. (photos from Mimi Slawoff)


Local history fans, there’s a new book out there you’ll want to add to your library: “Oldest Los Angeles” by travel writer and LA native Mimi Slawoff.  Slawoff will be at Chevalier’s Books tomorrow evening talking about the latest book to celebrate our city’s heritage. The book features 84 easy-to-read vignettes on local landmarks, some that are very well known and others that finally get their moment in the limelight, telling the stories of people as well buildings.

Slawoff, a former photo journalist for the LA Daily News turned travel writer, was approached by Reedy Press to write a book about Los Angeles for its series “Oldest.” She told the Buzz she spent a year doing the research, gathering stories during the pandemic while many venues were still closed.

“I started the project where the city started, writing about the “Oldest Los Angeles District” where El Pueblo de Los Angeles marks the birthplace of the city,” Slawoff told us when we spoke to her Monday about how she put the book together.

Pico House (built 1869-70), L.A.’s first three-story building and luxury hotel, in El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. (It no longer serves as a hotel)

Using her local knowledge as a starting point, Slawoff reached out to local experts like historian Mike Lawler, Emily Wooten at the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument and Betty Uyeda, Collections Manager at the Seaver Center for Western History at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County for additional ideas and information.

“I organized the book as day trips with the boundaries of Los Angeles County so readers could make a day of a visit to a special place,” said Slawoff, who also shot almost all the photos herself. The book covers Hollywood, West LA, South Bay, San Gabriel Valley/Crescenta Valley, San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, and Santa Catalina Island.

“I think readers might be surprised what they find in the book,” said Slawoff. “I have lived here all my life but I never knew about some of these locations. It also got me out to see things I knew about but never took the time to see like Hollyhock House, the “Oldest Frank Lloyd Wright House” built in 1919 in Barnsdall Art Park. I also got to know downtown LA much better, it was great to walk around and use Metro!”

Highland Park Bowl (one of my favorite “discoveries”), which opened in 1927 during the prohibition and served medicinal alcohol. It’s an old-school bowling alley with exposed pinsetters. Fun!

Slawoff even surprised herself with the research learning about places that she’d never heard of like the Italian Hall built in 1908 at 644 N Main Street. Once the focal point of the Italian American community in Los Angeles that fell into disrepair but was saved and is now the site of the 5,000 square foot Italian American Museum of Los Angeles operated by the City of Los Angeles and the Historic Italian Hall Foundation.

There’s also the story of the oldest grapevine at the San Gabriel Mission that were recently traced to a direct descendant of plantings made by Father Junipero Serra in the 1770s, according to DNA testing by UC Davis.

Locally, Slawoff notes that we are lucky enough to have the oldest neighborhood bookstore, our beloved Chevalier’s Books, where you can see Slawoff in person on Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. You can RSVP here.

The Buzz video chatted with author Mimi Slawoff yesterday.


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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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