A Historic and Tasty Trip to Downtown Los Angeles

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Angels Flight reopened on Hill Street, between Third and Fourth streets, a half-block from its original location. – Courtesy photo

By Greg Aragon

When my mom was little she used to take a tiny trolley up and down the side of a hill in downtown Los Angeles for 5 cents. After riding she would walk across the street for lunch at Grand Central Market. This always sounded fun to me, so when I heard that the train is still open to the public I decided to follow in her footsteps and make a getaway out of it.

Known as “the world’s shortest railway,” Angels Flight was originally built in 1901 by Col. J.W. Eddy to transport people between downtown shopping district below with the upper residential district of Bunker Hill. The “railway” is actually a funicular with two cars, Olivet and Sinai, that work together on a single cable.

The trolley was a hit with locals until the city grew, and the once high-rent district of Bunker Hill, with its signature Victorian homes, deteriorated into blight. This continued until the late 1960s when the whole area was razed and replaced with office buildings. The changes signaled the end of Angels Flight, as it was dismantled and stored in a warehouse.

The train sat in storage for more than two decades until a group of concerned citizens prodded the city to rebuild it. Then in 1996, a restored Angels Flight reopened on Hill Street, between Third and Fourth streets, a half-block from its original location. The new Angels Flight cost $4 million to restore and was rebuilt with 60 percent of its original material, including railcars, station house, and two station arches.

After another closure in 2013, the rail line finally reopened in 2017 and has since been running pretty regular, connecting travelers between Downtown L.A.’s historic core and the modern financial district atop the hill. The ride lasts about two minutes and costs $1. The journey is highlighted by the beautiful California Plaza Watercourt at the top, and historic Grand Central Market at the bottom.

After riding the trolley a couple times, I walked across Hill Street to the historic Grand Central Market for some more history and a memorable lunch. Dating back to 1917, the market features aisle after aisle of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry and fresh fish from California and around the world, all wrapped in a living postcard of early Los Angeles.

The market began its importance at a time when Broadway was the principal commercial and entertainment street of downtown Los Angeles. Bunker Hill, to the west, was lined with beautiful Victorian mansions, and the area’s stylish residents rode down on Angels Flight to shop for groceries in the Market’s open air arcade.

“The Market has always reflected the changing population of downtown, and in the 1920s our ninety-plus vendors included multiple green grocers, fishmongers, Jewish delis, and butchers, as well as stalls for dry goods, baked goods, flowers, coffee, cheese, notions—and even one vendor who sold nothing but eggs,” reads the market’s website. “DTLA has been evolving ever since, and the market has continued to evolve with it.”

From tasty tacos and Mexican food at Ana Maria’s to sandwiches and pastries at Wexler’s Deli, the market has something for every taste bud. For my lunch I discovered Villa Moreliana, where I  enjoyed slow-cooked carnitas the same was it is prepared in Michoacan, Mexico, the traditional birthplace of the succulent shredded pork dish.

A great way to get to Angles Flight and Grand Central Market is to take the Gold Line from Pasadena to Union Station in Los Angeles. From here, take the Red Line subway Civic Center and walk a couple blocks south on Hill Street.

Angles Flight Railway is located on Hill and 4th Street. The Railway’s Top Station is located at California Plaza, 350 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles 90071. The Lower Entrance is located at 351 South Hill Street, Los Angeles 90013, across from Grand Central Market. Angels Flight is open every day from 6:45 am to 10 pm, including weekends and holidays. The fare is $1.00 each way, and you can purchase a souvenir round-trip ticket for $2.00 to take a piece of history home with you.

Grand Central Market is located at 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, 90013. Hours: everyday 8am – 10pm. For more info, visit: www.grandcentralmarket.com