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On Faith, Hope and Charity

December 08, 1985|EVELYN De WOLFE

There was a time when Angelenos took the straight path home along Faith, Hope and Charity streets.

But certain residents of our fair city didn't want to live on Charity, so they opted for a grander name. Why not Grand Avenue?

Los Angeles' streets had predominantly Spanish names in those days but were gradually anglicized: Aceituna (Olive), Loma (Hill), Flores (Flower), Primavera (Spring). Calle Principal became Main Street and Calle Fortin was changed to Fort Street and later Broadway.

Some of the early streets bore distinctive monikers. Figueroa Street had been Grasshopper Street. At the time of the American occupation, Calle de los Chapules (the original Spanish name) marked the western border of the pueblo.

Each year, during a dry spell, grasshoppers left the cienegas (swamps), around what is now Marina del Rey, and headed in the direction of Los Angeles looking for vegetation to feed on.

They were usually spotted over Grasshopper Street and, when that happened, the grape growers prepared for the devastation.

One street in a bawdy district north of the Plaza Church was aptly named Calle de Eternidad. There life was cheap and often ended abruptly, so it was not surprising that the street led directly to Campo Santo, the city's cemetery.

The Virgins Street, which appears on current street maps as Alpine, was noted less for the presence of virtue and more for the lack of morals.

Nigger Alley or the Calle de los Negros became perhaps the most notorious of Los Angeles' streets. It was once described as a "pandemonium of races, gambling, vice and crime."

Dozens of Chinese lived in adobe hovels in Nigger Alley where on the evening of October 26, 1871, there was a dispute between two rival tongs, resulting in the death of a gringo . That touched off a five-hour orgy of shooting, stabbing and looting that left 19 Chinese dead.

Originally known as Wine Street, today's Olvera Street by the 0ld Plaza Church, was renamed for one of Los Angeles' early residents, Augustin Olvera, the first county judge.

Close by, a small street was named Arcadia for the city's prize beauty and not for its rural simplicity.

Senorita Arcadia Bandini would be pleased to know her street name has remained unchanged since 1841.

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