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When Eden Was Thataway

April 26, 1998|Jim Heimann

Geography in the Los Angeles Basin has provided the city with some of the most dramatic vistas of any urban environment. From the Griffith Observatory to the Getty Museum, the city as seen from the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains is the view most often peddled to the rest of the world as "quintessential L.A." But before the lights of Hollywood made this southern cityscape the preferred one, the other view, looking north from Palos Verdes Peninsula, was the one that graced most Chamber of Commerce brochures beckoning visitors to sample our modern-day Eden. Often idealized, the tableau usually featured piers, flower fields and a sprawling agricultural and industrial metropolis.

The La Venta Inn, on a hilltop crest overlooking the Santa Monica Bay, is a vantage point that still retains this popular 1920s view. The Spanish-influenced inn, built from 1923-'24, was part of a grand real estate promotion to sell property in the surrounding Rancho Palos Verdes development. Intended as a wayside manor to accommodate overnight guests considering a lot purchase, today it plays host mainly to social functions and wedding parties. On a clear day, the sight is spectacular: a panorama from Redondo Beach to West L.A. to downtown high-rises. While visits are limited to times when La Venta is unoccupied, viewers are welcome to stop and take in the vista that time forgot.

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