Schoolchildren from the East Valley YMCA in Van Nuys and Burbank Boulevard Elementary School in North Hollywood got to watch history in the making--or the unmaking--last week. City transportation officials and historical preservationists invited the youngsters to watch archeologists unearth a portion of a historic adobe's foundation at Campo de Cahuenga.
Too bad they will be the last children who get such a tour--unless, that is, the city takes steps to permanently display this remnant of its past.
The adobe is believed to be the site where Mexican Gen. Andres Pico and American Lt. Col. John C. Fremont signed the 1847 treaty that ended the Mexican-American War in California, eventually leading to the state's admission to the Union.
The structure was believed to date from 1845. But now historians believe that the adobe is much older, possibly a home or ranch quarters on Mission San Fernando's grazing properties.
Discovered because of subway construction, the exposed foundation will be surveyed, photographed, documented--and then covered over again because there are no funds to display it.
Another portion of the foundation, discovered in 1996, will be permanently paved over unless city officials reach a compromise over plans to widen Lankershim Boulevard.
On Thursday, the youngsters lucky enough to glimpse this piece of California's history started their tour in a replica of the original adobe adjacent to the excavation site. They listened to Angie Dorame Behrns, a member of the Gabrielino / Tongva Nation, talk about Los Angeles' earliest settlers.
The children's reactions? A renewed interest in their own family history. A desire to go to the library to do more research. A feeling of pride in the city's multiracial history.
Or, as 11-year-old Larissa Compton summed it up: "That's cool."
These are responses worth preserving. The foundation belongs on the National Register of Historic Places--and it belongs on display. We owe that much to today's children, and tomorrow's.