The History of the Echo Park Chamber of Commerce
1961 was a hopeful year. The conformist fifties were over. A vibrant, youthful John F. Kennedy had just been inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States. Disneyland had been drawing visitors from across the country to Anaheim for a mere six years. In Los Angeles the man who brought the Dodgers to Chavez Ravine, Mayor Norris Poulson, had just been replaced by colorful, outspoken Sam Yorty, newly sworn in as the city's 47th mayor. The Los Angeles Dodgers, winners of the 1959 World Series, were playing ball to crowds of fans at the Los Angeles Coliseum while team owner Walter O'Malley waited for Dodger Stadium's completion.
In bustling Echo Park twenty-six hopeful businessmen decided to take their group, the Sunset Business Association, to its next stage. On April 10th 1961 they incorporated as the Echo Park Chamber of Commerce with half of them named as directors of the new corporation. The new directors' businesses were spread out along Sunset Boulevard from 1572 Sunset (near Portia Street) to 1927 Sunset.
Although the men whose names appear on that 1961 document are unknown to us today, the corporation they founded has played a role in Echo Park life for nearly half a century.
The forty-six year old incorporation documents specify that the Chamber's interest is in the "general area of the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue, extending one mile from the center of this intersection in all directions"--more than three square miles of big and small businesses, offices and residences.
The Chamber's stated purposes include promoting the interests of business and property owners with "goodwill, publicity and advertising", as well as arranging "special events and celebrations, such as Spring and Fall sales" and encouraging good community relations.
Over the years the Chamber has made the Echo Park business district a welcoming place for its residents: putting on parades, planting street trees, and hosting events. The Chamber has championed many projects for Echo Park's business people, too. It's worked and lobbied for better parking, improved trash service, and cleaner sidewalks. To counteract street crime, the Chamber raised funds for an Echo Park police stop-in center.
If those old-time merchants and businessmen could have looked forward over five decades and seen their city today, I like to think they would still be as hopeful about the future as they must have been in 1961.
contributed by Susan Borden