Posted by: Brad Nixon | September 24, 2020

Close to Home: Angels Gate Park; the Old Fort on the Hill

The phrase, “stay close to home” may be wearing on many of you as the pandemic continues to inhibit travel.

You may complain if you wish.

Here at UWS, it’s a test of what is — if you hold me to what I’ve vowed for more than 10 years — one of this blog’s fundamental principles: You don’t have to go far to find interesting things; you simply have to look.

In the American idiom, that’s called “put up or shut up.”

I’m looking.

I’m looking for places to take long walks relatively free of crowds of people not wearing masks (which rules out the popular walks on the bluffs of the Pacific Ocean, right off).

I’m looking for sites, locations, buildings I’ve walked or driven past dozens, scores or hundreds of times without paying attention.

Welcome to Angels Gate Park

Angels Gate Pano Brad Nixon 680

Late in the 19th century, as the Port of Los Angeles grew into a major port, President Grover Cleveland declared there would be a military installation to protect the port. In the next 20 years, what became Fort MacArthur would occupy the lower (entrance of the port), middle (administrative and housing) and upper (fortified gun emplacement) reservations. Like this one:

Battery Farley Catalina Brad Nixon 8172 (640x480)

I’ve written previously, at this link, about the well preserved historic gun batteries built high above the port on the upper reservation. It may be worth noting that they never fired a gun “in anger,” and were nothing but a nuisance to the local population, who occasionally had their windows shattered by the concussion of massive guns fired during training operations from the concrete bunkers.

Bunker Battery 1 Brad Nixon 8325 (640x453)

As World War II erupted, making it clear that the U.S. would be heavily engaged in military operations across the Pacific Ocean, Fort MacArthur (named for the father of future U.S. General Douglas MacArthur) became a key training center for thousands of soldiers bound for combat service.

In short order, in about 1942, dozens of buildings for barracks, administrative offices and support operations were constructed on the Upper Reservation overlooking the Port of Los Angeles.

Angels Gate 3 Brad Nixon 9357 680

After the War

At the end of the war, those buildings were abandoned: obsolete. Despite the hurried manner of their construction, and due to some preservation efforts, with help from the mild California climate, they still stand.

Angels Gate B Brad Nixon 9110 680

No longer part of a much-diminished Fort MacArthur, the Upper Reservation has been given to the City of Los Angeles, and is now Angels Gate Park.

It’s a quiet, little-known corner of the vast metropolis, offering panoramic views overlooking the ocean and the busiest container port in the U.S.

MV S9165-LR LA port-mts redo-680

The old buildings at the top of the hill now house a variety of artists and craftspeople, with studios, classrooms, performance spaces and galleries: Angels Gate Cultural Center.

Angels Gate H Brad Nixon 9351 680

What sort of artists work there? This picture gallery gives you an idea (Click on any image to expand it.):  

Not all of the former base is part of the Cultural Center. Several dozen buildings are vacant, clustered on the slopes of the high ground above the harbor, reminders of a day when the entire country mobilized itself almost overnight, built entire towns and converted existing industries from manufacturing washing machines or automobiles to building for war.

Angels gate bldgs Brad Nixon 9390 680

Today, it’s a quiet place to walk, overlooking the harbor, the ocean, and the Korean Friendship Bell, which I wrote about at this link.

Korean Bell Brad Nixon 9135 680

A few people show up late in the day up at Angels Gate Park to watch the sun set into the Pacific Ocean. At other times, there are only a few vehicles parked outside the old buildings: sculptors, painters, potters — perhaps even a writer or two — pursuing whatever it is that compels them to follow their craft.

Angles Gate E Brad Nixon 9353 680

The coasts of North America, Europe, Asia — everywhere — are lined with old, even ancient fortifications to ward off enemies that might appear: a sail, silhouetted, dark on the horizon. Or merely the threat that a sail might appear.

As the Book of Isaiah advised us to do, we occasionally manage to beat our swords into plowshares.

At Angels Gate, you can walk in a place like that, swords sheathed.

Let’s all go out, walk, and look. Who knows what we’ll see? 

Battery Farley ocean 2 Brad Nixon 8175 (640x480)

If you look closely at the above photo, that small figure is The Counselor, standing atop the old battery emplacement.

Where are you walking? What do you see that you’ve never taken time to see before? Please leave a comment.

© Brad Nixon 2020. Port overview photo © M. Vincent 2020, by kind permission.


  1. You have enlightened me once again. I’ve been there but didn’t see all the places you mentioned. I will be going back to “look’ more carefully. There is a cool train club in one of those buildings. Only open certain days. I took my grandson there and he loved it. More to see Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Gary. Drop me a line, and we’ll meet there. Lots to see. Note: the train club was not having open houses, the last time I checked, a few weeks ago, during the shutdown. Perhaps they’ve modified that. I do hope to visit them.


  2. All kinds of stuff we miss all the time. Some time ago my car died forcing me to traverse our town on foot. As I was walking down a street that I had never really paid much attention to, I discovered a tiny little “reflective” park. I later came back and ate my lunch there. As I sat there wondering how I had never seen this place before, I began to notice all kinds of interesting things about this tiny little park. Someone, actually several “someones”, put a lot of thoughtfulness into this place! All kinds of historical markers were contained inside it’s tiny little wrought iron fence.

    Liked by 1 person

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