The Highland Park community of Los Angeles is just northeast of Downtown and is considered part of NELA. It’s main street – Figueroa Street – was part of the Transitional (1932-1934) and Alternate (1936-1940) Alignments of Route 66. This main drag was replaced on December 30, 1940 with the Arroyo Seco Parkway, which would itself become Route 66. Thus, Highland Park is the first community along Route 66 to be bypassed by a freeway.

Highland Park has always been an innovator and an originator in Los Angeles. It was an early artists’ community and its vibrant art and music scene is still on vivid display today. That arts scene began with the California Plein Air movement in the late 1800’s with artists such as Franz Bischoff, Alson Skinner Clark, and husband and wife artists Elmer Wachtel and Marion Kavanaugh. Today, countless galleries share NELA Second Saturday Gallery Night, a tradition that has been ongoing for more than a decade now.

Quite a few landmarks make Highland Park a must-see on your Route 66 exploration of Los Angeles. The most famous is probably Chicken Boy, the western-most of the so-called “Muffler Men” along Route 66. Located at 5558 N. Figueroa, Chicken Boy is just a short walk from the Highland Theatre (5604 N. Figueroa), designed by L.A. Smith and opened on 5 March, 1925. Two historic signs along Figueroa have been relit through community efforts: the Highland Theatre rooftop sign as well as the Mannings Coffee Store sign (5705 N. Figueroa).

Perfectly located along the Metro Gold Line (light rail), Route 66 here can be easily walked and explored in detail from the Highland Park Station south to either the Southwest Museum or Heritage Square stations.

By Scott Piotrowski