In the early 1870s, when Los Angeles was a rough-and-tumble frontier town with a population of 10,000, a group of public-spirited citizens dreamed of establishing a university in the region. It took nearly a decade for this vision to become reality, and when USC first opened its doors to 53 students and 10 teachers in 1880, Los Angeles still lacked paved streets, electric lights or telephones.
Through the years, USC has remained committed to its original University Park neighborhood as well as to its “new” Boyle Heights/Lincoln Heights neighborhood, which has housed the Health Sciences campus since its opening in 1952. Both areas are among the most culturally vibrant and historically significant in the city.
University Park Campus Neighborhood
The development of Los Angeles’ University Park neighborhood began with the creation of Agricultural Park (now Exposition Park) in 1872, followed by the opening of the university eight years later. The extension of streetcar lines to these institutions from downtown, in combination with a doubling of Los Angeles’ population in the 1890s, led to the rapid growth of residential neighborhoods just north and west of USC.
By 1910, University Park was completely subdivided, with fine residences being erected in the elite enclaves of Chester Place and St. James Park, near the intersection of West Adams Boulevard and Figueroa Street. Soon, middle- and upper-class homes in styles ranging from Queen Anne to Mission Revival began to fill the surrounding neighborhoods, followed by institutional structures such as the Automobile Club of Southern California, St. Paul’s Cathedral and St. Vincent de Paul Church.
Today, USC’s University Park campus has grown to some 229 acres anchoring the southern end of the Los Angeles Downtown Arts and Education Corridor. It is home to the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and 15 of the university’s 17 professional schools.
Exposition Park has evolved as well. Visitors to the area today can venture back to prehistoric times at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, look to the future of science and technology at the California Science Center, take a stroll in one of the country’s largest rose gardens or watch sporting events at the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games and home to USC Trojan Football.
Today’s University Park neighborhood contains an outstanding array of museums, galleries, theatres, sport venues, gardens, libraries and churches. With its rich mixture of education and entertainment, art and culture, the past and the future, the University Park neighborhood offers exciting discoveries for people all ages.
The 79-acre USC Health Sciences campus is located northeast of Downtown Los Angeles and adjacent to Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center, a partner of the university’s medical school since 1885. Housing the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the School of Pharmacy, programs in occupational sciences and physical therapy, and research laboratories for the School of Dentistry as well as three major teaching hospitals, this campus is a focal point for students, patients and scientists from around the world.
The neighborhoods surrounding the Health Sciences campus are steeped in cultural and historical significance. Once called Paredon Blanco (White Bluffs), Boyle Heights is located just south of the campus and east of Downtown Los Angeles. The area was dominated by vineyards and grazing land until the 1850s, when Andrew Boyle purchased land and built a mansion on what is today Boyle Avenue. His son-in-law, William Workman, a city councilman who later served as mayor and city treasurer, subdivided the land in the 1870s, named the area in honor of his late father-in-law, and fought for an irrigation aqueduct to make the land habitable as well as for transportation to make it accessible. When his efforts paid off, Boyle Heights became one of the garden spots of the city.
Lincoln Heights, to the north of the campus, experienced its first significant development in the 1880s and 1890s. Originally known as the Northeast Area, it acquired its current name after Lincoln High School was founded in 1914 and its principal campaigned to have the area named for the school.
Through the years, both communities have served as gateways for new immigrant groups, reflecting the cultural richness that diversity inevitably brings. In the early 20th century, Boyle Heights attracted large numbers of Armenians, Molokan Russians and Jews, and later Japanese and Mexican Americans. Lincoln Heights was home to Italians and Yugoslavs, who moved in around World War I, later giving way to Mexican Americans and Chinese residents.
Today, Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights are a mosaic of past and present, serving as home to many outstanding historical, educational, cultural and arts resources.