California Scenic Drives: Arroyo Seco Parkway

The History of the Arroyo Seco Parkway

The Arroyo Seco Parkway was the prototype of the world-famous Los Angeles freeway system. Its significance in California's highway history is highlighted by its designation as an American Civil Engineering Landmark.

The Arroyo Seco Historic Parkway is also California's first and only state historic parkway and is nationally recognized as one of the most significant roadways of the 20th century.

The megalopolis of Los Angeles actually began as just a small settlement of a colony of settlers from Mexico. The Arroyo Seco Historic Parkway lies nearly adjacent to that original settlement, El Pueblo del Nuestra Signora, La Rena de Los Angeles. The site contains more than 20 historic buildings, many of which can be viewed or are now museums.

Cultural Qualities of the Arroyo Seco Parkway

If it's culture you desire, you'll find plenty of it on your scenic drive along the Arroyo Seco Parkway. The Arroyo Seco was the center for the Arts and Crafts movement on the West Coast and is one of four internationally recognized centers of the movement in America.

The Arts and Crafts movement started in the United Kingdom between the late 1850s and early 1860s and was characterized by a disregard for industrialization. Followers of the movement built their own houses out of as many natural materials as possible and handcrafted as much of their environment as possible.

By the late 1890s, the movement had worked its way to America, having significant influence on the Arroyo culture throughout the first two decades of the 20th century. The movement gave rise to thriving enterprises, including furniture design and manufacturing, home plans and kits, ceramics, glasswork, metalwork, and textiles.

The influence of the Arts and Crafts movement on the Arroyo Seco culture is most evident in the architecture of many of the structures along the byway. Bungalows along the byway are built of all-natural materials and feature wide porches and long roof overhangs. Additionally, almost all of the buildings feature native Arroyo cobblestone trim, collected from the river of the valley.

Find more useful information related to the Arroyo Seco Parkway:

  • The Arroyo Seco Parkway is just one of many scenic byways in California. Check out more California scenic drives.
  • Are you interested in scenic drives beyond California? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • The Los Angeles area is brimming with things to do. Get some great ideas, including restaurant and hotel suggestions, by looking at this Los Angeles City Guide.
  • Death Valley National Park is only 300 miles from Los Angeles. See this guide to visiting Death Valley National Park.
  • Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage by reading How to Drive Economically.