Ballona Institute Publication
American Bald Eagle

Ballona to Mesmer: History Trivia in 1914

Robert Jan "Roy" van de Hoek
Conservation Biologist & Avian Ecologist
Ballona Institute
322 Culver Blvd. Suite 317 Playa del Rey, CA 90293

A frenchman immigrated to Los Angeles in 1859. His name was Louis Mesmer. Shortly thereafter, the Civil War breaks out in 1861. Louis Mesmer becomes the baker for the fort in Mar Vista Hill called Camp Latham. After the Civil War, railroads come to Los Angeles. Louis Mesmer is involved in politics and real estate. A placename is on the map and the railroad comes close by. It is called Mesmer. Louis Mesmer has a son, whose name is Joseph Mesmer. He carries on the family tradition in politics. He exposes corruption in city elections and the issue of sewers in Los Angeles. He prevents a sewer line from running alongside Ballona Creek to Playa del Rey. In 1914, he is quoted in a Flood Control Report for the County of Los Angeles. In that passage, Louis Mesmer recalls his growing up in Los Angeles via knowledge about the Los Angeles River and its route toward the sea through downtown Los Angeles, USC, Exposition Park, La Cienega, and Culver City. Here is his quote from 91 years ago:

"There was a well-defined channel 15 to 20 feet wide and six to eight feet deep passing about the intersection of 9th and Hope Streets, in a southwesterly direction out towards Exposition Park and into the Cienega. The Cienega drains into the Ballona. It is certain that the Los Angeles River has flowed into Ballona Bay ... from the indications of the soil it is perfectly evident that it has been no long period ago."

LeRoy Abrams, a famous botanist of California from Stanford University, collected plants from Ballona Creek, Playa del Rey, Culver City, and Mesmer, in 1899-1904. He collected some interesting wetland plants, prairie plants, sand dune plants, and riparian plants from Mesmer, Port Ballona, and Culver City. The Ballona Institute has his field notes, books, and published articles about Port Ballona, Culver City, and Mesmer. You can glimpse one of his articles at the following web site:Le Roy Abrams Anthology.

This brief history report is the result of research on the early Los Angeles River and through conversation with Jessica Hall. It is my hope to have the Los Angeles River have a small portion of its runoff pass through the railroad yards of downtown Los Angeles, then flow toward Exposition Boulevard, then flow between USC and LA County Museum of Natural History in the median which is public land and is the route of the former railroad. Make this a park rather than a light rail system. And then finally to see the Los Angeles River reconnect with Ballona Creek in Culver City. If approximately 1-5% of the Los Angeles River, which is cleaned at filter/pumping plant in the railroad yard, then put in a firm bed of impervious gravel-based cement with clean pebbles, gravel, cobbles, and the downward gradient of Exposition Boulevard toward the sea followed to Ballona Creek, Steelhead Trout and salmon could spawn near USC. The young salmon would swim down the river in the middle of Exposition Boulevard, hence into Ballona Creek and out to sea. What a sight to see the fish jumping in Ballona Creek by a Culver Moon. Jackson Browne has an awesome song on his guitar about the fish jumping in Ballona Creek by a Culver Moon. The name of the album is Looking East. Get the tape or CD and listen to the song. You'll like it and the vision of a living river will begin to grow on you. By the way, Jackson Browne endorsed me in my bid for Malibu City Council. In his spirit, he wanted me to assist in the healing of the Malibu River by removal of Rindge Dam and to see salmon in Malibu Lagoon and Malibu River again.