Silver Lake, CA, is a diverse neighborhood filled with winding streets, a hilly topography, and an eclectic mix of residents ranging from young adults, diverse families seeking stroller-friendly streets, good schools, a community vibe, gay couples (who, by the way, were among the first to gentrify the area) artists, writers, musicians, blue-collar workers, and business mavens.
Attributed to its neighborhood feel and collection of edgy, one-off stylish indie stores, boutiques, go-to restaurants, bars, and artisanal coffee shops, Silver Lake effortlessly maintains the title of “America’s Best Hipster Neighborhood.”
Real Estate & Architecture
It is said, “Silver Lake is also home to some of the most avant-garde Modernist architecture in North America.”
Los Angeles’ big construction boom of the early 1920s attracted real estate developers and modernist architects to the neighborhood. Raphael Soriano, Gregory Ain, Richard Neutra, John Lautner, Rudolph Schindler, and Craig Ellwood were among those who designed the architectural houses of the community, resulting in the neighborhood becoming the place where “There are more architecturally esteemed homes per square mile in Silver Lake than in any other part of the City.”
Twenty-first-century architects like Barbara Bestor, Beth Holden of New Theme, and Gustavo Gubel, along with landscape architects Terremoto and developers like Elan Mordoch teaming up with Rios, Clementi, Hale Studios, continue to shape Silver Lake’s built environment in the modernist spirit.
On the Map
Silver Lake, CA, is five miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, CA, just West of Echo Park, East of Los Feliz, South of Atwater, and north of the 101 Freeway. It is predominantly divided between the zip codes 90026 and 90039, with part of Sunset Junction in 90029 and parts of Hyperion and Fountain Avenues in 90027.
Legend has it the verdant hills reminded Scotsman Hugo Reid of his home in Scotland. He called the neighborhood Ivanhoe after Sir Walter Reid’s famous romance novel. You’ll notice many of the streets in Silver Lake have either Scottish names or are named after characters in the book: Herkimer, Rowena, Kenilworth, Ben Lomond, Harwick, and St. George.
Today, the area gets its name from the Department of Water and Power’s Silver Lake Reservoir, which was named after Herman Silver, a member of Los Angeles’ first Board of Water commissioners. The Department of Water and Power established these reservoirs in the early 1900s as part of the citywide system of water storage and delivery that today has only ten open reservoirs remaining.
During the 1930s, Walt Disney moved out of his uncle’s tiny garage on Kingswell Street in Los Feliz into his first large studio at the corner of Griffith Park Blvd and Hyperion, where Gelson’s Market is now. A few blocks away on Glendale Blvd was the studio of Tom Mix. The location is now occupied by the Whole Foods 365 grocery chain, CVS, and other stores. It is rumored that Mix buried his steed “Tony, the Wonder Horse” on the property. The famous flight of stairs in Laurel and Hardy’s film The Music Box is located near Sunset Junction at the public staircase that connects Vendome Street (at the base of the hill) with Descanso Drive (at the top of the hill.)
Sunset Junction: I heart this hub of the neighborhood. The street junction of Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard was once where the Pasadena and Pacific Railway carried passengers from Downtown to Santa Monica. It was also where the nation watched as people at The Black Cat Tavern rioted in solidarity against police harassment in gay bars. And even later, it’s where the now defunct annual Sunset Junction Street Fair filled the streets with food trucks, local bands, and kiddie carnival rides.
Today, it remains the most lively section of the Silver Lake community.
3932 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029
Bringing a little bit of Paris to the ‘hood since the 90’s. Serving classic French bistro cuisine in an intimate setting. Indoor, outdoor, and wine bar side seating available. My favorite dish is the filet mignon accompanied by a glass of Pinot Noir.
3932 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029
The Parisian vibe continues just across the outdoor patio of Cafe Stella. Crafted cocktails include a list of your usual suspects like a classic martini, Manhattan, an old-fashioned, a mojito, as well as a Moscow Mule. And then seasonal mixes with names like Son of a Priest and Gold Jacket are thrown in for your salivating glands.
3922 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029
This is where my caffeine addiction started. It’s Intelligentsia’s first West Coast flagship store for these Chicago based coffee importers and roasters.
3909 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029
Here’s a fun fact: Harry Hay, considered by many to be the father of the modern gay rights movement, organized the pioneering gay rights group Mattachine Society. The Black Cat protests led to the creation of the now-defunct Sunset Junction street festival. Now this historic location related to the LGBTQ civil rights movement is an upscale gastropub.
Pine & Crane
1521 Griffith Park Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Self-described as, “a fast-casual Taiwanese-Chinese restaurant located in the heart of Silver Lake. Our goal is to bring you authentic, delicious Taiwanese-Chinese fare in a comfortable, modern setting. We are passionate about what we do, and take pride in preparing our food using simple, fresh ingredients.” The food is really delicious.
Shopping In Silver Lake, CA
1618 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
A vintage-modern furniture and home goods store offering an accessible alternative to mass-production or cliché knockoffs.
Mohawk General Store
4011 W Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90029
Where fashionistas shop to find designer apparel, shoes, swimwear, and lifestyle accessories for men & women.
Mollusk Surf Shop
3511 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026
They live up to being “a surfing institution” offering surfing newbies and pros a selection of unique surfboards, casual apparel for men, women, and kids, books, and art.
Things To Do In Silver Lake, CA
1717 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
1717 Silver Lake Blvd was formerly the home of Spaceland, the pulse of Eastside’s Indie music scene. Before they were famous bands like Beck, Foo Fighters, Elliott Smith and Weezer performed here. The Satellite continues the tradition by making stars of rising bands.
Silver Lake Reservoir
1854 – 2246 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026
There are two sections to the reservoir. The lower section is named after Herman Silver, a Water Board Commissioner of the early 1900s. The upper section takes its name from the book Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. It is one of the few open reservoirs remaining.
Recreational activities are abundant around the reservoir. The Silver Lake Recreational Center located on the South side of the reservoir offers a variety of sports programs for kids and teens. A 2.2 mile pathway surrounds the reservoir where joggers get their daily dose of fitness in by blazing around the pathway throughout the day. Outdoor fitness Boot Camps are very popular too. Many gather in the morning and evening hours to complete a grueling fitness regime sworn to get them in shape in a matter of weeks.
A dog park is adjacent to the Silver Lake Recreational Center and is a great place for throwing the ball around with man’s best friend.
On the north side, The Neighborhood Nursery School offers families with kids ages 3 -5 years old a great place to play and learn.
The Silver Lake Meadow is a park located on the North East end of the reservoir. The park is “passive space” meaning no dogs or organized sporting events. This green open space is a great place to throw a Frisbee around, fly a kite, do yoga, tai chi or simply relax.
Silver Lake Library
Remember books? Go here to read, study, rummage through archives or just gawk at the library’s architecture. The 13,600-square-foot building is part of the city’s Sustainable Design Implementation Program (SDIP). It’s the city’s newest eco friendly green library.
The neighborhood feel and community vibe is kept active by the resident’s keen interest in local issues.
This association is made up of volunteers. The primary purpose of the Silver Lake Residents Association (SLRA) is to promote and maintain the most desirable environment in the Silver Lake area and to contribute to the welfare of the community at large. Current activities include the LAPD Northeast Community Police Advisory Board, Neighborhood Council involvement, and the Silver Lake Improvement Association (SLIA) to work on the Silver Lake Reservoir Master Plan. They also sponsor an annual block party. The cost to join is $15/year per household.
Also made up of volunteers, the association was originally formed as a California non-profit corporation in 1988, named the Committee to Save Silver Lake’s Reservoirs (CSSLR). They organized in response to the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power’s proposed water quality projects at the Silver Lake Reservoir Complex. It is a single-issue organization that focuses on Silver Lake Reservoir issues. It’s also made up of volunteers. Today, “SLRC’s vision is to facilitate the transition of the decommissioned reservoir property and to explore new opportunities regarding open space, education, recreation, watershed, wildlife, native plants, natural habitats, and land use once the reservoirs go offline.”