Salaices said many of the roadways and walkways in the park were also built in the 1930s as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (called the Work Projects Administration after 1939), meant to help put people back to work following the Great Depression. This made the park accessible via car and easier to navigate. The Observatory itself was also a WPA project.
Travel Town came about in 1952, displaying various pieces of transit history, including several trains. The idea came from William Frederickson, Jr., then the superintendent of recreation, who wanted children to be able to see airplanes up close. His quest to get a surplus airplane to display in a public park never came to fruition. However, Charles Atkins, a Parks department employee, pushed to get surplus rail cars for display, writing a letter to the D. W. Russell, president of the Southern Pacific Company. Russell agreed to give the City Engine 3025, a 115-ton locomotive that once ferried presidents and politicians. After Travel Town received its first locomotive, other cars and vehicles began to roll in, including a circus wagon from Beverly Amusement and a one-horse shay from Knott’s Berry Farm. Travel Town now boasts a vast collection of railcars and vehicles, though you can still pop by Engine 3025’s cab.
“The most interesting recent Griffith Park discovery for [Esotouric] is that Travel Town was for many years the home of the 18th century French siege cannon captured during the Spanish-American War that was removed from Pershing Square in 1951, and long thought to be lost. In fact, children like myself were using it like a jungle gym until a curator at the Maritime Museum in San Pedro realized what it was and had the city move it to their back deck,” Cooper said. Cooper added that she’d like to see the cannon moved from Travel Town back to Pershing Square.
One of Salaices’ favorite trails, though one he says is often overlooked, can also be found near Travel Town: the Oak Canyon Trail. “It has these beautiful sycamore and oak tree groves that you can walk through. It really feels like you’re out in the middle of nowhere. It’s amazing.” It’s a relatively easy trail in the beginning, but serious hikers can take it the way to the Mineral Wells Trail. (Modern Hiker offers a good explainer here.)
The post-WWII years were good for Griffith Park, and not just because of Travel Town. James A. Doolittle took over the Greek and booked noteworthy headlines like Judy Garland and Harry Belafonte, as well as dance companies like Joffrey Ballet and Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project. When Doolittle died in 1997, Michael Blachly, then the director of the UCLA’s Center for the Performing Arts, said, “[Doolittle’s] vision, his commitment and his dedication to making Los Angeles a rich cultural treasure for California and our country was unparalleled. Jimmy took risks on presenting the performing arts before Los Angeles had a true cultural profile. For this we are indebted to him and can thank him for setting a foundation of culture in Southern California."
In the '60s, the park began to be a haven for counterculture. It attracted hippies, who held love-ins at Park Center, near the merry-go-round. They practiced yoga and formed drum circles. Then came motorcycle gangs and beatniks. In 1979, the Tetrick Trail Run emerged in Griffith Park. It was an 8-mile run on an old fire road that, on paper, seemed innocent enough. However, the mile markers were nude people who would pose for photos with runners as they reached each goal. A ranger later stated that event organizers did not mention that the mile markers would come in the form of nude models and noted that that little detail was against policy.
The Autry Museum of Western Heritage opened on November 22nd, 1988. Singing cowboy and entrepreneur Gene Autry cut a rope with a Bowie knife in front of guests including Willie Nelson and Charlton Heston. Today, the Autry contains a 7,000sqft garden that contains over 60 plant species native to California, in addition to its other gallery spaces.