At the end of the 19th century, when the hills were still covered with native plants and grasses, a horse-drawn streetcar line served the dirt road that is now Echo Park Ave. The community of Echo Park was founded by Thomas Kelly, a carriage maker turned real estate developer. In the late 1880s Kelly teamed up with a group of local investors, selling off pieces of what they called “the Montana Tract.” Legend says that the lake got its name after workers building the reservoir remarked that their voices echoed off the canyon walls.
The Los Angeles film industry was centered in Echo Park before the studios moved to Hollywood, just before World War I. Mack Sennett’s studio was in Echo Park until the end of the silent era, and a large number of silent comedies were shot in the neighborhood, as were several Laurel and Hardy,Charlie Chaplin, Our Gang, Ben Turpin, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Charley Chase, Chester Conklin, and Three Stooges shorts. Tom Mix also built his studio just over the hill in the Silverlake area, and many Westerns were shot in hills of Echo Park, East Silverlake and the Elysian Hills. Some of the earliest screen performers, including Gloria Swanson and Tom Mix, bought homes in the Angelino Heights and surrounding neighborhoods before moving to Hollywood and other areas. Echo Park was named Edendale before the construction of the park itself, which can be seen vividly from private LA helicopter tours. The original name survives through the U.S. Post Office Edendale branch and the Edendale branch of the Los Angeles Public Library.