Taylor Yard Interpretive Project

Taylor Yard Interpretive Project. Los Angeles Explorers Guild.

Taylor Yard Interpretive Project

In the center of the expansive Rio de Los Angeles State Park, you’ll find a bench artfully designed with ceramic tiles that tell the history of the park.

The Story of Taylor Yard

The Taylor Yard Interpretive Project tells the story of the Rio de Los Angeles State Park, commonly known as as Taylor Yard, and the story of this land is as long as the story of Los Angeles itself.

The Taylor Yard Interpretive Project tells the long story of the land known as Taylor Yard. Photo from the author’s collection.

The area was first used by the Tongva people as a source of food, water, and spiritual sustenance. Under Spanish rule, after the Portola Expedition passed through, the area became the 36,000-acre expanse known as the Rancho San Rafael. It was granted to Jose Maria Verdugo in 1784.

Over the next 100 years or so, the land of the rancho was was sub-divided into smaller parcels. In the late 1890s, J. Hartley Taylor, the proprietor of the Taylor Grocery and Taylor Milling Company, purchased one of these parcels, which is how the area became known as Taylor Yard. On his 247 acre lot Taylor grew oats and barley and operated a hog farm.

By the mid-1920s, due to an influx of people and commerce to Los Angeles, the Southern Pacific Railroad was outgrowing its home at the River Station, a plot of land that’s home to the Los Angeles State Historic Park today. In order to expand its operations, the railroad bought Taylor Yard, and moved its maintenance and freight-switching services there.

This rail yard operated at Taylor Yard until the end of 1985. The buildings were razed a few years later, leaving the lot a barren wasteland. L.A. County bought part of the land in 1991.

The plot sat unused until 2003 when, after much lobbying from numerous community organizations, the River Project was given a grant from the Taylor Family and the California Parks Foundation to turn the long-neglected area into a park.

Artist and community credit on the Taylor Yard Interpretive Project. Photo from the author’s collection.

Today the park offers the community children’s playgrounds, community rooms, picnic facilities, a baseball diamond, a soccer field, and tennis and basketball courts. There is also a series of inter-connected walking paths through the park, along which you’ll find the decorative bench that makes up the Taylor Yard Interpretive Project.

A Bench for Interpretation

The Taylor Yard Interpretive Site, sitting at the heart of the Rio de Los Angeles State Park, is a broken-tile bench that is meant to look like the meandering Los Angeles River. It’s covered by hand-painted tiles that tell the chronological story of the plants, animals, and people who have made this land home over the last 300-plus years.

The Taylor Yard Interpretive Project is meant to look like a flowing river. Photo from the author’s collection.

The project was completed by artist Suzanne Siegel who worked with children from the Aragon Avenue Elementary School to create the style of the bench, the images on the tiles, and the story they would tell. The Arroyo Arts Collective also contributed tiles to the project.

The Future of Taylor Yard

Although the 279-acre Rio de Los Angeles State Park was finished in 2007, it’s part of a much larger green space initiative that’s now planned to be completed in time for the 2028 Olympic Games (although the pandemic seems to have slowed this plan somewhat).


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Taylor Yard Interpretive Project


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Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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