Neighborhood Spotlight: Hyde Park, affordable and transit-bound, is on the move again

One of the enduring foundational narratives of Los Angeles is that of an avaricious, almost malevolent, municipality that bided its time before unleashing a wave of annexation, devouring countless small towns in its mad dash to spread itself across all the land between City Hall and the sea.

This particular tale does get at some of the essential characteristics of Los Angeles: the restlessness, the ambition and, always, the profit motive of real estate developers. But in truth, the city annexed fewer than 10 independent towns, all of which voted to join Los Angeles on its march into a grand future.

One of those towns was Hyde Park, an agricultural settlement on the old Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad line that ran from downtown to the harbor.

Founded during the land boom of the 1880s, along with dozens of other subdivisions of old Spanish land grants that went bust before a single home could be built, Hyde Park leveraged its freight depot to carve out a niche as a shipping hub for nearby farmers.

A trolley extension in the 1900s helped the settlement lure home buyers by promising suburban living just 35 minutes from the city — an eternal L.A. real estate come-on that has lost none of its potency over the years.

By the 1920s, Los Angeles was beginning to encircle Hyde Park, and old-timers fearful of being absorbed voted the community into city-hood. The new municipality would prove to be short-lived, voting itself out of existence just two years later in order to avail itself of cheaper water, power and transit, courtesy of its patient suitor, the city of Los Angeles.

In the post-World War II years, Hyde Park became a popular home-buying destination for black Angelenos, many of whom were employed in the thriving South L.A. manufacturing belt. Unfortunately, the deindustrialization of the Southland, which began in the late 1960s, led to severe economic dislocation.

Today, Hyde Park is being connected with downtown, the airport and the new NFL stadium via the under-construction Metro Crenshaw Line, providing access to jobs for area residents. And the dream of finding affordable homes in the city is drawing new home buyers to invest in the neighborhood.