AKA: Chutes Park, Baseball Stadium, South Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - recreation areas and structures - stadiums

Designers: [unspecified]

Dates: constructed 1900-1900, demolished 1910

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West 8th Street and South Hill Street
Downtown, Los Angeles, CA 90014

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The Los Angeles Improvement Company opened its Washington Gardens, (also known as Chutes Park), baseball venue in late 1900. The stadium occupied the northeast corner of a 35-acre amusement park developed between 1899 and 1903. One author has described the field: "The ballpark was to be part of an entertainment complex funded by the Los Angeles Improvement Company, an urban development corporation formed in the 1880s by venture capitalists from San Francisco and Los Angeles. The company obtained a ten-year lease on the property and invested one hundred thousand dollars to create an amusement park and Morley's baseball diamond. The stadium was to be designed in such a way that the center field fence divided it from the rest of the complex. At games's end, fans would pass through that fence via a big gate and amble past the animal cages into the amusement park, where they could spend the rest of the day for free." (See Dennis Snelling, The Greatest Minor League: A History of the Pacific Coast League, 1903-1957, [Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2012], p. 16.) The Los Angeles Improvement Company existed to provide the growing city of Los Angeles cultural and leisure facilities comparable to those existing in Eastern cities. In order to compete for new inhabitants in 1900, basic amenities needed to be put in place; for the middle class, this meant that a competitive city needed to have a decent mass-transit system, a public library, a park system, a first-class hotel (with meeting spaces for fraternal organizations and conventioneers), an opera house, and a baseball stadium. among other things. For the men of the Los Angeles Improvement Company paying for these attractive amenities, meant the eventual enhancement of their own personal fortunes. During its existence, the field accommodated both baseball and football games, but its primary users were baseball teams. Two teams of the Pacific Coast League, the Los Angeles Angels and the Vernon Tigers, used the facility, the former from 1903-1910, the latter during 1909-1910.

Building History

The first game played at Chutes Park, aka "Washington Park," occurred on 10/21/1900, for a tournament called "Winter Challenge Baseball," a winter league made up of East Coast major and minor leaguers and local talent. (See Chris Goode, California Baseball: from the Pioneers to the Glory Years, [Granada Hills, CA: The Author, 2009,] p. 54.) The next year, owner James Furlong Morley (1869–1940) had his Los Angeles Angels (nicknamed the "Loos-Loos,") team of the California League play at this venue in 1901-1902. Thereafter, the Angels moved into the newly created Pacific Coast League, and played at Chutes Park from 1903 until 1910.

James Morley's father owned the first shoe store in Los Angeles. Coming from this modest success, Morley had a deep interest in sports throughout his life. He owned a pool hall and a baseball team, and invested significant money in building fine accommodations for his holdings. Baseball historian Dennis Snelling wrote of him: "Constantly indulging his entrepreneurial streak, Morley invested heavily over the years in myriad endeavors, including bowling, prize fighting, billiards and gemstones. He promoted the first automobile show in Southern California. At one time, he owned a cafe, managed a hotel, and operated perhaps the finest pool hall on the West Coast, staging tournaments that involved the top players in the world. The quixotic promoter's variety of interests encroached on his personal life; he eventually had three marriages and an equal number of divorces." (See Dennis Snelling, The Greatest Minor League: A History of the Pacific Coast League, 1903-1957, [Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2012], p. 15.)

The Angels played at Washington Park #1 from 1903 until 1910. From the start, the team was popular, necessitating its gradual upgrading and expansion. In 1903, a grass infield was laid down. Baseball historian Ron Selter summarized other features: "The ballpark had several unique characteristics. In the wooden grandstand, only the diagonal section behind home plate and the third base section were roofed, while the first base section was uncovered. A standing-room-only catwalk stood behind the left-field fence and, unlike previous Los Angeles ballparks, Chutes Field had an infield of grass. In 1905 bleachers were added down both foul lines, raising the seating capacity to about 6,000. When the PCL expanded from four to six teams in 1909, one of the new clubs was the Vernon Tigers, which shared Chutes Park during the 1909 and 1910 seasons." (See Ron Selter, Society for Baseball Research, "The Pacific Coast League Ballparks of Los Angeles," accessed 08/29/2017.)

It was demolished in 1910-1911, and rebuilt as Washington Park #2 in 1911. The new field, larger than the previous, overlapped with the old slightly, but was shifted slightly to east and south. To accommodate this larger venue, large porions of the Chutes Park amusement complex were removed during the fall and winter of 1910-1911.


PCAD id: 4331