The Longstreet Palms: A History of L.A. Orthopaedic Hospital’s Palm Drive

The 23 remaining Longstreet Palms at the Orthopaedic Hospital


The Los Angeles Orthopaedic Hospital‘s twin lines of Mexican fan palms are among the thousands that collectively symbolize quintessential L.A., but many 110 freeway commuters and Expo Line riders who zoom past are unaware of the long-time residents’ deep roots in the city’s history.

As local history expert Nathan Masters (who tipped me off to these landmark long-necked trees) over at L.A. as Subject has pointed outWashingtonia filifera is the only species native to California. Yes, like so many residents, the towering trees along the hospital’s 143-year-old Palm Drive are transplants, and the history of these particular palms are well-documented on Los Angeles Past, one of my favorite online resources.

Dubbed the Longstreet Palms, the trees were planted in 1870 by Charles A. Longstreet, a New York man who continued in his father’s footsteps as a successful clothing wholesaler. The palms welcomed visitors to his lavish two-story mansion; after he passed away in 1877, the estate was subdivided and sold.

The Longstreet Palms between 1875 to 1904. Photo courtesy of the USC Digital Library


In 1900, the former Longstreet property was purchased by 53-year-old John Singleton, a mining tycoon who then rechristened the plot as Singleton Court. The image of the then-30-year-old palms lining the driveway to his luxurious Colonial Revival style abode was part of an extensive photo album of his property, meant to convince a young Stella Graham to marry the rich bachelor, according to the L.A. Times.

Twenty-year-old Graham accepted Singleton’s proposal, and the two were wed the following year in San Francisco.  Sadly, the marriage didn’t last; it was marred by tragedy and misery. The Times writes:

Singleton’s only son, Edward, feckless and drunk, shot himself to death at the family house. Four years later the mansion went up in flames, and so did the Singleton marriage. Columnists were merciless in their gossipy reports.

Graham, rumored to be Singleton’s maid before they married, had flung open the doors of Singleton Court to L.A. society. Whether “the gold from the Yellow Aster and the smiles from the maid” had done any good, no one was certain. The couple, after weeks of not speaking, agreed to separate for a year at a meeting with lawyers described by The Times as an opera bouffe. A guaranteed income in hand, Graham left for Europe.

Singleton Court in the early 1900s. Photo courtesy of the LA Public Library


The property passed hands several times after it was sold by Singleton. The palms grew alongside a booming Los Angeles: they stood witness as their dirt driveway was paved with asphalt to make way for the cable car and the automobile. Later, they would watch as the Harbor Freeway and the Expo subway line were built. All the while, the upscale West Adams community that surrounded the trees was transformed over time into a bustling thoroughfare and business district.

Today, only 23 palms remain standing from Longstreet’s original trees, and a children’s park now stands alongside them on the Orthopaedic Hospital’s campus. Now, the playground’s curved commemorative sign is an unexpected reminder of the property’s long-gone curved iron gates that once beckoned the city’s nineteenth century elite.

The Longstreet Palms at Palm Drive, Los Angeles Orthopaedic Hospital


You can still see Palm Drive throughout history as it’s been immortalized in countless postcards and historical photographs from USC’s Digital Libraries and the L.A. Public Library’s online photo collection.

Singleton Court on West Adams Street, circa 1915. Courtesy of Los Angeles Past
A postcard of Palm Drive. Courtesy of Los Angeles Past
An 1899 postcard showing Palm Avenue. Courtesy of Los Angeles Past


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  • Dave G.

    Hey, I thought this story was really cool and you’re great. I ought to break my hip in L.A. someday and check these out.

  • Ismael M.

    Hi I used to live in this neighborhood for 9 years. Age 1-10. As a small kid I used to walk to school and walk by the orthopedic hospital area everyday. The palm trees were tall even back then (1970’s). Thanks for sharing the story. I enjoyed my childhood in the area. But sadly the area went down hill when my family bought a home in the San Gabriel Valley suburbs. That area was the eastern part of the adams district. A lot of rich people used to live in that area. Great history of the past. Thank you.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Ismael. It’s always great to hear fellow Angelenos’ memories!

    • Thanks for sharing your memories, Ismael!

  • Laurie

    As a kid in the early 60’s, I used to take the bus in from the suburbs (Pico Rivera) with my mother to downtown. There we’d meet my grandfather who drove us the rest of the way to Orthopedic Hospital where I had many appointments for a hip problem I had as a child. I can still remember sitting in the examination rooms for what seemed like endless amounts of time and staring out at those enormously tall trees, swaying in the wind.

    Love the name of your blog. My sister and I are both LA natives though we live in San Diego now. Periodically we come up to LA and play tourist, looking at buildings we never noticed as kids, or buildings that used to be huge department stores like Bullocks that we visited many times with our mother.

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  • Crystal Laner

    Thank you for this amazing post. I came across it trying to find out how old my Specimen of this tree is (Riverside Ca). I grew up in the San Garbriel Valley and these trees were common in the older areas and I always liked them. Anyway my tree is probably about 70 years old (the age of my house) and I really enjoyed your article. Thank you again.

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