On October 14th, ten SAGA members gathered near the intersection of Figueroa and Adams to tour the Doheny Mansion. That house is the centerpiece of the Mt Saint Mary College Doheny campus, a preserved elite suburban turn of the century neighborhood in the middle of South Central LA’s strip centers and auto dealers. Upon arrival, everyone was astonished that this oasis of calm gardens and mansions existed so close to Downtown LA. Over the next few hours, docents explained how the Doheny Family’s actions formed not only this college’s campus but much of Los Angeles including the Doheny Eye Institute, Doheny Library at USC, Doheny State Beach, Saint Vincent De Paul Church, Greystone Manor, and the Automobile Association of America. The docents also provided insight into daily living within the mansion. Envisioning that life was easy since most of the original fixtures and furnishings are preserved unchanged from when the Dohenys lived there. Historic photos were also passed around so we could see how some of the buildings, such as the once spectacular conservatory pool, had changed.
After a quick lunch, our history lesson continued at the One Institute. The One Institute is the largest repository of gay and lesbian material in the world. Unfortunately, they no longer display the collection at the institute because their expanding archives now fill all space within a former USC frat house. However, One Institute staff are incredibly knowledgeable and happy to discuss the history of LGTB struggles and rights. When staff learned that we were from the SAGA ski club, they were able to retrieve copies of our newsletter within a few minutes. The institute provided validation of both the efficiency of their staff and of SAGA LA’s importance to American gay culture.
One rarely thinks of Los Angeles having national historic importance outside of the entertainment industry. It is interesting to ponder how much influence was generated throughout the past century between the Dohenys and the One Institute.