Friday, November 13, 2009

TONIGHT: Spirits With Spirits at La Golondrina Cafe

It's Friday the 13th! Don't you want to celebrate by doing something a little more adventurous than spending the night with Jason Voorhees? Yeah? Then allow me to remind you that, on the 13th day of each month, LA's very own ghost hunting group meets at a haunted bar or restaurant in order to discuss the paranormal - and tonight is no exception. Join the GHOULA get-together at La Golondrina Cafe on historic Olvera Street for an evening that's sure to offer some intriguing insights into Los Angeles history...if not a few spirit sightings. (Unfortunately, a prior engagement means that I'll probably be a no show at this meeting, so have a margarita for me!)

Here are the details, from the GHOULA website:

Note: The management has agreed to allow our group into the (normally closed to the public) haunted area of this historic restaurant. So, come out and experience this rare opportunity to go inside one of the city's oldest buildings.

THE DATE: November 13th, 2009 (Friday the 13th!)
THE PLACE: La Golondrina Cafe
(17 West Olvera Street, Los Angeles) map
THE TIME: 7:00pm to 9:30pm (closing time)


In 1885, Guiseppi Covaccichi built his home and winery next to an alley that at the time was known as "Vine Street" (or sometimes "Wine Street"), because of all the other wineries in the immediate area. Despite this fact, that modest home is for some strange reason today known as the Pelanconi House (who was one of many in a string of former owners), and the dingy alley was also mysteriously renamed after one of the other families in the area to "Olvera Street." Although these reasons may have been lost to history, thankfully the house and street were not. This is largely due to a local activist, Mrs. Christine Sterling, who in the 1920's made it her mission to preserve the Alvila Adobe (the city's oldest adobe structure) and the Pelanconi house (the city's oldest brick structure) for future generations and to turn the decaying slums known as Olvera Street into "The Mexican Street of Yesterday in the City of Today." As part of her plan, she convinced a local businesswoman, Senora Consuelo de Bonza, to move her popular eatery into the old Pelanconi House (and the adjoining warehouse). After cleaning, renovating, and blessing ("to remove the evil spirits"), La Golondrina reopened its doors to the public in 1930. Not only is it the oldest business on Olvera Street today, but it also holds the distinction of being the first place in Los Angeles to serve "Mexican" food (as opposed to "Spanish").

Although Senora Consuelo de Bonza is no longer with us, her portrait still hangs in the dining room, and some say her spirit still remains as well. In addition to the sounds of disembodied footsteps trailing throughout the empty restaurant, witnesses have claimed to see a woman (sometimes described as young) dressed in a white gown floating up the stairs to the "third" floor (originally the second floor), as well as inside the private offices on that floor. Even though this apparition is generally believed to be Senora de Bonza, it is quite possible the ghost could be a member of one of the many families that resided in this home over the years, since these offices are where the house's bedrooms were once located. It is also worth mentioning that the canal (known as the "mother ditch") that brought water to this cluster of buildings and farms from the Los Angeles River ran very close to this house and would surely have been visible back then from one of the upstairs windows. Although, this waterway in many ways represented life to this community, sometimes it also represented death. It was not uncommon in our city's early (wild west) days for murdered bodies to be disposed of in that ditch, or for drunken souls to meet their accidental end there. Perhaps this "woman in white" is connected to a long ago unsolved murder (or accidental death), as a victim or one who mourns for a lover who met his demise in the dark muddy waters that rolled past this former haunted house.

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