The name Wrigley may strike a familiar chord with some; society today progresses and changes at an astonishing rate, quickly forgetting anything outdated and old, instead making way for the fresh and new. When’s the last time you had an iPhone 3? Now ask yourself this: when’s the last time you had a stick of Wrigley Spearmint Gum? The answer to both of these questions is probably (and unsurprisingly) never.
So what is Wrigley Heights then you ask? Picture this: you’re on a hot date and it’s getting steamy; the night is smooth, your lines are smoother and the moment is progressing quickly, but you unfortunately have a piece of spinach caught in between your incisors which prevents any further progression. Wrigley Heights is kind of like that piece of spinach: it’s a hybrid between old and modern styling, somewhere in between vintage and new.
To understand what I mean by this, one has got to understand some background history about the Wrigley district. Development of the area began around 1927, receiving funding primarily from the Wrigley organization, E.J. Williams, and the Fleming & Weber Company, with the Wrigley name being plastered onto the whole area due to the widespread success and recognition of the Wrigley gum fame. The homes were originally limited to only Caucasians, and each home was built in its own unique style; no flats, apartments, nor stores were allowed, thus successfully establishing one of the first suburban communities in Long Beach (along with Atlantic Heights which would follow soon after). Between 1928 and 1934, the Spanish Colonial Revival saw many homes being built in the classic missionary aesthetic which helped reinforce the Spanish fantasy that had been established generations before. Conversely, while an homage to the past was made, builders also took liberty in incorporating English, Norman, and Italian styles as well, leading to no two similar houses. Lastly, the area is outlined by the 405 on the north, PCH on the south, Long Beach Blvd. on the east, and the LA River on the west.
Modern day Wrigley Heights has changed dramatically since then, while still maintaining its roots. It is no longer an all-white, exclusive, affluent suburban area; it still has it’s Spanish and old-style American homes and suburban feel, but everything else around it has changed. Firstly, the demographics have changed: there are just as much Asians, blacks, Hispanics, and other ethnicities coexisting with whites in this suburban landscape and the new tenants have “modernized” the vintage-classic homes as well (two of my immediate neighbors run full blown recording studios, a two storied home a block away from me is painted a period-blood red and there is another home deeper in my neighborhood that is painted Pepto Bismol pink). Unlike the intentions of the founders, there are now numerous restaurants and stores surrounding the immediate area, all reachable by walking/biking distance (or by car if you’re really trying to be that modern/lazy). On the end of my block is a corner with a Vietnamese pho restaurant, a Dominos, an independently owned antique shop, a black owned CD/tapes shop (who still plays these things?), a doctors office, a local pub, and a curiously interesting but still kind of creepy middle/old-aged oriented night bar just to name a few. That’s quite an eclectic mix of stores to parade and that’s not even counting the Metro-Rail station connected to the Wrigley shopping center just a few blocks down!
In a nutshell: Wrigley Heights is that kid who just started middle school, innocent, young and fresh; by the end of the 8th grade, this kid has just adopted and embraced the new wave of style and self-expression, donning emo clothes and blasting metalcore. “Where did we go wrong?” is what most conservative parents would think of, and this dynamic is how I think of Wrigley and its development over time. I don’t see it as some place that has completely revamped its whole scene and style but instead as an area that has merely reflected and embraced the inevitable urbanization and growth of a population in the Southern California region. It has changed, yes, but the essence – i.e. the innocent, young and fresh pre-emo metalcore kid – is still there; it’s there not only in what we see 0n the landscape, the homes and the exterior of the area, but also in the interior of the landscapes and homes. We now have stores that cater to personal interests and necessity (like Walgreens and CVS), and the area also keeps it young and fresh quite literally through its patrons (the older people in the area are starting to move out and/or die, leading to an increase in newer, usually younger tenants). If the founders of Wrigley were here today, they would probably scold the abomination for what it’s become, but they would eventually (and hopefully) realize that the area, their child, is still growing. And with that being said, we never stop growing, so it will only be a matter of time until the youth of today’s Wrigley Heights grow into the mold of their old scolder ancestors, thus keeping this gum wad wedged where it *wests.
*California is a western state, this is a pun
If you want to read more into Wrigley Heights then check out: