The street's original name was either Vine or Wine Street, for the grapes that used to grow there. But, Frank Damon says, "In 1877 it was changed to Olvera Steet after the first county judge of Los Angeles, Augustin Olvera."
Damon heads Las Angelitas del Pueblo, the docents who lead walking tours of old Los Angeles. He says Judge Olvera was both wealthy and well respected. He came to California in 1834 during the Mexican period as a justice of the peace. He signed the treaty that ended the war between the U.S. and Mexico.
"And he had a house right on the corner of Vine Street and the Plaza, where the Methodist Church stands today."
After the war, Judge Olvera continued to rule from the bench, using U.S. law. But because he spoke no English, he had to rely on a bilingual sheriff to translate court proceedings. And until L.A. County built a courthouse, Judge Olvera's courtroom was inside his house. He died in 1876. Wine Street became Olvera Street one year later.
(Airdate for this story: 11/17/07)