Just before Fourth of July, word began to leak out.
An enterprising group of artists had erected a Japanese Teahouse in the middle of a fairly heavily traveled hiking trail in Griffith Park. The only clue to their purpose was an inscription:
“Built from redwoods killed in the 2007 Griffith Park fire, the teahouse is a love letter to Los Angeles and a quiet perch for urban reflection. In homage to the fire the timbers were slightly charred before assembly.
What wishes will swirl up into the sky?”
How remarkable it must have been for those who discovered the Teahouse before the press and the creators themselves starting spreading the word. Like a bit of magic appearing out of nowhere.
Anyone familiar with the trails of Griffith Park is used to the sight of pump houses and maintenance sheds that dot the trailsides. From a distance, that’s exactly how this little structure appears. In fact, it is built upon a cement pad that most likely held a pump house at one time. So, it might be easy to miss.
But as you draw closer, you begin to realize this is no ordinary shed. Not by a long shot. Even from a distance, the distinct style is clear. This tiny house is beautifully and meticulously crafted with love.
The creators chose an ideal spot. Perched on a promontory just above the trail below, the Teahouse offers a sweeping view of the San Gabriel Mountains and the promise of postcard sunrises.
Anonymous volunteers have even provided teabags. Inside is a bench facing a window frame overlooking the valley. Hung inside are wood shingles and pencils to add your own wish or memorial.
Whatever the artists’ intentions, one message is clear. Slow down, take it in, and appreciate what you have.
For those of us who live near the Park and those who make this special place part of our daily ritual, the Teahouse is truly a haunting reminder of the fire that once threatened to destroy the Park itself. I remember vividly the nightly flames, the air choked with ash, and the barren hillsides when it was finally halted. The Teahouse at once evokes those memories and stands as a proud testament to the power of rebirth.
Public art is always tricky.
What’s one person’s Banksy is another’s graffiti.
And I supposed that somewhere the Teahouse has its detractors. Already there are murmurs of its removal. After all, it’s hard to imagine that the folks who once proposed that Griffith Park would be so much better with tramways, restaurants, and multi-tiered parking would be sympathetic to something as sublime as the Teahouse.
Meanwhile, it’s still there for your enjoyment.
Here’s my wish for the Griffith Park Teahouse.
“Dear Grandstanders, Busybodies, Vandals, and Fussbudgets,
Please let this be.
We need it.”
SPOILER ALERT: Directions to the Griffith Park Teahouse.
I believe the best way to encounter this spot is by pure happenstance.
However, if you want to cut to the chase, here you go.
Take the Mount Hollywood Trail from the Griffith Observatory north. Follow the trail as it winds around the eastern slope of Mount Hollywood. At the top you will come upon Dante’s View. Take the trail ahead of you slightly to the left. Continue on and the Teahouse will be on your left.