Mitch Lachman said it just kind of hit him one day: the horse hitch on Wadsworth Ave. was the last horse hitch he knew of.
“So I said, ‘Hey, this is important. This is a relic,’” Lachman said.
He told local historian Richard Orton about the horse hitch, but there was a problem. The city of Santa Monica, in an effort to even out the curb and the sidewalk on the street with the horse hitch, paved over the small ring on the sidewalk, apparently not even realizing it was a horse hitch.
But Orton had recently taken an interest in the hitch, which was historically used for riders to tie up their horses and was enacted in 1902.
He appealed to city manager Rick Cole, who was very receptive to Orton’s concern. So the asphalt covering the hitch was removed, and members of the police equestrian unit will tie their horses up during a brief ceremony at the hitch after the Santa Monica July 4th parade.
“I just thought it ought to be celebrated,” Orton said. “And it was kind of my thinking that, well, a good time to do that would be right after the 4th of July parade when we have equestrian units in Ocean Park. And it would be fun to actually have them come down there after the parade and actually hitch horses to the horse hitch.”
Orton will give a brief speech explaining the significance of the horse hitch, and other community members will be invited to speak as well. His goal is for the city to enact a plaque memorializing the horse hitch. The plaque could also include a bike rack that would utilize the hitch.
Nina Fresco, another historian in the Ocean Park area, said the hitch serves as a reminder of a past time in Santa Monica.
“It kind of connects to why is history important,” she said. “The thing about that horse hitch is it’s a really small piece of hardwood that somehow managed to survive in a city where there has been decade after decade of really dramatic change and redevelopment and evolution. And so when a thing like that makes it to the present day, it’s a real anomaly.”
Mitch Lachman, who originally alerted Orton to the horse hitch’s existence, echoed Fresco’s comments about its significance. He called it a “treasure,” and said Ocean Park used to be littered with horse hitches, but the one on Wadsworth is now the last remaining one.
“They’ve just disappeared, I don’t know of any other horse ring anywhere,” he said. “But there it is, and I felt it was important because it’s a carryover from a time in California when horses were predominate. Can you imagine ocean park back in the day at the turn of the century when there were no cars, there were horses?”
Orton, who produces a newsletter about Santa Monica history and has lived in Ocean Park since 1970, said he was very pleased with how much the city has worked with him to preserve the horse hitch. He added that he was excited with the interest the horse hitch has gained recently.
Fresco said the horse hitch is part of a larger neighborhood that isn’t usually recognized for its historical significance.
“That neighborhood where it’s in is one of our most intact old original development neighborhoods in the city,” she said. “It is the most historically intact neighborhood yet it is not designated as a landmark. But it is really important to people in the community.”