Art Walk goers may see Werdin Place as "Indian Alley" / Courtesy of 118 Winston.
After listening to stories from long-time downtown locals, 118 Winston has adopted an adjacent alley with some help from a guerrilla sign artist.
Werdin Place, off Winston, is shared by Crewest and 118 Winston, an art gallery inside an aging building that doubles as a studio for yoga practices and film location.
118 Winston's Stephen Zeigler dug into the his building's history and discovered from 1974 to 1987, it was a rescue mission and rehabilitation refuge serving homeless and alcoholic Native Americans. The alley became a gathering space. To Zeigler, Skid Row spirituality lingers in the alley.
The rehabilitation center, known as the United American Indian Involvement (UAII), had Werdin Place at Winston be a “hang-out” for those waiting for refuge and assistance, says Zeigler, and was once nicknamed "Indian Alley."
Like other hidden spots in and around Skid Row, the alley had a gritty reputation from squatting and alcohol-infused fights. A 1975 Los Angeles Times article reported on then Mayor Tom Bradley looking into LAPD's complaints. A counselor at the center stated authorities considered UAII a flophouse.
Still, the alley was also known as a gateway for healing and compassion, says Zeigler. “We still have Native men and women stop by to visit the spirits whom they say still reside there.”
To mark that downtown history of Native American men and women who founded UAII, and the people who lived and died there, Zeigler commissioned artist Richard McDowell to create a street sign reading ‘Indian Alley'.
McDowell is the downtown poet and artist known for the 2006 wayfinder signs on Main.
For extra spiritual protection, McDowell installed a small golden Indian on top of a gate near the entrance of the alley. "She is a guardian for all who enter or pass by," says Zeigler.
In this 1987 shot, Werdin Place is an unkept alley with a forgotten western landscape mural. The same alley from a photograph shot in 2009 / Courtesy of 118 Winston.
"Little Long-Haired One" embodies "all the strong, loving and nurtuting qualities" of Native American women, says 118 Winston's Stephen Zeigler. The guardian of the gate sits at the entrance of Werdin Place, once known as 'Indian Alley' by former skid row locals / Courtesy of 118 Winston.