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 adopted an adjacent alley with some help from a guerilla way-finder 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 meditative yoga practices and a film location.
118 Winston's Stephen Zeigler dug into the alley's spiritual history and discovered that from 1974 to 1987, a rescue mission and rehabilitation refuge specifically serving homeless and alcoholic Native Americans was housed in his building.
The rehab center was the United American Indian Involvement (UAII), and Werdin Place at Winston became a “hang-out” for those awaiting refuge and assistance. It was nicknamed 'Indian Alley' at one time, says Zeigler.
Like other corners in and around Skid Row, the alley had a gritty reputation from squatting and alcohol-infused fights. In an 1975 Los Angeles Times article reporting on Mayor Tom Bradley looking into complaints of harassment by LAPD, a counselor at the center then stated authorities considered the 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 preserve the efforts of the Native men and women who founded UAII, and all the people who lived and died there, 118 Winston commissioned artist Richard McDowell to create a street sign reading ‘Indian Alley'." Zeigler adds.
McDowell is the downtown poet / artist also 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.