Signal Hill park honors Gabrielinos

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SIGNAL HILL, Calif. -- Until the 1800s, Gabrielino Indians -- now known as
Tongva -- communicated from this hill city by smoke signal to others on
Catalina Island and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. This history gave the Los
Angeles suburb its name.

While the city -- with its commanding views of Long Beach, Catalina Island
and Los Angeles -- became more noted for oil drilling and, later, pricey
real estate development, a city park recalls the city's Tongva history.

Hilltop Park, 3.2 acres, is the site of early 1900s hilltop mansions and,
after the discovery of oil, fields of oil gushers. In the center of the
park is a tower that sends up a cloud-like water mist each hour,
representing the smoke signals the Tongva used to communicate long
distances.

Three freestanding walls with windows frame the most spectacular views from
the park -- Huntington Beach surf, downtown Long Beach and the Queen Mary,
and downtown Los Angeles. Informational panels on each side of the windows
explain what the viewer is seeing.

Also visible is California State University, Long Beach, which the Tongva
say was a village and sacred gathering place.

Hilltop Park was designed by Jon Cicchetti, a Long Beach landscape
architect. It cost $414,000 and was funded by developer impact fees. It
also has a 1.2-million-gallon water reservoir that serves Signal Hill's
10,000 residents.

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