Los Angeles Past

A vanished city lives again...

Friday, February 14, 2014

View from atop Crown Hill, c.1886

This has to be one of the more remarkable images of historical Los Angeles that I have ever seen. The year is around 1886, and we're looking south from the present site of Belmont High School, near the intersection of Beverly Blvd. and Glendale Blvd. What today is solid cityscape was then nothing but sparsely-settled open rangeland as far as the eye could see.


Click image to enlarge.


The photo was taken from the roof of the Belmont Hotel, which was located atop Crown Hill at the end of the old Second Street Cable Car line.


Courtesy U.S.C. Digital Library, California Historical Society.


The contemporaneous photo below shows the Belmont Hotel (upper left) as seen from Bunker Hill. The vantage point is near what would later become Hope Street overlooking Third Street (the road at the extreme left edge of the photo is Third). Today, the Pasadena/Harbor Freeway (I-110) runs left/right through this little valley. The familiar hills overlooking Hollywood can be seen in the distance.


Courtesy U.S.C. Digital Library, California Historical Society.


To learn more about the historic Belmont Hotel, click here.

 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Gay Nineties' L.A.

Recently, I happened upon these nice views of Los Angeles from the 1890s.

The 200 block of South Broadway was one of the more active centers of civic life in its time.


Courtesy California State Library.

The almost brand new City Hall (1888-1928) dominates the right of the picture. Several other landmarks of the day can also be seen here. The tower of Los Angeles High School is partially visible to the left of the power poles. The clock tower in the distance is that of the Los Angeles County Court House. The tall spire next to that belongs to the First Presbyterian Church at the SE corner of Broadway and Second Street. And, the gothic structure just barely visible between City Hall and the Crocker Building (with the two bay windows) is Los Angeles's first Jewish synagogue.

Nothing special to see there today, unfortunately.

This quaint brick sideroad – complete with baths and a French restaurant – was Requeña Street (later renamed Market Street). The ornate Victorian on the left is the United States Hotel (1886-1939), and on the opposite corner is the Amestoy Building (1887-1958) – the first brick office building in town (and the first to have an elevator). The clock tower behind, once again, is the Court House.


Courtesy California State Library.

The U.S. Hotel and Amestoy buildings looked much nicer from the front. Click below to view the two from Main Street.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The oldest living thing in Los Angeles

Many by now have probably seen Nathan Masters's recent blog post or read elsewhere about this lone palm tree standing today in front of the Memorial Coliseum in Exposition Park.


Google Maps Street View.

 

At approximately 180 years of age, it is almost certainly the oldest-known living thing in Los Angeles, and the stereoscopic photograph below from circa 1873* may just be the oldest-known image of said tree (the smaller palm on the left).

My attempt to reproduce the original camera image.
Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

 

The basic story of how the palm ended up in Exhibition Park is told on its commemorative plaque.


Courtesy Walk N Ride LA.

 

The fascinating details of the palm's earlier journey from a back yard on San Pedro Street to the Southern Pacific Arcade Depot in 1888 have been meticulously detailed here.


Taken c.1888, just prior to the move to the Arcade Depot...

...where it stood greeting travelers for the next quarter of a century.
Courtesy U.S.C. Digital Library/California Historical Society.

 

While the palm at Exposition Park may be the oldest documented Washingtonia filifera in Los Angeles, we shouldn't forget the oldest-known examples of W. robusta: the Longstreet Palms (below), the story of which I've told here many times. These Civil War-era veterans are at least 150 years old, and are therefore no less worthy of monument status than their cousin in Exposition Park.


Wikimedia Commons, original photo by waltarrrrr on Flickr.


Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

 

The Hammel Palm and the Longstreet Palms were each world famous in their day. Now that they have all arisen out of obscurity, I think it's wonderful that their historical importance is once again being acknowledged, and celebrated.

 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Third Street, Then and Now

Third Street looking west from Spring Street, circa 1888:


Courtesy Water and Power Associates.

Up on Bunker Hill stands the ornate victorian Crocker Mansion, built in 1886. Next to it, in 1901, another old L.A. landmark would be constructed: the Angels Flight funicular railway.

 

The same view today:


Google Maps Street View.

The famous Bradbury Building, left, was constructed in 1893, and is now the oldest office building in Los Angeles.

 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Courthouse Time Capsules

A set of photos of the removal of the cornerstone of the old Los Angeles County Court House, May 20, 1936.

The cornerstone ceremony as viewed from atop the Hall of Justice, across Temple Street. At this point, the cornerstone is still in situ in the small remaining section of wall standing by the crane at left of center.


Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.

The cornerstone is hoisted free. In the background, at right, across Spring Street, can be seen the rear of the 1909 Federal Building, and to its immediate left, up Main Street, the Baker Block.


Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.

Here, the granite block is being lowered onto a makeshift platform as the assembled crowd looks on.


Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.

The time capsule – a small box which appears to be made from tin – is about to be opened by Marshall Stimson, president of the Historical Society of Southern California. Inside were various mementos, newspapers, cards and event programs from the Los Angeles of 1888. (Ref: Courthouses of California: an illustrated history, by Ray McDevitt, California Historical Society.)


Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.

The cornerstone today, on display at the southwest corner of Spring and Temple Streets. It sits in the shadow of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, which has occupied the site of the old Court House since 1972.


Photo by J Scott Shannon.

Here, Supervisors Frank Bonelli, Warren Dorn and Kenneth Hahn prepare to place a new time capsule into the cornerstone of the 1958 Los Angeles County Courthouse on October 31, 1958. Now to find out what is in this time capsule!


Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.

 

Monday, February 25, 2013

The 1924 Olmsted "Major Traffic Street Plan"

This recent post by Glen Creason on Los Angeles Magazine's City Think blog introduces readers to Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. et al.'s grandiose "Major Traffic Street Plan" of 1924.

I first acquired this map out of curiosity, mostly because some of the street routes and parkways proposed in it looked significantly different than the ones Los Angeles eventually ended up with.

Here's the basic mission statement of the plan.

The legend (the map is far too large for me to scan in its entirety, unfortunately):

Mr. Creason's blog post does link to a scan of the full map. However, even enlarged, it is difficult to see much detail, so here I will describe some of the Olmsted Plan's more interesting points.

Several new scenic arteries were proposed, one of which was to be called "Arroyo Seco Parkway" (described in the plan as a "radical thoroughfare"). That and "One Hundredth Street" (Century Boulevard) seem to be the only major roads from this plan that ended up being built, though.

One of the rejected proposals was for the Downtown portion of First Street to be widened to 150 feet, and then extended northwest up to Hollywood – clearly a 1924 approximation of what would become the Hollywood Freeway a generation later.

Another interesting proposal was a road called the "River Truck Speedway," which was to run somewhat adjacent to the Los Angeles River and was intended solely for use by commercial vehicles. Obviously this idea didn't get past the drawing board stage, either.

Other proposed roads that were never realized were the "Hollywood-Palos Verdes Parkway," the "Silver Lake Parkway," and parkways for portions of Wilshire Boulevard (west of Crenshaw), Cahuenga Avenue, Riverside Drive, Franklin Avenue/Los Feliz Boulevard, Griffith Park and Mulholland Drive.

The Olmsted plan was admittedly visionary in foreseeing the need for wide urban roads that incorporated a variety of modes of rapid transit, but it was probably for the best that it was not adopted. The present system of freeways, although not without its own inherent problems, turned out to be a much better fit for Los Angeles's ever-evolving traffic challenges.

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J Scott Shannon
Dow's Prairie, CA, United States
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