A vanished city lives again...

Monday, March 30, 2009

A prelude to terror

One century ago today – indeed, 100 years to this very hour – this postcard was penned in a long-vanished boarding house at Temple and Figueroa Streets in Los Angeles, and addressed to a now also non-existent residence in Cleveland, Ohio...

In 1909, the intersection of Broadway and First Street was the center of civic life in old Los Angeles. Today, however, absolutely nothing you see in this postcard still exists. Old San Francisco was destroyed by its famous earthquake and fire of 1906, most of Chicago was wiped out by its own Great Fire of 1871, but old Los Angeles was even more thoroughly destroyed by the hand of man himself.

In 1910, however, another kind of destruction would visit Broadway and First, when the building to your immediate left (you could almost reach out and touch it from this vantage point) would be dynamited into fiery rubble in the third most murderous act of domestic terrorism in the first half of the 20th century. Only the Wall Street bombing of 1920 and the Bath School bombings of 1927 produced higher death tolls than this anarchist attack in Los Angeles in 1910.

And yet, I doubt that even 1 out of 10,000 of the present-day residents of L.A. know about the horrific bombing that took place in their own city less than a century ago. I didn't, myself, before the history of pre-WWII Los Angeles became an avocation of mine a few years back.

I'll have more to say about the bombing at its centennial in October of next year...


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Old city center: Then and Now

Two superb postcard scores within a week! The top one is a rare view of Los Angeles taken around the turn of the last century from the top of the old County Court House, looking east-northeast.

At far right is Temple Square: the heart of the city at the turn of the last century. The street car is running on Main Street. The wide dirt road by the semi-circular postmark is Aliso Street, and the narrower road running parallel to it at right is Commercial Street.

Now, here's roughly the same east-northeast view a half-century later.

This photo was taken from the top of the present City Hall at the SW corner of Temple and Main (out of the picture to the right of where the street car is in the earlier view). Aliso Street has been replaced by the 101 freeway; Commercial Street runs just to the left of the large natural gas storage tower and to the right of the yellow Brew 102 brewery.

In the 1950s view, the street running from side to side in the lower center of the picture is Los Angeles Street. Two buildings on the east side of Los Angeles Street appear in both postcards. Can you spot which ones?

Here they are...

Buildings "A" and "B" on Los Angeles Street survived at least into the 1950s.

Neither structure still stands today, however.