A vanished city lives again...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

More buried treasure!

Just added a new treasure to my collection! This pharmacy bottle dates to sometime around the turn of the last century...

Photo by J Scott Shannon.

Not nearly as rare as my Broadway and Temple medicine bottle, but this is a much nicer specimen of its type.

Pop quiz! As you can see, the location is given as:

S.W. Cor. First & Spring

In which building in historical Los Angeles was the Godfrey & Moore pharmacy located?

EDIT: Reader "Duncan" answered correctly. It was the Hotel Nadeau. Here is the SW corner of First & Spring in the mid-1880s, when the hotel was brand spanking new:

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.

Today, of course, the main building of the Los Angeles Times occupies this site.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Speaking of names...

Speaking of original names, I confess I've long had my doubts about the alleged appellation of nuestro pueblo at the time of its founding. According to almost every account, it was:

El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula

Am I alone in thinking that this sounds just a wee bit contrived? There are probably more letters in this name than there were residents in the original settlement!

Well, it so happens that recently I found out that I'm not alone in my suspicions. Buried in the references of the Wikipedia entry for Los Angeles is this notation:

There is some question about the legitimacy of this name, which may have, through a series of misinterpretations and inflations, been corrupted from the actual name authorized in writing in 1781, "La Reina de Los Angeles". Cf. Theodore E. Treutlein, "Los Angeles, California: The Question of the City's Original Spanish Name", Southern California Quarterly 55, no. 1 (Spring 1973): 1-7. Historian Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., has traced the longer name to the histories written by the Franciscan missionaries, especially Francisco Palóu, who wished to play up the region's connections to their order. Pool, Bob, "City of Angels' First Name Still Bedevils Historians". Los Angeles Times (March 26, 2005), Sec. A-1.

Notate bene that this reference states unequivocally that, "the actual name authorized in writing in 1781 [was], 'La Reina de Los Angeles' (The Queen of the Angels)." If this is true, then why, oh why, should the absurdly long mythological name be further perpetuated?

Another picky-picky-picky observation on my part...

La Reina de Los Angeles

Consider: the city was named for the Queen (La Reina) of the Angels, not the angels (Los Angeles) themselves. So shouldn't the short form of the Spanish name be "La Reina?" It's not the "City of the Angels," as you always hear, it's actually the city of the Angels' Queen. Where did this go wrong? The original settlement name of San Diego was "San Diego de Alcalá," but we don't call it Alcala today, nor did what was first dubbed "San Francisco de Asís" end up being called Asis. The cities were named for St. James and St. Francis respectively, not their referential associations.

I'm sure we can thank the Americans for the bastardized name, "Los Angeles." If the old town had remained Mexican through its entire history, I have little doubt that today the city would be called "La Reina" instead.

Post scriptum: As you can see, at least one book on Los Angeles history got it right. ;)

La Reina - Los Angeles in Three Centuries, Published by Security Trust & Savings Bank, Los Angeles, 1929.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

To apostrophe, or not to apostrophe?

I know it's regarded as historical canon these days that the name "Angels Flight" is not supposed to contain any apostrophes. Being the fan of heterodoxy that I am, however, I would like to ask someone/anyone to produce documentary proof for this lack of possessive punctuation. I wish to see conclusive evidence that the original name of our world famous funicular railway is, in reality, what modern experts on the subject say it is.

Photo by J Scott Shannon.

The main reason I have my doubts about this is that, back in the '00s, '10s and '20s, when there were lots of people around who should know the correct, original spelling, the appellation is apostrophized more often than not; as either "Angel's" or "Angels'." It seems to me that the apostrophized spelling only fell out of favor after the 1920s, when the The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks erected the massive filigreed archway that today is the landmark's signature. There is no apostrophe to be found on this monument. But should there be, in actual fact? I do wonder...

So, can someone maybe produce, say, a copy of the architect's/builder's original plans that would prove their intent to either apostrophize or not apostrophize the railway's name? Or perhaps there was an official program printed for the dedication of the railway in 1901 that would settle this spelling question once and for all. Even a good, close-up photo of the original archway should do.

Until I see proof one way or another, I will continue to abstain from using apostrophes when I spell "Angels Flight," but I remain quite curious about just exactly how the name should properly be punctuated....or not, as the case may be.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Whose palms are these, anyway?

Seems I've uncovered a bit of a mystery. Here, previously, I've told the story of "General Longstreet's palms." In it, I related information I found on the USC Digital Library site which stated that the palms and the house pictured in these two photos were on property owned by Confederate General James Longstreet, most notably of the Battle of Gettysburg fame.

Trouble is, subsequently, I have never been able to independently corroborate that James Longstreet ever lived in Los Angeles, or that he even owned property there. No biography of the man that I've been able to find thus far has him setting foot in California during his entire life.

Then, the other day, thanks to reader Gregg D'Albert, I got pointed to the hypercities site, and there I found an 1884 map of Los Angeles showing the ownership of plots of land in the old city. Of course, the first thing I did was go to Figueroa and Adams to see who owned the Longstreet palms.

Well, as you can see, the tract in question was, indeed, owned by a Longstreet, but it was "C.A. Longstreet," not "J. Longstreet." Puzzling. Then I thought, wait, there was that 1938 Nuestro Pueblo article about the palms that also referred to a General Longstreet. Surprise! I'd missed the fact previously that that article referred to a Gen. Joseph Longstreet, not James Longstreet. Also, this Joseph Longstreet's wife was named Lucy, not Louise, and Lucy had died in 1917, versus 1890 for the CSA General's wife.

So, who then was General Joseph Longstreet, and how was "C.A. Longstreet" related to him? I've tried finding info about the other Longstreet on the web, but my search has gone nowhere yet.

Whatever Gen. Longstreet planted those palms, though, they still remain historically significant as possibly the oldest living things in Los Angeles. It would have been nice to be able to connect them with the famous General Longstreet, but even a not-so-famous General Longstreet will do just as nicely, too. ^^

Read the next installment in the saga of the Longstreet Palms: 'Year of the palm?'


Monday, August 3, 2009

View from the top

For at least 25 years after Angels Flight opened, there was an observation tower adjacent to the incline railway from which one could take in a breathtaking overlook of downtown Los Angeles. Here's a commonly-seen view of Angels Flight from the bottom. (Please pardon the spelling!)

And the much more rarely-seen view from the top of the observation tower.

It's a rather dizzying sight, isn't it? We're even higher up here than Bunker Hill itself! What a teeming multitude is below. Judging by the shadows and the crowd, it looks like it's noontime on a high summer's workday, and yearwise, you can tell we're still in the "aughts" here as indicated by the scarcity of automobiles. It's almost all foot- and trolley-traffic down there.

Here's another view from the top of the tower. This one dates closer to the 1901 opening of Angels Flight, though...

Los Angeles Public Library.