A vanished city lives again...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Old panoramic "birds-eye" maps

These "birds-eye" maps of old Los Angeles on the Library of Congress website are must-have resources for any serious student of L.A. history.

The 1909 map is, in my humble opinion, the Greatest Map of L.A. Ever! This is the image that I referred to in this older post that first put the hooks in me with regard to historical Los Angeles. I've practically memorized this map, I've looked at it so many times.

Viewing tip: when you click on the thumbnail image and go to the Library of Congress page, don't bother with the complicated inline viewer, just go to the lower left of each page where it says "Download JPEG2000 image," snag that file, then view it directly in your computer's default picture-viewing program.


Click image for source at the Library Of Congress.


Click image for source at the Library Of Congress.

This one is notable for the detail of the landmark buildings depicted on its margins.


Click image for source at the Library Of Congress.

This is the earliest birds-eye map of Los Angeles in the online LOC database. Note the covered bridge over the Los Angeles River at Macy Street...


Click image for source at the Library Of Congress.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Old Civic Center – south to City Hall

Broadway was the center of civil and commercial life in old Los Angeles. This was the view looking south on Broadway from the Hall Of Records in approximately 1915.

One block down, at the NE corner of Broadway and First, was the L.A. Times building, re-built after the 1910 labor bombing. In the distance, the structure with the pyramid-topped tower was the Los Angeles City Hall, erected in 1888 at 226-238 South Broadway. The postcard view below is from around the turn of the last century.

This grand Romanesque edifice of marble and red sandstone stood for only 40 years, however. It was torn down following the completion of the present City Hall in 1928.

Today, there's nothing to show that this was once an important site in Los Angeles history. It's just for parking now.

Photo by J Scott Shannon.

Actually, the old City Hall isn't completely gone. The Hosfield Building at right was built in 1914 as an annex to house city departments. I'd much rather the Hosfield Building was the one razed for parking, though. It really was a crime to demolish that elegant old civic landmark...


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Old Civic Center

These two postcard views give a really good idea of what the old Los Angeles Civic Center looked like, and where the buildings were in relation to each other.

In the top one, the intersection in the foreground is Broadway and Temple, and we're looking roughly north. At left, where the Broadway Tunnel and those trees are – that's where the 101 freeway "slot" is today. You'll recognize the 1922 Hall of Justice, of course, and the red sandstone building at right is the old Los Angeles County Court House (1888).

Now turn 90 degrees to the right, and see the familiar 1928 City Hall rising behind the Court House, and the Hall Of Records (1910) at right.

Judging by the similarity in the ivy growth on the Court House, I'd say that the two postcard photos were taken within a year or two of each other. The cars in the top one definitely look '20s-ish, and the presence of the new City Hall in the bottom image means it can't be earlier than 1928. So 1928-1930 seems a good guess for when this point in time existed in Los Angeles's past...


Monday, November 9, 2009

The old and the new

Main Street south from Republic Street, 1939:



Saturday, November 7, 2009

In only 30 years...

Cahuenga Pass, 1911:

Courtesy U.S.C. Digital Library.

Cahuenga Boulevard, 1941:

Courtesy U.S.C. Digital Library.

All this change in only 30 years! Not as much change since then, though; the Hollywood Freeway today still follows basically the same path as this old road. It's really something to see Cahuenga Pass when it was only a dirt road traversed by horse teams, though. It's amazing to think that was less than 100 years ago. Only 1-1/2 normal human lifetimes, and Cahuenga Pass is almost unrecognizable from what it originally was...


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Bryson-Bonebrake Block

At the time of its construction in 1888, the Bryson-Bonebrake Block was without question the most attractive and architecturally-significant office building in Los Angeles.

Photo courtesy Floyd Bariscale on Flickr.

Floyd Bariscale quotes a contemporary source describing the new civic showpiece:

"Designed by Joseph Cather Newsom in 1888, located on the northwest corner on 2nd and Spring in Los Angles. From a 1981 reprint of J.C. Newsom's Artistic Buildings and Homes of Los Angeles:

'Bryson-Bonebrake Block, commissioned by John Bryson, Sr., Los Angeles Mayor, and Major George H. Bonebrake, banker, this huge office building was Newsom's most ambitious and commercial structure. The Los Angeles Times, September 17, 1888 reports: "At the corner of Second and Springs streets, is one of the largest and most substantial in Southern California, and is most ornamental in appearance. It is six stories and a basement in height, and will contain four stories, one bank, 126 rooms, and a lodgeroom on the sixth floor. It has 120 feet frontage on Spring street and 103 feet frontage on Second steet. The rooms are all large and well ventilated, and the halls are wide and lighted by light wells. The principal features of the building are the massive and elegantly carved stone entrance, with its beautifully grained Colton marble shafts, carved stone caps and base of Moorish design, and the court in the center of the building throwing light into the corridors and inner rooms. The steps of the entrance are of the best granite, and the entrance is tiled and has marble wainscoting. On one side is a large bulletin-board, and on the other a richly-carved staircase with marble steps... The interior of the building is finished in cedar, and the plumbing is of the best... All the offices are heated and lighted with gas, and there are electric bells from each room to the bulletin board on the first floor. The elevator runs from the basement to the sixth floor. There is a fine [sic] hose reel on each floor for use in case of fire. Its cost will be $224,000.'"

More 19th century views of the Bryson block...

Grand opening, 1888 - The Court House on Pound Cake Hill in the distance right of center was also constructed this same year. Also, note how Spring Street originally veered to the right after its intersection with First Street.

Courtesy U.S.C. Digital Library.

Looking west on Second Street from Spring.

Courtesy California State Library.

1905 - A nice close view showing the intricate exterior decorative elements of the Bryson block. Note that the entire original ornate top of the building has been removed and replaced by two additional storeys of offices.

Courtesy U.S.C. Digital Library.

1934 - Only 46 years after its construction, demolition of the Bryson block is underway. An annex building of the Los Angeles Times occupies the site today.

Courtesy U.S.C. Digital Library.


Temple Square

From the 1860s to the 1930s, Temple Square was the original "civic center" of Los Angeles. Formed by the junction of Main, Temple and Spring Streets, it was the nexus of everyday life in the old city. Here are some postcard views of Temple Square from the first and second decades of the 20th century...

Today, no one looking at the intersection of Main and Temple could guess that a grand open public space once existed there. Temple Square has vanished without a trace from the face of the earth...