A vanished city lives again...

Friday, December 31, 2010

Ramona Boulevard – L.A.'s first expressway

Most people believe that the Arroyo Seco Parkway (1940) was the first express thoroughfare serving the city of Los Angeles. That distinction actually belongs to Ramona Boulevard (at bottom on map below), which was constructed from 1933-1935. It originated at Aliso Street a few hundred feet past Mission Road. The parkway section first passed under the Macy Street viaduct, then continued east approximately 4 miles without any stops until thru traffic turned onto Garvey Pass Avenue.

Renie Atlas, "Victory Edition," May, 1943.

View east on Aliso Street at its intersection with Mission Road (foreground) and Summit Avenue (far right) before its widening for the construction of Ramona Boulevard, November 27, 1933.

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

The new east road is open to traffic, April 15, 1935.

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

U.S. Highway 101 at Mission Road looking east, 2009.

Link to Google Maps Street View.

Continue reading...

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


Ramona Boulevard construction

View northeast along the proposed route of Ramona Boulevard, from the Macy Street viaduct, November 15, 1933.

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

Earthmoving for the construction of Ramona Boulevard, June 4, 1934.

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

Completed Ramona Boulevard from the Macy Street viaduct, April, 16, 1935.

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

View northeast showing the proposed Ramona Boulevard from a point 100 feet north of the intersection of Mitchell and Echandia Streets, November 15, 1933.

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

Site cleared for construction, c.1934.

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

Ramona Boulevard after completion, April 16, 1935.

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

Continue reading...

Part 3
Part 4



Ramona Boulevard extras

The Arroyo de Los Posos, where Ramona Boulevard would soon be built. Looking westward from the vicinity of State Street, November 30, 1933.

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

All of the overpasses shown below (except the one at Pomeroy Ave.) were still intact until the very early 1970s, when the three then-existing lanes of the San Bernardino Freeway were widened to more.

Traveling eastbound on Ramona, the first overpass after Macy was the State Street viaduct. April 16, 1935.

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

View back towards town from atop the State St. viaduct.

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

Next overpass eastbound was the pedestrian bridge at Pomeroy Avenue (c.1934-1939).

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

Continuing east on Ramona, the overpasses for Marengo Street (foreground) and Soto (rear).

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

Continue reading...

Part 4



Views southwest from the Macy Street Viaduct, 1933-2010

The proposed route of Ramona Boulevard, November 15, 1933.

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

Ramona Boulevard upon completion, April 16, 1935.

USC Digital Library-California Historical Society.

Interchange of the new Ramona Freeway and Santa Ana Freeway, July 12, 1955. Just look at that smog!

USC Digital Library-Los Angeles Examiner.

Interchange of Interstate 10 and U.S. Highway 101, April 18, 2010.

Photo courtesy waltarrrrr on Flickr.

Previous posts about Ramona Boulevard...

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Happy New Year, everyone!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

1904 panorama

Recently obtained: this "double postcard" panoramic view of Downtown, as it appeared near the turn of the last century. The diagonal street at center is Broadway, and we're looking roughly south from atop the clock tower of the old County Court House at Temple Street. To the left is Spring Street with its intersection with First Street, and to the right is the still largely intact residential area of Bunker Hill.

Today, looking to the right, the same view is pretty much solid skyscrapers.

Click image for a nice 1872x582 enlargement.

The postcard is undated, but my best guess is that the photo was taken in 1904. The Hotel Lankershim at the far end of Broadway opened in 1905, but here, the building appears still to be in the later stages of its construction.

Is there any way a normal person living here today would recognize this as Los Angeles? Amazing that a cityscape could change so completely in only one-and-a-half human lifespans, isn't it!


Friday, October 15, 2010

"The Million-Dollar Post Office"

Courtesy USC Digital Library.

In Los Angeles history, October 1910 is indelibly associated with the unionist terror bombing of the Times Building, but just a fortnight after one major building in the city was destroyed by murderous violence, another important edifice was opened to the public with great jubilation and fanfare, 100 years ago today. It was the brand new Federal Building at Temple Square, colloquially (and somewhat derisively) referred to at the time as "The Million-Dollar Post Office," and it was the pride and joy of the whole city when it was officially dedicated on October 15, 1910.

Sadly, although clearly designed and built to endure for ages, this classic civic building would stand for only 27 years.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Richfield Kodachrome

A mid-1950s Kodachrome postcard of the magnificent Richfield Building.

Can there be any doubt that this jewel was Los Angeles's single most grievous architectural loss of the 20th century?


Monday, July 12, 2010

Return to Angels Flight

During my recent trip to Los Angeles, I got to ride Angels Flight again for the first time in 49 years.

All aboard!

Viewed from Hill Street, Angels Flight today looks frankly anachronistic and out of place. Two California Plaza (1992) truly towers over the 1901 landmark.

Photo by J Scott Shannon.

The vista looking southeast from atop Angels Flight, however, looks much as it might have 50 or more years ago. (The view today is actually better than it was in the old days.)

Photo by J Scott Shannon.

Sinai, ascending...

Photo by J Scott Shannon.

Photo by J Scott Shannon.

Angels Flight from Hill Street, 1910. What a difference a century makes!


Sunday, July 4, 2010

The County House

For Independence Day, 2010...

A perhaps unique postcard view of what was then Los Angeles's grandest civic building, depicted in its prime, almost exactly 100 years ago.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gallery of historical photos

For the past few days, I have been vacationing in Los Angeles, and twice last week, I had the privilege of visiting the amazing gallery of historical photographs on the 4th floor of City Hall. (Courtesy of Councilmember Tom LaBonge.)

Photo by J Scott Shannon.

Lining the 4th floor corridors are framed enlargements of some of the most extraordinary images of old Los Angeles I've ever seen. I wish my old digital camera had image stabilization, or I'd be posting about 50 of the pics here! A handful I've seen before in the USC/LAPL archives, but the vast majority of the photos were totally new to me.

If you're an L.A. history nut like me, I'd really urge you to treat yourself to a visit to the 4th floor. I've been there a total of three times now (my first visit was last year), and I intend on going back every chance I get. Don't forget to go up to the observation deck on the 27th floor, too! It's open to the public during business hours on weekdays.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

First class People!!

Here's a nice postcard view of old Broadway south from First Street in the mid-aughts. The sender's note is nice, too: "The finest street of the City, walking first class People!!"

Here is the photograph the postcard was evidently made from.

Note the return address of 625 S. Hope St.

This is what the 600 block of Hope looked like back then. Since odd numbered addresses are on the west sides of streets in L.A., 625 Hope must be one of those little cottages lined up between the Hotel Orena and Hotel Acacia.

Library of Congress.

A century later, that stretch of Hope looks just a tad bit different. ;) In fact, Wilshire Boulevard now cuts a wide swath right through where the cottages used to be.

Bing Maps.

And 625 S. Hope proper? Today, it's the site of one of Los Angeles's most familiar skyscrapers – none other than the United California Bank Tower (1970), which was the tallest building on the West Coast for much of the time I lived in the L.A. area.

Google Maps Street View.

Currently, of course, the UCB/First Interstate building is known as AON Center.


Monday, June 7, 2010

100 years ago today

Another Spring Street treasure I acquired recently is this postcard that "Therese E." mailed to a Mr. Rudolf Schneider. It was postmarked exactly 100 years ago today.

The postcard depicts the old diagonal alignment of Spring Street which existed before 1928. There are many variants of this image on postcards from this era, but I've never seen one with this sharpness of detail.

The building at the end of Spring Street with the high arched doorway is Los Angeles's then-new Post Office and Federal Building. At the time the postcard was mailed, the impressive edifice had already been under construction for four years, but was not yet open to the public. I'll tell the whole story of the "Million-Dollar Post Office" when its official centennial comes around in October.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New Spring Street treasures

One of the main reasons I haven't been posting here lately is that there's been a long dearth of worthwhile additions to my L.A. history collection, which regular readers have probably noticed is where I get most of my material.

Anyway, my long drought came to an end a couple of weeks ago with the acquisition of this awesome postcard of the Hotel Nadeau from 1908. This was one of the most important structures in early Los Angeles – it being the city's first-ever four-storey building, and incorporating its first passenger elevator, as well.

The detail is remarkable, isn't it? I was particularly pleased to finally obtain a clear depiction of the Godfrey & Moore pharmacy in the hotel's corner storefront. And what a corner! First and Spring in 1908 – you could hardly imagine a more ideal location for a retail business back then.

Today, of course, the main L.A. Times building occupies this once-vibrant street corner...

Photo by J Scott Shannon.

And look! I just got this Godfrey & Moore druggist bottle, too. I think this one is older than the Godfrey & Moore bottle I posted about previously. Reason I think that is the presence of a period after "LOS ANGELES." The convention of placing a period at the end of non-sentences ended around 1902, so this bottle probably pre-dates the other (and the postcard) by at least 6 or 7 years.

Photo by J Scott Shannon.

I also like this specimen because it's a "dug" bottle. It was actually unearthed from somewhere under the old city, so it's almost akin to a fossil...


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bunker Hill panorama: Then & Now

Bunker Hill, viewed in its entirety, as few people alive today have ever seen it.


Source: USC Digital Library. (Record IDs: whit-m2777, whit-m2775, whit-m2776 & whit-m2779.)
Click on image above to enlarge.

Only one human lifespan later, the same vista is virtually unrecognizable.


Photo by J Scott Shannon.
Click on image above to enlarge.


Friday, February 12, 2010

South Broadway, 1905-'06

Recall the image from my last post, which was taken from the roof of the then-new Hotel Lankershim. Now, turn 90 degrees to your right, and this is what you would see. It's South Broadway, looking north from Seventh Street, in winter 1905-'06 :

Source: USC Digital Library.

A pleasing vista of the old city, isn't it? There are familiar landmarks like the pyramid-topped tower of City Hall up the street, with the Los Angeles County Court House on the hill in the background. At right is the tallest structure in town: The Braly Building, or the Union Trust Building as it was called at that particular time.

I have to laugh at the sign on the also-new Hotel Alexandria at center right. "THIS FIRE PROOF HOTEL IS ABSOLUTELY FIRE PROOF." Sounds like a paraphrasing of a familiar internet meme. ;)

Pop quiz! How could I date this photo so precisely to 1906? Hint: it has to do with the conspicuous absence of two formerly-prominent (and pre-eminent) buildings at the left of this picture. If you know which buildings I'm talking about, then you know it's 1906, too! As far as it being winter – that's a very wintry view of the San Gabriel Mountains there. Looks like it does after a cold front's passed through, if my recollection of the area's seasonal weather features is correct.

As nice as this image is, I've saved the best for last. The next view I'll share with you will take your breath away, I guarantee!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Where the skyscrapers rise today

I realize I've been remiss in my duty here of late – not posting as much as I should (nor as much as I want). To make amends, I'm going to try to make up for my lack of quantity lately with an emphasis on quality. For starters, here's a view of old L.A. that I'll wager you've not seen before...

Source: USC Digital Library.

It's winter 1905-'06, and we're looking northwest from atop the old Hotel Lankershim at Broadway and Seventh, with Seventh Street stretching out to the hills at left. The vista shows what was called the "Apartment District" at the time. Within 25 years, frontage on Seventh would become some of the most valuable urban real estate in the West. And a quarter century after that, the area to the right of center would become the skyscraper district.

It's really something to see this area as an ordinary residential neighborhood, isn't it? Remarkable that essentially everything we see here was wiped clean off the face of the earth without a trace. No earthquake or fire or other natural disaster could have accomplished such a thorough obliteration as was wrought here by the hand of man himself...

Stay tuned! There's another even more remarkable image to follow soon.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Views of old Los Angeles

Views of old Los Angeles, compiled by Larry Harnisch...

Pop quiz: Anyone care to guess the exact vantage point for the opening panorama shot?


Friday, January 1, 2010

Year of the palm?

Will 2010 be the year that I can finally tell the whole story of the Longstreet palms in West Adams? Here's hoping! I've kind of come to an impasse in my own research, unfortunately, as I do not live in the Los Angeles area and so do not have access to the libraries and archives which likely hold the answers I seek.

In the meantime, I recently obtained this unusual "double postcard" of the palms which dates to around 1907. The detail in the enlarged card is remarkable, I think. In this picture, I can distinctly see the Singleton Court gateway in the distance all the way from Adams Street.

Interesting caption on the card. Palm Drive is referred to as being "famous," and the palms "historical" for being "planted by Gen. Longstreet."

Makes me wonder when (and why) the Longstreet palms stopped being famous and became all-but-forgotten relics of Los Angeles's past.

Read the final installment in the saga of the Longstreet Palms: 'Palms puzzle finally solved'


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