1860-1886: Los Angeles

1st and Broadway looking South, 1860

Looking South on Poundcake Hill, 1868

View looking East from Justicia on Fort Moore Hill, 1869

Looking North from 11th Street and Main Street, 1873

View looking West on Temple Street, 1874

Looking South West on Main Street, 1874

Looking South West on Spring Street from Temple Block, 1876

Looking South East from Court Street between Broadway and Hill Street, 1876

Looking South East down 3rd Street across Hill Street, 1876

3rd Street looking West from Hope, 1880

View Looking West on Temple Street, 1882

Hill Street between 2nd and 3rd looking South, 1885

Looking South across 2nd Street on Grand Avenue, 1886

2nd and Hill looking East, 1894

1st and Broadway looking NW, 1886

Sources: USC Digital Archive via G.S. Jansen

11 Responses

  1. Robert Lacey

    Am I right in thinking that at least some of these were taken by Eadweard Muybridge, who was a landscape photographer before he became interested in human and animal movement?

    Reply
  2. Em Kelisvig

    It would be interesting to see these photos side by side with contemporary photos. Or would the differences be too great after all these years?

    Reply
    • John Holmes

      i can tell just by looking at these that the difference is so great it would not even appear interesting. The hills arent even the same size anymore. imo. (i am in downtown LA everyday)

      Reply
  3. Michael

    I always wonder when gazing on old photos like these, how many of the original structures are still in existence today?

    Reply
  4. LA anon

    Em and Michael,

    I live in downtown LA. Unfortunately I don’t have the time or equipment to make comparison photos, but I can tell you I don’t see a single building that’s still there. This is the most built-up area of downtown now. This hill in the last photo is the most recognizable thing in this set but is now covered entirely in skyscrapers! Some of the houses on the hills are still there but taking pictures from the same angles would have them blocked by tall buildings.

    Reply
  5. GaryB

    There are only two landmarks I can think of close to that period (late 1800s) that still exist in Downtown Los Angeles. The first is the Bradbury Building (1893) – lovely building most famous for its role in Blade Runner. The second is Angels Flight (“The World’s Shortest Railway,” a funicular which opened in 1901), but even that’s not in the original location. For better or for worse, most of those hills don’t exist anymore. Between the Hollywood Subway in the 20s, the freeways in the 40s/50s and the redevelopment in the 60s through the 80s, most of downtown’s hills have been excavated or hollowed out in some form or another. The tunnels which used to run under Bunker Hill, for instance, now run in between skyscraper basements. It’s not all bad, though. Downtown Los Angeles has many well preserved vaudeville/early movie palaces and other treasures, just not too many from before the turn of the century.

    Reply
  6. Kat

    There is one remaining late-Victorian building left at the corner of 5th and Main, on the south side. One of the very last remaining earlier structures in downtown.

    The old Los Angeles downtown, now known as the Historic Core, was built up in the very early 1900s, just after these were taken. I briefly lived in the Security Lofts, built in what was formerly the Security Bank, built in 1906. All those buildings were built all the way up to the 150′ height limit of the time (except for the Braly-Continental Building that was built before the height cap and soars to 175′), and were the bustling heart of business in the city.

    When the California Redevelopment Agency swept through the city with their waves of destruction starting in the 60s, they focused their efforts on residential Bunker Hill and its immediate surrounding area. A theory that I have heard about why they focused there and not the “real” LA downtown was the cost of demolishing the wood and plaster Victorians was much lower than if they had tried to tackle the rock-solid concrete, steel, and granite commercial buildings to the east.

    In a way, the tragic loss of the beautiful residential districts *saved* the old commercial district. Downtown Los Angeles has the largest concentration of pre-war historic architecture of any city in the United States.

    More photos:

    LA public Library photo database http://bit.ly/ObF56r
    ENORMOUS photo forum of noirish Los Angeles (caution:rabbit hole) http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=170279

    Reply
  7. Momma Liz

    Breath Taking, what beauty, what was life back then like?
    Thank you for the trail blazers, historians and for God for giving man the knowledge to move forward and to hold on to the past.
    God Bless everyone that reads this, I pass these streets and the City of Angeles EVERYDAY!!

    Reply
  8. stevieod

    I do not see pictures of the original pueblo which today is the site of many shops and restaurants. Los Angeles did not start in the 1800s as many ignorant people believe, but was the site of a Native American village that had existed for many, many years prior to white man’s arrival.

    Then the cruel Father Junipero Serra enslaved the Native Americans during his ‘missionary’ building period and the Spanish ‘founded’ the City of Angels on the site of the Native American village.

    Reply

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