Friday, August 1, 2014



The most famous building in Los Angeles - it "screams" 20th. century.
Los Angeles’s  28-story City Hall was officially dedicated on April 26, 1928.

All Images courtesy "Google Images" with special thanks to
“Water And Power Associates”, "Roman Angels", "The Los Angeles Times" and  
"USC Digital Archives".

by Felicity Blaze Noodleman
Los Angeles, CA
8. 1.14

With the help of “Google Images” I have been able to look back in time and see how things were in the past.  Of special interest to me is historic Los Angeles and its architecture.  I am fascinated by historical architecture and decided to research some of the older building in LA.  I think that architecture in buildings is the highest tribute human kind can bestow upon ourselves.  As I perused this interest, I discovered a city within a city.  An older version of Los Angeles.  A Los Angeles I was aware of with historical treasures.  Suddenly my Google search was becoming an archaeological quest.  Some of the buildings I turned up are still here with us today and others have long since been replaced.

 The historic streetcar long-served as a popular mode of transportation along Broadway during the early and mid-1900's. In fact the Los Angeles Streetcar system, operated by Pacific Electric, had developed into the largest system in the world by the 1920's and was utilized by residents and visitors alike, opening travel to new areas and allowing access to neighborhoods miles from the city center for the first time.

Just a pile of old black & white photos and post cards you might think to your self, but if we look closer at the smallest of details we begin to uncover how everyday life must have been.  Some points you might find helpful in viewing these vintage prints are:

  • What building materials were in use.
  • How old are the cars and are there earlier modes of transportation?
  • How are the people dressed?
  • Are there trees, street lights, cable car lines and tracks in place?
  • What is the condition of streets and sidewalks?
  • What kind of advertising is visible?

A few words about  picture quality concerning old black & white photos.  We are very fortunate to have these fine examples of photography surviving today.  What is refereed to as "film speed" was very slow back in the day; an ASA (American Standards Association) of maybe 25 would be normal and requires good strong day light conditions.  
An other consideration was the carbon emission and pollutants in the air.  Fossil fuels were the standard for the day and produced a haze which had to be overcome with heavy filtration which slowed down even more to an ASA of 10 or 15.  It was some what difficult to make a good sharp exposure under these conditions.  With these variables under control, archival prints were made and black & white photography can last indefinitely.  These pictures, even though almost a hundred years old will out last many color prints made today  by the most sophisticated means. 


Los Angeles, CA has a rich and diverse past.  First founded in 1781 by Spain LA then became part of Mexico in 1821 and then purchased by The United States in 1848 and in 1850 incorporated as a municipality in five months before California became a State.  Nick named “The City of Angels” LA has been the center for many industries – Import & Export (International Trade), Oil (Petroleum) Production, Entertainment (Motion Pictures, Television, Recording and Video Games), Sports, (Baseball, Football, Basketball, Ice Hockey, Horse Racing, ect.) Air Craft and Aerospace Manufacturing, The Garment Manufacturing District A West Coast Financial Center, Education, Newly Emerging Hi-Techs and most importantly Real Estate.  Both large and small business have contributed to the unique Architecture all drawing from their own rich historical back grounds.

 When Los Angeles’s brand new, 28-story City Hall was officially dedicated on April 26, 1928, it was replacing a building on Broadway between 2nd and 3rd Streets that had been government headquarters since 1889.  (That building had replaced a one-story adobe City Hall, formerly the old Rocha House, on the northeast corner of Spring and Court Streets.)  From the USC Digital Archive, here’s a picture of the 1889 City Hall:  Exterior view of the Old City Hall, located at 226 Broadway. It stood from 1888 until 1928. This was Los Angeles' third City Hall.

 The Inspiration For This Article; "The Hall of Justice"  built during the 1920's. The old Los Angeles County Courthouse and Hall of Justice pictured together in 1930.. The Hall of Justice can still be found at its original location and was the site for the "Perry Mason" television program.  Work on the long-delayed $231 million upgrade to this historic landmark got underway late last year due to damage sustained in the Northridge earth quake in 1994.  It has been closed since that time and is scheduled to reopen again in 2014.

What I was really looking for were views of the city and it’s building when they were new and un-spoiled by the passing years.  Back when the sidewalks and streets were clean.  To see what the surrounding areas looked like.  I thought to myself when I first saw these beautiful old gyms as they formed their silhouette against the city's newest buildings how the older structures must have looked against them when they were first built.  I found what I expected.  The older wooden structures which would eventually make way for the new!  The nineteenth century changing hands with the twentieth century.

(1891) - L.A. County Courthouse, also as known as the "Red Sandstone Courthouse," shortly after its completion. Newly planted palm trees are seen in front. The telephone/telegraph poles and lines have been removed.

The Westminster Hotel. Downtown Los Angeles circa 1900.  Long since gone this hotel
exhibits the nineteenth century tastes in building and would be considered large for it's time.

 Bradbury Mansion on Bunker Hill.  Notice the chimneys and number of high points 
rising from the house it self.  Two different architectural styles seem to have been
used in the homes construction.  Today it could be the perfect "haunted house".

Old LA Times Bldg. Built some time after 1882.  The popular Architectural style of the last half of the 19th. century is "Gothic Renaissance" and is seen in almost of the architecture of this period.

The New “Los Angeles Times” as it looks today.  Several additions have been made to the property at First and Spring Streets.   Designed in the “Art Modern” style the main building was opened in 1935.   

  (1920s) - Exterior view of the Olive-5th streets corner of the Philharmonic Auditorium Building. Auditorium was as also used by the Temple Baptist Church. The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra would play in this Auditorium from 1920 until 1964 when it moved into the newly built Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

 Ahead of it's time!  The old Hall of Records built in 1881, Court House and Hall of Justice, March 26, 1927. The Hall of Records is at center and is a very tall building with hundreds of differently sized rectangular windows. Three conical roof sections are visible, and large dormers can be seen near the base of the roof as well. The Court House is visible at right behind the Hall of Records and is a dark, Gothic building with a small tower at center. The Hall of Justice is a tall, light colored Romanesque building in the background at right. In the foreground, several smaller buildings are visible.; Legible signs include, from left to right: "Foster and Kleiser" and "Los Angeles Daily Journal Official Paper for City of and County of Los Angeles Legal Advertising".     

(1923) - People sit in Pershing Square while across the street flag decorated banners hang from the still unfinished Biltmore Hotel. The view at the corner of 5th and Olive shows building materials on the 5th St. side of the hotel.  Also notice the old limousines parked of the street  The Biltmore is still part of the landscape in the Pershing Square area.

  (1915) - View of the eastern entrance of the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. The Beaux Arts/Romanesque style building features three large stone arches, a large center dome with two smaller ones on either side, terracotta-tiled roof, fancy ornamental moldings and patterns above the portico entry, and several types of bricks and many different brick patterns forming the walls of this three-story building. Above the stone arches the words "Los Angeles County Historical and Art Museum" are etched into the facade.
 Streets and roads are not not normally considered to be "architecture", however they are a part of the cities infrastructure.  This photo seems to predate the introduction of the three-way traffic signal in 1922.  Notice people, street cars, horse drawn wagons and auto.'s are all struggling for the right of way at 7th. ST and Broadway.

 (1920's) - Service station on North Vermont Avenue shows three automobiles parked next to the gas pumps as two attendants fill them up with "filtered gasoline". Other services such as polishing and simonizing are offered at this station, possibly named "Ventura Gasoline".

I've selected this photo for it's simplicity.  It seems to reveal so much about life in the 1920's.  Notice the accents on the building structure itself.  These people were making a statement - even the most common of people were worthy of "Rigel" respect and"the red carpet treatment"!

(1915) - A view of 7th St. as it crosses Spring St., looking west. The buildings of this era all share a simple square or rectangle style and facades are ornate incorporating decorative embellishments.  Everything from brass windows and doors to scrolled Greek and Roman Renaissance accents differentiate one from the other with a combination of brick, concrete and marble building materials.

 (1913) - Panoramic view of Olive Street looking north from 6th Street in 1913 toward snow-capped mountains. At left is the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Building, and at right is Pershing Square. Beyond it is the Auditorium Building. Various other buildings are seen in this view taken from the Los Angeles Athletic Club building on 7th and Olive. The afternoon sun bathes them in a strong light.  A completely different skyline will emerge by the end of the 20th. century. 

(1922) - Exterior view of Loew's State Theatre building located at the intersection of Broadway and 7th Streets. Entrance to the theatre is on the left of this photo. Marquee reads: Now- Flapper week-Doris May in "Gay and Devilish." Occupants of the building also includes a dentist, Headquarters for Moore for Senator campaign, Star Shoe Co. and the Owl Drug. Co. The streets are crowded with pedestrians crossing and standing along the sidewalks. 

  6th Street looking west from Olive Street. At right is the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. building. Pershing Square is at close right. In the distance is the Jonathan Club. A streetcar bears the destination of Bimini Baths. At left is a sign, "Edwards Wildey."

(1923) - Exterior view of Farmers and Merchants National Bank of Los Angeles, located at the southwest corner of 4th and Main Streets. Note the architectural designs on the building. 

(1908) - View of West 6th Street from Pershing Square in 1908, with the Pacific Mutual Building seen on Olive Street.  Notice the woman dressed in early 1900's fashion and see how clean the sidewalks are!  They were probably brand new.

 (1924) - Exterior view of the Elks Club as seen from the park. View shows the architectural designs and statues at the top of the building, the corners and at the very top corners of the building.

1880 - Main Street and Temple Street – Los Angeles, CA.  Although the streets
were not paved LA had established a modern horse drawn Trolley car system
providing mass transportation for their growing community.

Los Angeles; at the turn of the Twentieth century was growing at an explosive rate.  It was a product of the century which had just ended.  A metropolitan city, which had grown out of the old west.  Angelino's had a vision of greatness for their city.  The population here was growing and a new type of American city was taking shape - a metropolitan city which would rival New York on the east coast or the metropolitan cities of Europe.   

During this period of early Los Angles history, three European styles of architecture are very predominate in the city, The “Victorian & Gothic” style of Western Europe, Eastern European structures featured their “Onion Dome” embellishments and the “Mediterranean” influences of Spain each also employ their own Gothic styles.  Also mixed in with these structures is the “Adobe” influences of the South Western US.

The New buildings of the Twentieth century were beginning to rise higher than ever before with new building techniques which employed the use of a “super structure”, constructed with iron beams and then covered with concrete.

As Los Angeles expanded to the out laying areas of Glendale, Hollywood and Santa Monica tunnels were built to move the traffic through the hilly region.  These tunnels are gone today but were essential in the early years of the century.  LA even had a subway of sorts which was linked to the trolley car system of the day.  So much has changed!

(1905- Photograph of the Bryson Block on the corner of Second Street and Spring Street, Los Angeles, 1905. The eight-story building towers above the streets and other buildings nearby. The first two floors are constructed of stone masonry, while the top two floors are constructed of brick. The building has a circular, tower-like corner. A street banner announces, "Pasadena floral parade and chariot races, first prize $1000.00." The street is busy with pedestrian, bicycle, horse-drawn carriage, early model car and streetcar traffic.

(1900) - View of the State Normal School, located at Grand Avenue and 5th Street. Here, clusters of students can be seen on the balcony, going up the stairway, and scattered around the grounds. 

 Historical Notes
The California State Normal School was a teaching college that was founded on May 2, 1862 in San Jose. In March 1881, after heavy lobbying by Los Angeles residents, the California State Legislature authorized the creation of a southern branch of the school to be built in downtown Los Angeles, which would train teachers for the growing population of Southern California. On August 29, 1882, the State Normal School at Los Angeles opened its doors. 
In 1919, the Los Angeles State Normal School became part of the "UC system" and was absorbed into UCLA, moving to a larger campus on Vermont Avenue in Hollywood (the present site of L.A. City College). The L.A. Public Library would take the old Normal School site, which was located on 5th Street between Grand and Flower streets.

 Looking west up 4th Street from Hill Street, 1939. Up the block, that little narrow alley is Clay Street; the street between the Mutual Garage and the Hotel Clark Garage is Olive. So already by 1939, there were multi-level parking structures on Bunker Hill.   USC Archive

  (1925- Ceremonies commemorating the opening of the Pacific Electric tunnel under Bunker Hill, from Beverly Boulevard to 5th and Hill Street.

 The lower photo shows how apartment buildings replaced the frame structures of earlier years. The Crocker Mansion is the fancy building at the top of Bunker Hill, and the viewing tower stands behind it to the right. There appear to be electric lights in the tunnel: In June 1903 a journalist had suggested coating the walls of the tunnel with radium to provide illumination.

 (1929- Southwest corner of North Broadway and Sunset Boulevard, showing the north portal of the Broadway Tunnel, which later was demolished, the hill removed and the street widened. The newly constructed City Hall (1928) can be seen in the background.

 (1928- Looking westerly at the southern side of the 390' long open spandrel arch bridge located at Fourth and Lorena Streets in Boyle Heights, not long after in was built in 1928. The bridge, a declared city of Los Angeles historic monument, No. 265 , is located in a residential neighborhood, as indicated by the various homes present in the background.

 1917 - Looking south on Main from the Westminster Hotel tower at Fourth St..  In the left foreground is the San Fernando Building.  Across Main St. are the Farmers and Merchants Bank and the Isaias Hellman Building, all of which are part of the old bank district residential development.  

(1920) - Temple Block, junction of Main, Spring and Temple streets; Spring Street at left, Main Street at right, Temple Street in foreground. Photograph shows a large 1800's brick commercial building with sign on top reading: "INTERNATIONAL STEAMSHIP AND RENTAL TICKET OFFICE" and another sign on the middle facing reading: "PAINLESS DENTISTRY".

(1915) - Even though this old photo is damaged, we see the Corner view of J.W. Robinson's department store.   This beautifully designed cream colored brick structure
is at 7th Street and Grand. 

 (1917- A view of the Pacific Mutual Building, the tallest on the northwest corner of Olive and 6th Streets. Built between 1908-1912, the original structure (as seen above) has undergone many changes: a North Side addition was built in 1916 by William J. Dodd; a twelve-story structure was built in 1921 by William J. Dodd and his associate William Richards; the Garage Building was added in 1926 by Schultze and Weaver; and the West Side addition was erected in 1929 by Parkinson and Parkinson. The building underwent modern remodeling in 1936 by Parkinson and Parkinson.

(1920s- Exterior view of Bovard Hall, U.S.C.'s Administration building. Note the arch over the entrance and windows, the architectural designs on the building and carved statues on the tower. Students may be seen coming and going in front of the hall.

 (1950) - Scenic view of Bovard Hall at U.S.C.

(ca. 1924)* - Exterior view of the Elks Club building at 607 South Park View Street. Searchlights beam into the sky, illuminating the building at night. The outline of many parked cars may be seen in front of the building. Date built: 1923-24. Architects: Curlett & Beelman.

(1924) - A construction fence and temporary buildings surround the St. Vincent Catholic Church, 621 W. Adams Blvd., as it is being built. Scaffolding is on the dome and sides. Limestone blocks for the facade lie on the ground in front of the entrance. The surrounding neighborhood has stately homes with extensive grounds.

 (1926- Exterior view of the second B'nai B'rith Temple on the corner of 9th and Hope streets. Neighboring businesses, hotels and apartment buildings are visible all along Hope Street, which runs from the foreground to the left side of the image.

(1929)- Looking north on Hill Street from 8th Street on Dec. 5th, 1929. The street is illuminated by streetlights, electric signs, and lights on the Christmas trees.

 The United Artists Theater building (sign pictured in the above night photo) - was the tallest in Los Angeles for one year after its completion - was Formerly the "Texaco Building" and then later "The Los Angeles University Cathedral" At 933 S.Broadway Los Angeles,Ca.   Built in 1927 by the United Artist studio, was the flag ship for other theaters built around the nation in the same style.  The building is now under going renovation and will become the Ace Hotel.

(1929) Traffic on Wilshire Boulevard at the intersection of Western Avenue. The offices of real estate developer Henry deRoulet are on the opposite corner.

 (Above) Built in 1930 this theater is just unbelievably magnificent!  The Los Angeles was to be the final and most spectacular of downtown’s movie palaces.
(Below)  Interior view of this historic theater.  

 S. Charles Lee, the architect, believed the show “began at the sidewalk.” The six floor lobby is a delicious confection that leads into the experience.  This is just too incredible.

(1935) - An exterior view of the west side of Central Library, with lawn and sidewalks extending in several directions across the lawn. Cars of 1930's vintage are parked on the street. 

(1936) - View of Bullock's department store on Wilshire Blvd. from the west. Cars are seen traveling east and west on Wilshire Blvd. James Webb, Engraving and Stationery store, is present in the background on the left.  Los Angeles is beginning its march, extending Wilshire to Santa Monica and the ocean.

Wilshire Boulevard as it stretches west from downtown through MacAthur Park was for decades a center of commerce, with a row of high-rise buildings once occupied by business powerhouses like Union Bank, Texaco, IBM and Getty Oil.    “The LA Times”

Houses of Faith are seen throughout Los Angeles.  
The spectacular Immanuel Presbyterian Church (1928), 3300 Wilshire Boulevard.
 Designed in association with C.F. Skilling, was one of Patterson’s last and greatest designs.

 (1939) - View of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, at 3663 Wilshire Boulevard at Hobart Blvd. People are seen on the steps in front of the temple.

 (Above) Bunker Hill 1900.
(Below)  Bunker Hill as seen from the down town area.
What a difference a hundred years can make!

Meanwhile  . . .  In Hollywood  . . .

(1920s) - Aerial view of the Hollywoodland Sign showing the newly developed land in the foreground as well as the farmland of the San Fernando Valley behind the Hollywood Hills.
The HOLLYWOODLAND sign sits below Mt. Lee. Another sign ( just the letter 'H') is seen to the left on top of Mt.Cahuenga.

(1923) - View of Hollywood Blvd. at Cahuenga with traffic and pedestrians waiting to cross in 1923. The Security Trust & Savings Bank building is on the left side of the photograph.

(1927)* - Night view shows theater lights and throngs of fans packing the streets for blocks around Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Publicity of Hollywood premiers usually brought stars and other distinguished visitors to magnificent events such as the one seen here - possibly the opening night of a movie starring Douglas Fairbanks. 

(1925) - Aerial view of the Japanese estate and gardens, once owned by the brothers Charles and Adolph Bernheimer, located at 1999 N. Sycamore Avenue in Hollywood.

 (1934- The Griffith Observatory and the main building, the planetarium, are seen from below and from the back. A hiking path has been cut into the hillside below, on the south side, but brush still covers much of the area. 



(1924- View shows an amusement park, complete with wooden roller coaster,
on the Santa Monica pier.

Building styles in early Los Angeles were dictated by the technology and materials of the day and were also mindful of the ravages of fire and earth quake.  For many years LA City Hall was the tallest building in LA.  It's imposing presence could be seen from almost any where in the down town area.  Catastrophic failure of building materials is also another consideration as buildings rise to ever higher structures.  The invention of the elevator was a major stepping stone in moving architecture upwards toward the sky.  Although cities like New York would benefit greatly from the innovations of the “Skyscraper” because of the limited availability of real estate, here in Los Angeles the city has the luxury to grow in all directions.

Expanding outward from the down town city core or Los Angeles proper, the move was on!  Real world Monopoly was a game for all in Southern California.  Build it, rent the office space, sell it and then build a newer bigger one.  By the 1950’s Los Angeles had Freeways moving in every direction leading from the down town area.  Urban sprawl was afoot.  What I find really unusual about LA is that Skyscrapers have been build on one of the highest points of the city.  Prior to the development of "Bunker Hill" some of the tallest buildings were built in the "Century City" area of LA.


There seems to be a wealth of vintage old photographs documenting the growth of Los Angeles from its earliest years.  Very few American cities compare to the success of Los Angeles.  It is fascinating to see how functional the old metropolis was, as it gave way to the Los Angeles of today.  We hope to visit more vintage sights in the future!  This has been Felicity for "The Noodleman Group".

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