Early Views of the Los Angeles Plaza

Historical Photos of Early Los Angeles
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(1876)* - Panoramic view of the Los Angeles Plaza in 1876. The Pico House is the prominent 3-story white building at the center of the photo. The Los Angeles River can be seen in the background.
 

 

Historical Background

The Los Angeles Plaza Historic District, also known as El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park, is located at the oldest section of Los Angeles, known for many years as "El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles". The district, centered on the old plaza, was the city's center under Spanish (1781–1821), Mexican (1821–1847) and United States (after 1847) rule through most of the 19th Century.

The one person most responsible for the founding of Los Angeles was the new Governor of California, Felipe de Neve.  In 1777 Neve toured Alta California and decided to establish civic pueblos for the support of the military presidios. The new pueblos would reduce the secular power of the missions by reducing the dependency of the military on them. At the same time, they would promote the development of industry and agriculture. Neve identified Santa Barbara, San Jose, and Los Angeles as sites for his new pueblos.^*

 

 

 

 
(1853)* - This picture was scanned from a rare stone lithograph of downtown Los Angeles, cut in 1853, known as the "Survey View." The view is from Fort Moore Hill looking east, toward the river.*#*  

 

Historical Background

The City of Los Angeles originated right here. Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles was founded on September 4, 1781 by a group of Spanish pobladeros (settlers), consisting of 11 families – 44 men, women and children. They were originally led by Fernando Javier Rivera y Moncada (1725-1781), and accompanied by a contingent of soldiers – who had set out from the nearby Mission San Gabriel Arcángel to establish a pueblo along the banks of the Porciúncula River at the Indian village of Yangna. The church was considered an asistencia (“sub-mission”). Priests from Mission San Gabriel divided their time between the mission and the Asistencia site.**

 

 

 

 
(1850)^*# - This is an old photograph of an accurate model of Los Angeles in 1850. Looking northeast, the layout of the new city can clearly be seen with the Los Angeles Plaza located in the lower left-center. The large white structure to the left of the Plaza is the Old Plaza Church. The two streets running from bottom of photo to the Plaza are Main Street on the left and Los Angeles Street on the right. Alameda Street runs from the lower right corner diagonally toward the lower center of photo. The L.A. River can be seen running from the lower-right diagonally to the center of the photo, turns left and disappears behind the mountain. At that point the Arroyo Seco can be seen at its confluence with the LA River. The tall majestic San Gabriel Mountains stand in the far background. Vineyards blanket the area between the City and the L.A. River (lower right). The large dark spot in the lower-right of the photo is El Aliso, the historic landmark of the indigenous Tongva people who once lived in the Indian Village of Yangna at that location, adjacent to the L.A. River.  

 

Historical Notes

It wasn't until April 4, 1850 that Los Angeles was incorporated as a municipality, five months before California achieved statehood.*

In 1850, the population of Los Angeles was only 1610.^*

 

 

 
(ca. 1850)^** - Photo of a sketch showing the LA Plaza and surounding area as it appeared in 1850. The Old Plaza Church appears at upper left. The map is based on the 1849 Ord Survey.  

 

 

 

Click HERE to see more in an Interactive Map of Early Los Angeles as it appeared in 1850.

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1858)* - This is the earliest known close-up photograph of the Los Angeles Plaza. The Plaza Church is in he lower left. There is a square main brick reservoir in the middle of the Plaza, which was the terminus of the town's historic lifeline: the Zanja Madre ('Mother Ditch'). The reservoir was built in 1858 by the LA Water Works Company. Click HERE to read more about the Zanja Madre and Los Angeles' first water supply.  

 

Historical Notes

The site of the Plaza today is not the original location. It is the second, third, or maybe even the fourth. One of the earlier plots is believed to be  around where the current Pershing Square sits. It’s also thought that at least one of the first three was washed away in a flood. The current Plaza dates from as early as 1815.^^#

When early settlers arrived at the Los Angeles River by way of Mission Road, they picked as a nearby gathering point a huge sycamore (upper right-center of photo) that gave them shelter and became a landmark, "El Aliso." That Spanish word for sycamore was later used to name the road carved out near the river (Aliso Street in 1854).*^*

El Aliso (upper center-right of photo) sprang from the ground near the western bank of the Los Angeles River in the late fifteenth century, about the same time Columbus arrived in the Americas. As it matured, the sycamore -- located at the juncture of the Los Angeles coastal plain and the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys -- became a gathering place for Los Angeles' indigenous Tongva people. Local leaders traveled from their villages across Southern California to confer under the shade of the tree's canopy. By the mid-eighteenth century, the mighty sycamore stood at the center of one of the largest Tongva villages, Yangna. By the 1830s, due to the encroachment of the pueblo, El Aliso had ceased to function as the symbolic center of daily Tongva life as Yangna changed locations twice before dissolving into historical oblivion.*^^*

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1860)* - One of Los Angeles' first water reservoirs was the brick structure shown in the center of the Plaza. The adobe directly behind was owned by Augustin Olvera. The 3-story building in the background was at the site of the City's first hospital (Sisters of Charity Hospital), orphanage and school.  

 

Historical Notes

In 1857, the city council granted William Dryden a franchise to deliver water to homes through a system of wooden pipes beneath the streets. Dryden and his newly incorporated water company, Los Angeles Water Works Co., erected a forty foot water wheel to lift water from the LA River to the city's main water ditch.

In 1858, the LA Water Works Co. constructed a large brick and wood storage tank in the center of the city plaza as seen above. It would remain there for about 10 years and then replaced by a fountain. Water would be continued to be stored in other tanks on the periphery of the plaza as well as in other nearby reservoirs.

In 1860, the population of Los Angeles was 4385, almost three times what it was 10 years earlier.^*

Click HERE to read more about Water in Early L.A. Also, click HERE to see more Early LA Water Reservoirs.

 

 

 

 
(n.d.)^#*^ - Map showing the LA Plaza area as it appeared in 1860. Adobe structures are predominately on all sides.  

 

 

 

 

 
(1857)*** - Photograph of a drawing (by a young lady pupil of Sister's School) of the Los Angeles Plaza Church with a group of 14 nuns processing in the foreground. A wooden picket fence extends from the church at left to the right. A horseman prances nearby (at right). Two people stand near the church entrance (at left). A few other people are visible on the bare hilltop behind. The flat roof of the mission was covered with tar from the La Brea Tar Pits. Drawn in 1857.  

 

Historical Notes

The 'Church of Los Angeles' was founded on August 18, 1814 by Franciscan Fray Luis Gil y Taboada. He placed the cornerstone for the new church in the adobe ruins of the original "sub-station mission" here, the Nuestra Señora Reina de los Ángeles Asistencia (founded 1784), thirty years after it was established to serve the settlement founding Los Angeles Pobladores (original settlers).^*

 

 

 

 
(1860)*** -  Photograph of a lithograph from Benjamin Nayer's diary depicting the exterior of the Plaza Church in Los Angeles, 1860.  

 

Historical Notes

The completed new structure was dedicated on December 8, 1822. A replacement chapel, named La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles - for Mary, mother of Jesus or "The Church of Our Lady of the Angels" - was rebuilt using materials of the original church in 1861. The title Reina, meaning "Queen," was added later to the name. For years, the little chapel, which collected the nicknames "La Placita" and "Plaza Church," served as the sole Roman Catholic church in emerging immigrant Los Angeles.^*

 

 

 

 
(1868)** - Our Lady of the Angels Church, known as "The Old Plaza Church", with its gazebo-like tower is on the left, facing the Los Angeles Plaza.  

 

Historical Notes

The original 1822 -built "Church of Our Lady of the Angels" incoporated a three-bell campanario, or "bell wall" which was replaced by a gazebo-like structure (seen above) when the Church was rebuilt in 1861. The "bell wall" or "bell tower" would once again return when the Plaza Church was repaired/remodeled circa 1901.^*

 

 

 
(1870)** - Close-up detailed view of the front entrance to the 'Old Plaza Church'.  

 

Historical Notes

The original 1822-built "Church of Our Lady of the Angels" incoporated a three-bell campanario, or "bell wall" which was replaced by a gazebo-like structure (seen above) when the Church was rebuilt in 1861. The "bell wall" or "bell tower" would once again return when the Plaza Church was repaired/remodeled circa 1901.^*

 

 

 
(1870s)*** - Exterior view of the Plaza Church or Mission Nuestra Senora de La Reina de Los Angeles. In front of the church is a fence that encloses the yard (at right). Three trees in the yard hinder the view of the building in the background. Two horse-drawn carriages are parked in front of the church and near the fence.  

 

Historical Notes

This is about the time LA Plaza's configuration changed from square to circular. One of the two posts seen in the center of the street appears to be the old gas lamp which was located on the northwest corner of the old square plaza.

 

 

 
(ca. 1868)** - A view of the northwest corner of the Los Angeles Plaza. This is the intersection of Calle Principal (Main Street) and Marchessault Street. Note the gas lamp at the corner of the Plaza. LA's first streetlight system (gas lamps) was installed on Main Street in 1867.  

 

Historical Notes

In 1867, Los Angeles Gas Company, the forerunner of today's Southern California Gas Company, installed 43 new gas lamps along Main Street, making the city safer at night. The gas lighting business was run by five entrepreneurs who manufactured the gas from asphalt, a tar-like substance, and later from oil.

The gas company's plant, including two large tanks, was located across the street from the Plaza, just south of the Old Plaza Church (see next photo).

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1871)*** - Photograph of a lithograph of Los Angeles with the LA Plaza and Pico House at center-right. The lithograph shows Los Angeles at an early age where most of the city consists of agricultural land showing orchards and farmland (foreground). Majority of the homes and buildings are clustered closer to the mountains in the background.  

 

 

 

 

 
(1873)*#* - Ruxton Survey of the Central Pueblo. This oversize plat shows the plaza area in 1873, including the center of town with the early buildings and the zanza madra (zanja madre) which was LA's original water aqueduct and lifeline. The map also shows the streets in use and the early owners of many of the properties. The layout of the plaza itself, however, is shown as it appeared before the change in landscaping in the prior two years before it became rounded.  

 

Historical Notes

Calle Principal is now Main Street and follows the old Bath Street, while the upper portion of Calle Principal became Upper Main and later Spring Street, and no longer exists below Sunset Boulevard. (Its remnants can be seen in El Pueblo de Los Angeles Parking Lot Number 2.)

Calle de los Negros (then disparagingly called "Nigger Alley") is now the east side of Los Angeles Street.

Wine Street is now Olvera Street.

Sunset Boulevard (at one time called Short Street) originally ran down Church (Bread) and Marchessault Streets; now it follows a more direct path to connect with Macy Street, and this portion was recently renamed Cesar E. Chavez Street.

Calle Alta (old High Street) is now Ord Street.

Church (Bread) Street is now an alley.

Calle Corto (Short Street) no longer exists.*#*

 

 

 

 
(1868)^ - This manuscript map traces the path of the essential lifeline of early Los Angeles: the Zanja Madre, or Mother Ditch, prepared by cartographer William Moore.  

 

Historical Notes

The Zanja Madre is shown here from the river at the right edge of the map, running along the bluffs in the proximity of current day North Broadway, completely open to the elements. A few years after this rendering, a brick tunnel enclosed the Zanja Madre in an attempt by the Common Council and the Los Angeles City Water Company to preserve the precious water flowing down from the river.  The map includes the Campo Santo cemetery (the second one) at the end of Eternity Street, the water wheel that propelled the flow toward the pueblo, and the homes of pioneers like Jose Sepulveda, Abel Stearns, and Bernardo Wilson.*^^

Click HERE to see more in Zanja Madre - LA's Original Aqueduct

William Moore, the rendering’s rather robust and tireless cartographer, was county surveyor for two separate terms and a man with such drive that he once tired of waiting for a ship from San Francisco and walked to Los Angeles. Because he was bi-lingual and reportedly quite charming he was involved in many important projects in the days after California gained statehood, including the planning of reservoirs, a sewer system, creation of sidewalks, the Farmers and Merchants Bank, and even orange growing for a time.*^^

 

 

 

 
(1869)* - Panoramic view of the Plaza and 'Old Plaza Church' (Mission Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles). The square main brick reservoir in the middle (partial view) was the water reservoir builit by William Dryden and his LA Water Works Co. Click HERE to read more on Wiliam Dryden.  

 

Historical Notes

The building in the top right background was the Sisters of Charity Hospital.  The three adobes seen on the north side of the Plaza were owned in 1869 by M. Norton (built 1854), John Downey (shrouded by trees, built 1844) and Augustin Olvera (built 1854). They are all gone now. The first lost to the widening of Main St, the second torn down in 1894 to build the Simpson-Jones Building and the last demolished in 1916 to build the Methodist Church and Conference Center.

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1869)*** - View of the edge of the Los Angeles Plaza and the entrance to Wine Street (renamed Olvera Street in 1877) looking north from the Pico House. The Avila Adobe is visible on Wine Street. The Olvera Adobe can also be seen on the right. In the foreground running horizontally two fences, a wrought-iron fence and a post-and-rail fence, can be seen on either side of the street.  

 

Historical Notes

Don Francisco Avila, a wealthy cattle rancher and one-time Mayor of the pueblo of Los Angeles, built the Avila Adobe in 1818. The Avila Adobe, presently the oldest existing residence within the city limits, was one of the first town houses to share street frontage in the new Pueblo de Los Angeles.**

 

 

 

 
(1850)^** - Map view looking northwest showing the LA Plaza and surrounding area as it appeared in 1850. To the right can seen Olvera Street (Wine Street until 1877) at its intersection with the Plaza, with both the Olvera Adobe and Avila Adobe locations marked with an X. The Plaza Church is in the upper left corner. The Lugo Adobe, the Plaza's only two-story building, is seen at lower right and is identified by the No. 2.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1868)** - The Plaza, looking east, with LA's first above ground reservoir to the right of the picture. The two-story building directly behind the reservoir is the Vicente Lugo adobe house. The building in front of the reservoir with the gazebo-like tower is the 'Old Plaza Church'.  

 

Historical Notes

The Lugo Adobe, said to have been built in the 1840s by Don Vicente Lugo, was one of the very few two-story houses in the pueblo of Los Angeles. In 1867, Lugo donated this house on the Plaza to St. Vincent's School (forerunner of Loyola University).^^

Click HERE to see more of St. Vincent's College (later LMU).

 

 

 

 
(1869)*** - View showing the Pico House, Masonic Temple and the Plaza area from a hill overlooking Spring Street and Main Street, Los Angeles, December 1, 1869. In the foreground is a community of small houses. Just beyond the community is the Pico House, which faces Main Street. The Plaza is to the left of the Pico House. The Masonic Temple (or Hall) stands several buildings to the right of the Pico House. A majority of the buildings in view are residential houses.  

 

Historical Notes

Between 1868 and 1870, Pio Pico constructed the three story, 33-room hotel, Pico House (Casa de Pico) on the old plaza of Los Angeles, opposite today's Olvera Street.

Pío de Jesús Pico was the last Governor of Alta California under Mexican rule. In 1821 Pico set up a tanning hut and dram shop in Los Angeles, selling drinks for two Spanish bits (US 25 cents). His businesses soon became a significant source of his income.

By the 1850s Pico was one of the richest men in Alta California. In 1850 he purchased the 8,894-acre Rancho Paso de Bartolo, which included half of present day Whittier. Two years later, he built a home on the ranch and lived there until 1892. It is preserved today as Pio Pico State Historic Park. Pico also owned the former Mission San Fernando Rey de España, Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores (now part of Camp Pendleton), and several other ranchos for a total of over one half-million acres, or 800 mi².  ^*

 

 

 
(1870)** - On the right is the Pico House, erected by the last Mexican governor, Pio Pico. Described as "the latest thing in luxury, gas lights and several bath tubs." On the upper left appears Olvera Street.
 

 

Historical Notes

The Pico House was known as the "finest hotel in Southern California," boasted "bathrooms and water closets for both sexes" on each floor. Pio Pico, the last governor of Mexican California, sold his land in the San Fernando Valley to raise money for its construction. It was Los Angeles' first three story building.^#^

 

 

 

(ca. 1880s)*#^ - View shwoing the Pico House's French restaurant dining room.

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Notes

The Pico House had 82 bedrooms, 21 parlors and two interior courtyards. It also had a French restaurant that was located on the ground floor.^#^

 

 

 
(ca. 1873)** - View looking east showing the showing the Pico House, the Merced Theater, and the Masonic Lodge, located on Main Street. Two tanks of the City's first gas works are seen in the foreground. They were located just south of the Plaza Church (out of view to the left) and across the street from the Pico House.  

Historical Notes

The gas tanks were built in 1867 when the City installed its first streetlighting system consisting of 43 gas lamps along Main Street. By 1873, 136 gas lamps provided the outdoor night lighting for the City.

Things would change in 1882 when electricity was introduced. Click HERE to see more in Early Los Angeles Streetlights.

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1870s)*#^ - Close-up view of the Pico House and surrounding area, including gas tanks in the foreground.  

 

 

 

 
(1873)*#^ - The Pico House, and to its right, Merced Theater and Masonic Lodge as seen from Fort Moore Hill. Note the streetcar tracks running down the middle of Main Street. Also, to the left, a fragment of the Plaza, and the adobe structures which stand south of the Lugo Adobe on what is now Los Angeles Street, then Calle de los Negros. The LA River can be seen in the background.  

 

 

 

 
(1873)*** - Photograph of a line drawing of the Los Angeles Plaza representing a photo by Horation Penelon. The plaza and fountain are shown to the right of center, the Josefa Dominguez home represented in front of it. The plaza church is shown to the left, while in the right bottom corner, the first Los Angeles Gas Works is depicted.  

 

Historical Notes

A caption above the image reads: "Photograph of the Los Angeles Plaza taken by Horatio Penelon in 1873. From the collection of Charles Prudhomme who supplied identifications to Glenn Palmer of the Times Staff". The back of the photoprint identifies the structures pictured from left to right: (top) Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles "Plaza Church" ([...]berela Belfry); Jonas Jones home, ancestor of the Lankershim family; Judge Augustin Olveras, Home and Court Room; Pablo dor(?) Narvaros Adobe; Becente Luego Home, later Saint Vincentia College now Loyola; Don Ignacio del Valle home. Bottom: Plaza Church's campo Santo (cemetary); First Gas Works and Adobe of Dona [B]enancia Dotello de Dominguez. Photoprint also reads "Padre Blas Ra[...] in 1860 on the restoration of the chruch was the pastor". ***

 

 

 

 
(1873)** - A view of the Los Angeles Plaza as it looked in 1873. Again, note that the big water tank reservoir in the middle of the Plaza is no longer there. It was replaced with a fountain by the LA Water Company.
 

 

Historical Notes

In 1868, John S. Griffen, Solomon Lazard, and Prudent Beaudry, three of the city's more successful businessmen, submitted a proposal to the city council to develop and operate the city's water system. In turn they asked for all of the city's water rights and control over the water rates. They also promised to construct a reservoir for the city, lay twelve miles of iron pipe, install fire hydrants at major street crossings, provide free water to public buildings, and to erect an ornamental fountain in the Plaza.

Click HERE to see more in Water in Early Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1873)** - View across the Plaza in the early 1870's were three people are posing for the photograph. The Plaza Church and the Cape House Restaurant are seen in the background. In the far background can be seen Fort Moore Hill. The Plaza was landscaped in 1871 and has served since that date as a public park.  

 

Historical Notes

Fort Hill (also known as Fort Moore Hill) was a prominent hill overlooking the pueblo of Los Angeles. Its commanding view of the city made it a strategic location.

Fort Moore was an historic U.S. Military Fort during the Mexican–American War. Its approximate location was at what is now the Hollywood Freeway near the intersection of North Hill Street and West Cesar Chavez Avenue, downtown. The hill on which it was built became known as Fort Moore Hill, most of which was removed in 1949 for construction of the freeway. The hill was located one block north of Temple Street and a short distance south of present day Cesar Chavez Avenue, between the Los Angeles Civic Center and Chinatown.

The fort is now memorialized by the Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial, 451 North Hill Street.^*

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1875)* - Another view of the LA Plaza from a slightly different angle as seen from Fort Moore Hill. The Pico House can be seen to the right of the photo. To the left is the Plaza Church and next to it, at center of photo, are the City's gas works and tanks.  

 

 

 

 
(1875)** - Panoramic view of Sonora Town as seen from the Pico House in the 1870s. The large 3-story building in the background is the Los Angeles Charitable Institute run by the Sisters of Charity.  

 

Historical Notes

In the foreground of the above photo is the courtyard of Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles, showing the padres' kitchen, bishop and padres' quarters, parochial school and courtyard planted to citrus orchard. To the left of this, a low white adobe, is the bakery of Pierre Domegue and his Indian wife, who baked sourdough French bread. Behind this on the next block are two square buildings, the Bath Street (later Olvera Street) Public School. In the rear is a three-story building at Alameda and Macy Streets, the Los Angeles Charitable Institute run by the Sisters of Charity. Just behind the bakery is the Pelanconi Winery, later La Golondrina Restaurant. Also shown, behind the church facilities, is the adobe residence of Mr. and Mrs. John Jones, parents of Mrs. Lankershim.**

 

 

 
(1860)** - Photo of a watercolor painting of the first school (and Sisters of Charity Orphanage) in Los Angeles, made in 1860 by a student.  

 

Historical Notes

The school faced Alameda at Macy Street. It was called Los Angeles Charitable Institute, later the Los Angeles Orphan Asylum, but in Spanish, Casa de las Hermanas. The Sisters bought the old Benito Wilson frame house at the right, which had been shipped in pieces around the Horn. The property included about twelve acres and sold for $8,000. The house was demolished, and the brick building constructed with materials also brought around the Horn in a sailing vessel. The sale took place in 1856, the building was completed in 1858, and it was used until 1891. It opened with about 20 girls enrolled. Don Francisco Coronel (father of Don Antonio Coronel) and his two daughters were the teachers. One daughter later married the historian Bancroft. Later this became the site of the Post Office.**

 

 

 

 

 
(1876)** - Panoramic view of the Los Angeles Plaza in 1876. The Pico House is the prominent 3-story white building at the center of the photo. The LA River can be seen in the background.
 

 

 

 

 

 
(1875)* - View of the Pico House, built by Pio Pico. There is a stage coach in front of the hotel and a horse drawn-carriage parked along side it. Approximately two dozen men seem to be standing on the sidewalk looking toward the photographer.  

 

Historical Notes

Pío Pico constructed the Pico House in 1869-70. The first three-story hotel built in Los Angeles, it had about eighty rooms, large windows, a grand staircase, and a small interior courtyard.^*

In 1880, Pio Pico would lose the hotel by foreclosure. Also, between 1892 and 1920, the hotel would be known as the National Hotel.^#^

The Pico House (Hotel) was designated as California Historical Landmark No. 159. Click HERE to see California Historical Landmarks in LA.

 

 

 
(1870s)** - The Merced Theater sits between the Pico House and the Mason Lodge. This was the "first business block on Main Street".  

 

Historical Notes

The Merced Theatre, erected in 1870 on North Main Street next to the Pico House, was the first building built expressly for theatrical purposes in Los Angeles. It was built by William Abbot, a cabinetmaker, and named in honor of his wife Merced Garcia.^^

The theater was built in an Italianate style and operated as a live theater from 1871 to 1876. When the Woods Opera House opened nearby in 1876, the Merced ceased being the city's leading theater. Eventually, it gained an "unenviable reputation" because of "the disreputable dances staged there, and was finally closed by the authorities." ^*

The Merced Theatre was dedicated as California Historical Landmark No. 171 (Click HERE to see more in California Historical Landmarks in Los Angeles).

 

 

 

 
(1874)*** - A horse-drawn streetcar of the Spring & Sixth Railway in front of the Pico House (Note: the photo indicates 1870, however, that date does not align with historic records indicating first streetcar in 1874).  

 

Historical Notes

L.A.'s first streetcars ran under horsepower. Steam locomotives were considered too dirty and dangerous for use on city streets still teeming with easily spooked horses, and cable car technology was still new and expensive. Electric-powered traction railways, meanwhile, remained more than a decade off.

On July 1, 1874, the modest, horse-drawn cars of the Spring and Sixth Street Railroad became the first streetcars to roll down Los Angeles streets. Founded by lawyer Robert M. Widney, the Spring & Sixth operated a regular schedule, running cars hourly on weekdays between 6:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. For a ten-cent fare, passengers could ride the one-and-a-half-mile route from the intersection of Temple and Spring south to Sixth, and then west to Figueroa.

Soon, L.A.'s streetcar network expanded as new railways opened and existing lines extended their tracks across the city. The Plaza functioned as a central hub for the city's growing streetcar network, with lines radiating out in several directions.*^^*

 

 

 
(ca. 1877)^## – View looking southeast toward the Pico House with the LA Plaza on the left. Streetcar rails are seen on the dirt road. Note the gas street lamp on the left.  

 

Historical Notes

In 1867, Los Angeles saw its first street gas lamps.  A total of 43 were installed along Main Street. A lamplighter on horseback rode down the street at dusk to light the streetlights. By 1873, about 136 gas lamps provided the outdoor night lighting for the City.

Things would change in 1882 when electricity was introduced. That year 3,000-candle power arc lamps were lifted atop seven 150-foot poles. The state of the art at that time encouraged the use of a few tall standards with high illumination. The gas street lamps would see their last days.^

Click HERE to see more in Early Los Angeles Streetlights.

 

 

 
(ca. 1877)* - The Pico House, sometimes called "Old Pico House", built by Pio Pico in 1869-70. Seen here from the Main St. entrance of the Plaza. The road in front and to the side of the building is dirt, and a set of tracks runs down the middle. The railway tracks were part of the East L.A. and San Pedro Street Railway. (Same as above but shows a portion of Main Street).  

 

Historical Notes

The East Los Angeles & San Pedro Railway Company was founded by Judge Robert M. Widney (also one of the founders of the University of Southern California), this line was incorporated on May 1, 1875 but did not begin construction until March 1876. This horse car driven system ran north from Fourth Street and was intended to lay track to the new Southern Pacific depot.  It reached only to College Street and North Broadway.^^^

 

 

 
(ca. 1878)^^ - View of Main Street looking south. A horse-drawn wagon with two men in it is parked in front of the Pico House near the Merced Theatre on the left. The road is unpaved and a streetcar track runs down the middle. Both sides of the street are lined with imposingly large buildings. At center on the left side of the street is an especially big building topped by three prominent towers (Baker Block ). Most of the other buildings are somewhat Romanesque, with large columns and archways dominating their facades. Click HERE to see more in Early Views of the Historic 300 Block of N. Main Street.  

 

 

 

 
(1882)** - Man with a hat stands gazing across the Los Angeles Plaza. To the right of the picture, is a horse-drawn trolley and buggy.  

 

Historical Notes

Horse-drawn trolleys were the first form of public transportation to take passengers to and from the Plaza (1874-1887). In 1887 electic power streetcars started to take over.

 

 

 

 

 
(1880)* - Panoramic view of the Plaza Church showing one horse and several horse-drawn wagons "parked" along the street.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1880)*** - View of Calle Principal (now Main Street) showing the Plaza Church on the left and the LA Plaza on the right, as seen from the Pico House.  Bath Street is on the right running up, away from the Plaza.  

 

 

 

 

 
(1880)*#^ - Looking west across the Plaza towards the Pico House Main Street façade.  

 

 

 

 

 
(1882)*** - View of the Los Angeles Plaza and Sonora Town looking northeast from the Pico House, April 1882.  

 

 

 

Calle de Los Negros

 
(1870s)*** - Lafayette Hotel stagecoach near the adobes in Calle de los Negros, presently Los Angeles Street and Arcadia Street. The old Antonio Coronel adobe is in the background. Numerous horse-drawn wagons and carriages are parked along the street. The above area was the scene of a Chinese massacre in 1871.  

 

Historical Notes

The stagecoach in the foreground was owned by the Lafayette Hotel, the second Los Angeles hotel (after the Bella Union), owned by C. Fluhr (Fleubul?). Cale de los Negros is at the extreme right of the image and ran north from Los Angeles Street toward Aliso Street, ending where Dr. Gelsich had an apothecary shop.

The two story brick building at the extreme left corner, on Arcadia Street, was occupied mainly by Caswell and Ellis grocers (or General Merchandise store of Harris Newmark?). In the corner was a saloon run by Marjett. He sold the first 5-cent beer. Marjett also owned a ranch in Antelope Valley to which the name of "Cinco Centavos" was given on account of his 5-cent beer. A son of Marjett later lived in Ocean Park. The open space in the foreground of the image is the end of Los Angeles Street. The hat on the stagecoach driver is a typical French cap of the time.***

 

 

 
(1850)^** - Map view looking west showing the LA Plaza and surrounding area as it appeared in 1850. The intersection of Aliso Street (later Arcadia) and Calle de Los Negros is seen at lower center-right with the Antonio Coronel Adobe on the northwest corner.  

 

Historical Notes

The Pico House (center-right) wasn't built until 1870.

The section of Aliso Street seen above was renamed Arcadia Street in 1872.

 

 

 
(ca. 1880s)**- Closer view of the Coronel adobe with its covered sidewalk, located on the northwest corner of Arcadia Street and Calle de Los Negros (later Los Angeles Street). The back part of the Pico House (built in 1870) across Sanchez Street is on the left and the LA Plaza (out of view) is at center-right.  

 

Historical Notes

Antonio F. Coronel, was a state treasurer and former Los Angeles mayor who owned the main block of rundown adobe stores and apartments in this area. The Coronel house was the scene of the beginning of the Chinese massacre of 1871. #^#^

Once home to the town’s most prominent families, the neighborhood had deteriorated into a slum by the time Los Angeles’s first Chinatown was established there in the 1860s.^*

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1882)** - View of Calle de los Negros. On the left is the adobe of Antonio Coronel; behind the adobe and with belltower is the fire station; center with a gable roof is the adobe of Vincent Lugo (facing the plaza on Los Angeles Street); and right with columns is the Antonio Maria Lugo adobe, which he willed to his son, Dolores del Carmen Lugo. View is looking toward the plaza from the east.  

 

Historical Notes

There was no area more colorful than Los Angeles’s Calle de los Negros, a short dirt thoroughfare located just off the eastern edge of the historic Plaza and considered to be the center of the town’s “red light” district. Saloons, gambling dens, brothels, and other entertainment venues were said to proliferate on the Calle; the same could also be said for crime.**^

 

 

 

 
(1886)** - View of "Calle de los Negros," which became part of Los Angeles Street.  

 

Historical Notes

There was no area more colorful than Los Angeles’s Calle de los Negros, a short dirt thoroughfare located just off the eastern edge of the historic Plaza and considered to be the center of the town’s “red light” district. Saloons, gambling dens, brothels, and other entertainment venues were said to proliferate on the Calle; the same could also be said for crime.**^

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1882)#^ - View of Calle de los Negros, one of the roughest streets in town. The tower of the Old Plaza Firehouse can be seen in the background. This was Chinatown’s center when eighteen Chinese imigrants were massacred in 1871.  

 

Historical Notes

The Chinese massacre of 1871 was a racially motivated riot on October 24, 1871 in Los Angeles, when a mob of over 500 men entered Chinatown to attack, rob and murder Chinese residents of the city. The riots took place on Calle de los Negros (Street of the Negroes), also referred to as "Nigger Alley", which later became part of Los Angeles Street. A total of 18 Chinese immigrants were systematically killed by the mob, making the so-called "Chinatown War" the largest incident of mass lynching in American history.^*

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1886)** - View of Calle de los Negros, running south of the Plaza along what is now the east side of Los Angeles Street.   

 

Historical Notes

Calle de los Negros was situated immediately northeast of Los Angeles’s principal business district, running 500 feet from the intersection of Arcadia Street to the Plaza. The unpaved street took its name from the dark-complexioned Californios (pre-annexation, Spanish-speaking mixed-race Californians) who had originally lived there.^*

 

 

 

 
(1886)*** - View looking east from Aliso Street at the entrance to "the alley".  

 

Historical Notes

In 1886, the extension of Los Angeles Street eliminated the alley and today the site adjoins the Hollywood Freeway.

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1884)*** - View showing a stagecoach (or Tally-ho) parked in front of the Pico House. Nine people sit in the uncovered stagecoach. The driver holds a whip over the hitched team of 4 horses. Nine other people stand on the boardwalk in front of Pico House looking on.  

 

 

 

 
(1883)** - View looking south on Main Street showing a group of men standing next to a horse-drawn wagon with two men seated on top. The Plaza is on the left (out of view). In the left background stands the Pico House and the Baker Block with its distinctive towers. There is a very tall pole seen between the two men on the wagon which appears to be a flagpole, but is not. It is a 150-foot tall electric street light mast that was one of the first to be installed in the City of Los Angeles.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1882)** - View looking toward the Baker Block on the east side of Main Street north of Commercial Street showing one of the first of seven electric street lights installed in the City of Los Angeles in 1882. It stood 150 feet tall! A man can be seen standing on a platform half way up the street light mast.  

 

 

Click HERE to see more in Early Los Angeles Streetlights

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1884)* - Photograph showing Los Angeles' first fire staion, near the Los Angeles Plaza, with a horse and buggy firefighting team (The First Volunteer Company), located at 26 Plaza Street.  

 

Historical Notes

The Old Plaza Firehouse is the oldest firehouse in Los Angeles. Built in 1884, it operated as a firehouse until 1897. The building was thereafter used as a saloon, cigar store, poolroom, "seedy hotel", Chinese market, "flop house", and drugstore. The building was restored in the 1950s and opened as a firefighting museum in 1960.^*

For the first two years of its existence the station housed 38's Engine Company No.1 (comprised of 38 volunteers, a horse cart and 3 horses). The volunteer fire companies also used the area to stage the parades, holiday fireworks displays, monthly inspections and periodic musters which helped to stimulate civic pride. This and the fact that the volunteers continually bickered amongst themselves and some of the companies acted in too independent a fashion, led to the establishment, in December 1885, of the city's first paid Fire Department. The council appointed Walter S. Moore as Fire Chief and the new Board of Fire Commissioners installed another steam engine company (Walter S. Moore Company No. 4) at the Plaza Firehouse with a seven man crew while the Volunteer 38's moved elsewhere or disbanded.*^

The Old Plaza Firehouse was dedicated as California Historical Landmark No. 730 (Click HERE to see more in California Historical Landmarks in L.A.)

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1885)*** - Panoramic view of the Plaza Church from the north end of the Plaza. Carriages, people and pepper tree in foreground. A picket fence surrounds part of the property. Dwellings are visible on hill in background.  

 

Historical Notes

The Old Plaza Church was the parish church for Los Angeles and was never a mission.

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1885)*** - Panoramic front view of the Los Angeles Plaza Church.  There is an open octagonal cupola on the church roof to the left of the cross at the roof ridge. An adjacent building and large tree are behind a wooden picket fence. The street is cobbled.  

 

 

 

 

 
(1886)* - Los Angeles Plaza in 1886, looking northeast. Olvera Street is at extreme left. Notie the landscaping around the Plaza and the degree to which it has grown.
 

 

 

 

 

 
(1887)** - Aerial photo of Los Angeles looking East on June 27, 1887 taken from a balloon. Note the farmland south of Second Street and east of Main Street to the Los Angeles River. The circular form of the Plaza is visible to the center left.^*  

 

Historical Notes

Floating some 9,000 feet above the city in a hot-air balloon in 1887, Edwin H. Husher took what may be the first aerial photo of Los Angeles.^#^*

By 1887 the City's population had grown to over 20,000 people with most of the new development having taken place south of the orignal Pueblo and LA Plaza as seen in the above photo.

 

 

 
(1887)** - Same photo as above but annotated to show the location of the Plaza and major streets. The circular form of the Plaza is visible to the center left. Note how the City has spread out mainly to the South of the Plaza. There is still a large area of farmland south of Second Street and east of Main Street to the Los Angeles River.^*#  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1887)** - View showing one of Los Angeles' first electric streetcars approacthing the front of the Old Plaza Church. In the background can be seen the Banning House sitting on top of Fort Moore Hill. The Plaza functioned as a central hub for the city's growing streetcar network, with lines radiating out in several directions.  

 

Historical Notes

In 1874, Los Angeles saw it's first streetcars which all ran under horsepower (horse-drawn trolleys). Things would change in 1887 when electric powered streetcars arrived.

Charles H. Howland chartered the first electric streetcar company in Los Angeles, LA Electric Railroad Company, on September 11, 1886.  It began operations on January 4, 1887 with the line opening from Pico Boulevard and Main Street traveling west to Harvard Boulevard.  In 1896, many of the major horse and cable cars operating in Los Angeles converted to electrical power.^^^

It should be noted that Howland was also responsible for introducing the first elecric streetlights in Los Angeles (1882). Also, for starting the LA's first electric utility, Los Angeles Electric Comnpany (1883) which evolved into LA Gas and Electric Corporation and then finally absorbed by LADWP (1936). Click HERE to see more in Early Power Generation in Los Angeles.

 

 

 
(1887)*** - Photograph of an open-air car on the first electric railroad in Los Angeles from the Plaza to Pico Heights in 1887. Many men in fine suits and just several women in fine dresses pose in front of an open-air rail car at center. The cars whose sides read "Plaza, Pico Street, Pico Heights" are attached to wires that run above it. The ground around them is dusty and spotted with weeds.  

 

Historical Notes

Started in 1887, the Los Angeles Electric Railway (LAERy) ran the first electric powered streetcars in Los Angeles. It, however, operated only intermittently and frequently one had to wait two hours for a car. Operation was discontinued in the Fall of 1888.

In 1890 the LAERy Co. was acquired by the Electric Rapid Transit Company (ERT) which attempted to rebuild the lines and acquire new electric cars. Sixteen new cars were ordered, 10 motors and six trailers. When the cars arrived in Los Angeles the investors could not pay the freight bill and so turned to General Moses Sherman for help. For his $56,000 investment he received one-half interest in the ERT Co. By September 1st 1890 he had secured full ownership.^*^

Sherman was also responsible for constructing the electric railway into the San Fernando Valley in the early 1900s which played such an vital role in its development. Click HERE to see more in Early Views of the San Fernando Valley.

 

 

 
(1886)**- The intersection of Bellevue Avenue and Buena Vista, looking southwest toward Fort Moore, when Los Angeles was a small town. Buena Vista Street was later renamed Broadway. The Banning House sits on top of Fort Moore Hill overlooking the Los Angeles Plaza.  

 

Historical Notes

This section of Buena Vista is soon to be renamed Justicia running south from Bellevue, which would become Sunset and then ultimately become Cesar E. Chavez Avenue (which here runs diagonally across the bottom of the frame from the lower left corner to the right edge) to Temple. Buena Vista north of Bellevue would become N. Broadway. The Broadway tunnel is still fifteen years in the future, the north portal of which will exit the base of the hill behind these adobes. Mary Hollister Banning's house can be seen on the crest of the hill. It will overlook the north portal. #^*

 

 

 
(ca. 1887)** - View of Fort Moore Hill, showing the home (upper center) of Mary Hollister Banning, widow of General Phineas Banning. Part of the trenches of old Fort Moore, built in 1846-1847, are visible in the upper left.  

 

Historical Notes

The structure was built by Jacob Philippi as a beer hall, but Banning purchased and transformed it into a home.**

 

 

 
(1888)** - Horses and buggies at the Los Angeles Plaza in 1888. The California Bakery is seen in the background, as well as a covered wagon advertising the Home Ice Company. A horse and buggy in the foreground advertises for Bluett & Sullivan at 1st and Spring streets. Fort Moore Hill can be seen in the background.  

 

 

 

 

 
(1888)* - A drawing showing Los Angeles in 1888, with the Los Angeles Plaza on the left, and the Pico House in the center. View is from Fort Moore Hill.
 

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1880)** - View looking north on Main Street from the Downey Building located just south of the Baker Block on the 300 block of N. Main Street. In the distance can be seen the Plaza Church where Main Street veers to the left. Telephone/telgraph lines can be seen on both sides of the street.  

 

Historical Notes

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in the late 1870's and it didn't take long for Los Angeles to adopt the new technology. In 1879, the Los Angeles Telephone Company was formed and it began offering telephone service in the area of what is now Downtown Los Angeles. This was just one year after the very first North America telephone exchange was installed in New Haven, Connecticut (January, 1878). The Los Angeles Telephone Company originally started with only seven subscribers.^*^*^

 

 

 

 
(1880s)** - View looking south on Main Street from near the Pico House. Temple Block can be seen in the distance. A large number of people are on the sidewalks and quite a few horse-drawn vehichles are on the street. The population in Los Angeles had grown to 11, 200 by now. Telegraph/Telephone poles and wires are seen on both sides of the street. The wording 'SUNSET' can be read on one side of the pole to the left.  

 

Historical Notes

In 1883, The Los Angeles Telephone Company merged with another local telephone company based in Northern California, Sunset Telephone Company. In 1906, the Sunset Telephone Company was acquired by Pacific Telephone and Telegraph, later known as Pacific Bell.^*^*^

 

 

 

 
(1888)^## – View looking south, showing the west side of the 300 block of Main Street as seen from the Pico House.  A horse-drawn streetcar shares the street with pedestrians, horse-drawn wagons, and a man on horseback (center-left). Click HERE to see more in Early Views of the Historic 300 Block of N. Main Street  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1903)** – View looking northwest showing the Olvera Adobe (converted to office space), on the north side of the Plaza, facing Marchessault St. Olvera Street is out of view, west of the adobe. Los Angeles St (running left to right in the foreground) is on the adobe's east side. The building behind the Olvera Adobe, with the stepped gable end, is a Pacific Electric Power Station. It was built in 1903.  

 

Historical Notes

Agustín Olvera arrived from Mexico in 1834 where he had been a Justice of the Peace, and held various offices in the Mexican administration. In 1842 he was granted Rancho Mission Viejo, and three years later, was also granted the 35,501-acre Rancho Cuyamaca.

Olvera is noted for helping to bridge the gap between the governance of California by Mexico and the U.S.; helping sign the Treaty of Cahuenga, thus ending the war in California; was appointed to be Judge of the First Instance in 1849; was elected as the first county judge of the newly formed County of Los Angeles in 1850; and eventually entered private practice law.

In 1877, the Los Angeles City Council changed the name of Wine Street to Olvera Street in his honor. Marchessault Street is named for French Canadian, Damien Marchessault, who served as mayor of Los Angeles from 1859-1860, and again from 1861-1865. During his term in office, the Plaza Church was rebuilt and the City Gas Company was organized. Marchessault committed suicide in the city council chamber in 1868, after becoming despondent over public criticism of the water system and over gambling debts.**

 

 

 

 

 
(1890)** - View looking north across the L.A. Plaza to the beginning of Olvera Street. The Olvera Adobe can be seen to the right on the northeast corner of Olvera and Marchessault streets.  

 

 

 

 

 
(1890)* - The Los Angeles Plaza, around 1890. The one story building on the left is the former residence of Don Augustin Olvera. The large two story on the right is the former residence of Don Vicente Lugo. The LA City Water Company is at the northwest corner of Marchessault and North Alameda. Some of the area shown is now occupied by the Union Terminal.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1890)*** - View of the Plaza as seen from the Brunswig Building (slightly different angle as previous photo).  The historic Lugo House faces the circular plaza. The Los Angeles Water Company building is also in view.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1890s)** - Exterior front view of the two-story Vicente Lugo adobe house, seen with hipped roof and dormer windows. The home is on S/E corner of Los Angeles and Alameda Streets,  and faces the Plaza. When this photograph was taken, the adobe was home to Leeching Hung & Co., with adjacent buildings flanking it on either side; horse-drawn carriages are parked on the unpaved road in front of the buildings.  

 

Historical Notes

The Lugo Adobe has been designated as a California Historical Landmark No. 301. Click HERE to see more in Early Views of California Histrorical Landmarks in L.A.

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1890)* - A view of the Los Angeles Plaza looking southwest with the Pico House to the left and the Old Plaza Church on the right. The 2-story 'Plaza House' (built in 1883) sits directly across the Plaza on the west side of Main Street. The Vickrey-Brunswig Building, one of the City's first 5-story buildings, would be built within a year of this photo just to the left (south) of the Plaza Building.  

 

Historical Notes

In 1887, during the height of the real estate boom, investor William Vickrey bought a parcel of land on North Main Street, on which he commissioned construction of the Vickrey-Brunswig Building. Originally the site of an adobe owned by Jesus Dominguez, the land was purchased by Vickrey from the City of Los Angeles for a total cost of $3,925.

Los Angeles city directories from the mid-1880s list Vickrey's occupation as "capitalist." He established and served as president of the East Side Bank, which was located at 510 Downey Avenue in downtown Los Angeles.^^^^

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1890)* - Same view as previous photo but three years later. The new additon to the scene is the 5-story Vickrey-Brunswig Building built adjacent to the Plaza House.  

 

Historical Notes

Construction of the Vickrey-Brunswig Building took place in 1888, the year marking the abrupt collapse of the real estate boom that had driven rapid construction and market speculation through the 1880s. Soon after completion of the building, Vickrey would be forced to declare insolvency and then lose the property to his lender.^^^

The Victorian-era brick Vickrey Building was among the earliest five-story buildings in Los Angeles.  When it opened in 1888, the building housed ground floor retail with lodging on the upper floors. #*#*

The two-story Plaza House (built in 1883) was commissioned by Frenchman Philippe Garnier, whose name appears at the base of the decorative false gable parapet rising above the roofline. It was once the site of La Esperanza Bakery.

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1890s)* - Closer view showing the new 5-story Vickrey-Brunswig Building located on N. Main Street across from the LA Plaza and also across the street from the Pico House. Men are seen strolling in front of the Plaza.
 

 

Historical Notes

In 1897, the Vickrey Building was purchased by F. W. Braun and Company, and for more than three decades was associated with the pharmaceutical industry.  Reorganized as the Brunswig Drug Company in 1907 following its purchase by part owner and prominent Angeleno Lucien Brunswig, the company expanded dramatically and developed into the largest pharmaceutical manufacturing laboratories west of Chicago.  #*#*

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1890)* - Panoramic view of the Old Plaza Church, the plaza, and Sonora Town, looking northeast. The house opposite the church on the other side of the plaza is the adobe of Vincent Lugo on Los Angeles Street. The Los Angeles City Water Company building can also be seen.  

 

Historical Notes

The part of the city called Sonora Town was an old adobe village north of the Plaza and Church of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels. It was Los Angeles' first Mexican quarters, or barrio. The area was named for the numerous miners and families who came from Sonora, Mexico, and may have still been around in the 1930s. Now it is Los Angeles' Chinatown District.^

 

 

 
(ca. 1892)*- Aerial view of the Los Angeles Plaza, circa 1892. The adobe to the left is the former residence and occasional courtroom of Judge Augustin Olvera. The large two-story building on the right is the former residence of Don Vicente Lugo and the first home of St. Vincent's College. The Los Angeles City Water Company has a painted sign, and is visible on the northwest corner of Marchessault and North Alameda Street.  

 

Historical Notes

In 1868, the City of Los Angeles approved a franchise water agreement on a 30 year lease basis with the private Los Angeles City Water Company.

In 1899, after the end of the lease, a $2.09 million bond measure for the purchase of LA City Water Co.’s system was approved by city voters by a margin of nearly eight to one.  After over two years of litigation the City of Los Angeles finally regained control of its water system on February 3, 1902. A new department was created called the Los Angeles Water Department.

Once the purchase was completed, the Los Angeles City Water Department acquired all assets of the privately owned water system including its main office building at Marchessault and North Alameda.

Click HERE to see more in Water Department's Original Office Building.

 

 

 
(ca. 1892)#*^ - View of the LA Plaza as seen from the Pico House.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1892)** - On the left is the Pico House, the Plaza Church in the center. Fort Hill appears in the background, with residences of William Wills, and Mrs. Phineas Banning, and the tower of Los Angeles High School.
 

 

 

 

 
(1894)*#^ - Firetruck, men and horses in front of the Plaza Firehouse.  

 

Historical Notes

The Old Plaza Firehouse is the oldest firehouse in Los Angeles. Built in 1884, it operated as a firehouse until 1897. The building was thereafter used as a saloon, cigar store, poolroom, "seedy hotel", Chinese market, "flop house", and drugstore. The building was restored in the 1950s and opened as a firefighting museum in 1960.^*

The Old Plaza Firehouse was dedicated as California Historical Landmark No. 730 (Click HERE to see more in California Historical Landmarks in L.A.)

 

 

 

 
(1895)** - View of Governor Pio Pico's Office located between the Old Fire Station (left) and the Pico House (right), across from the Plaza. The prominent towers of the Baker Block can be seen in the background.
 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1894)^*^# – Several horse-drawn wagons are parked by utility poles in front of the Los Angeles Plaza Church.  A woman is seen walking toward the LA Plaza. It appears the road is being rebuilt using bricks. Note the bakery sign next door to the church.  

 

 

 

 

 
(1894)** - Plaza Church as seen by looking north from Pico House on Main Street. This was the parish church for Los Angeles and was never a mission. A woman is seen holding a small child in front of the church.  

 

Historical Notes

Mission Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles (Church of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels), was founded on September 4, 1781 by a group of Spanish settlers. The church was considered an asistencia ("sub-mission") of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel. Priests from Mission San Gabriel divided their time between the mission and the Asistencia site, but ultimately the installation was never granted mission status and the missionaries eventually abandoned the site.

The surrounding area was named El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula ("The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels on the River Porciúncula", which is the present-day City of Los Angeles). A chapel, La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles, was later erected and dedicated on December 8, 1822, and for years served as the sole Roman Catholic church in the Pueblo. It is the oldest church in the city of Los Angeles.

The Plaza Church was dedicated as California Historic Landmark No. 144. Click HERE to see list.

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1890)*** - View showing Reverend Father Joachim Adam recounting the history of the old Mission bell to two other priests. The bell hangs from a long metal rod supported by a folding wooden ladder standing on a boardwalk on the Mission grounds. All three priests are wearing cassocks. Part of the exterior corridor of a one-story adobe building is visible behind the group.  

 

Historical Notes

Back of photo print reads:  "This bell (known as the Penance Bell) was given by Henry Delano Fitch as a forfeit for his transgression when he defied the civic and ecclesiastical authorities and eloped with Josefa Carillo, a Spanish California lady -- the first elopement of California -- 1829."***

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1895)*##* - Men and women gather around the Plaza Church. The church is a stone block building with an arched doorway, ocular window, and a gazebo-like structure mounted on the roof. Shows the faint impressions of paintings on the exterior of the building. Signs on nearby commercial buildings read: "Saloon and Restaurant, Home Brewery" and "F.W. Braun and Co., Druggist."  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1895)#^* – Closer view showing the Plaza Church on what appears to be a Sunday as gentlemen seem to be dressed in their 'Sunday best', lots of details, a shoeshine boy works while his customer appears to enjoy a cigar, a man on a bicycle, another bike parked at the curb, a horse-drawn carriage, a streetcar bound for Pasadena, a lady gazing into the churchyard.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1890s)** - View of the Old Mission Church looking from the plaza. Several horse-drawn vehicles are parked along the sidewalk. Fort Hill appears in the background.  

 

 

 

 

 
(1891)* - The Pico House, sometimes called "Old Pico House", built by Pio Pico in 1869-70. The sign on 2 sides over the building here reads "Pico House" and horses and carriages are on an unpaved Main Street on the right side. Farther back on the right are the towers of Baker Block (built in 1878 and later torn down to make way for the 101 Freeway).  

 

 

 

 

 
(1890s)*#^ - View of Main Street looking northeast.  The Plaza, Pico House, and Merced Theater are visible.  A sign above the theater reads “Barker & Allen, Furniture & Carpets.” A stagecoach and horse-drawn wagon are parked in front of the Pico House.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1895)^## - View looking south on Los Angeles Street near Arcadia Street. Both the Garnier Block and Jennette Block are on the right.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1895)^## - Looking west on Arcadia Street from Los Angeles Street with Fort Moore Hill in the background. The three story Jennette building is on the northwest corner of Arcadia and Los Angeles Streets with Sanchez Alley running directly behind it up to the Plaza at Republic Street. Photo is misidentified. Aliso Street did not extend beyond Los Angeles Street. This is looking up Arcadia Street.  

 

 

 

 

 
ca. 1890s)^*# - Front view of the Plaza Church standing across from the Plaza. Fort Moore Hill is in the background and the prominent Banning Residence can be seen at top-center, behind the Church.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1900)#^* – View looking at the Plaza Church on what appears to be a Sunday as gentlemen seem to be dressed in their 'Sunday best', lots of details, a shoeshine boy works while his customer appears to enjoy a cigar, a man on a bicycle, another bike parked at the curb, a horse-drawn carriage, a streetcar bound for Pasadena, a lady gazing into the churchyard.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1900)*** - View of the Old Plaza Church as seen from the Los Angeles Plaza.  The clock tower of Los Angeles High School can be seen in the background.  

 

Historical Notes

Los Angeles High School (see above and behind the Old Plaza Church) was completed in 1891 at Castelar and Rock streets (North Hill Street and Fort Moore). It was built on part of the site of the abandoned Fort Moore Hill Cemetery, the first Protestant cemetery in Los Angeles, which was spread over the slopes of the hill.

The four-story red brick building had 40 rooms for its 400 students. It was the second Los Angeles High School to be built and replaced the original one that was built in 1872, at the former site of Central School on what was then known as Poundcake Hill, at the southeast corner of Fort Street (later Broadway).**

Early buildings commissioned to house the Los Angeles High School were among the architectural jewels of the city, and were strategically placed at the summit of a hill, the easier to be pointed to with pride. One of the school's long standing mottos is "Always a hill, always a tower, always a timepiece."

In 1917, the school moved to its current location at 4650 West Olympic Boulevard (which incidentally is not on a hill).^*

Click HERE to see more Early Views of Los Angeles High School.

 

 

 
(ca. 1900)#^^ - View of the Old Mission Church from across the LA Plaza. Several men are seen relaxing on the Plaza's benches. In the background on top of Fort Moore Hill stands Los Angeles High School.  

 

Historical Notes

This would be one of the last photos taken of the Plaza Church with its gazebo-like tower. It would soon be replaced with a "bell wall" (see next photo) similar to the one it had prior to 1861.^*

 

 

 
(ca. 1901)^*# - Front view of the Old Mission Church with its newly installed "bell wall". There is a clear view of Los Angeles High School up on Fort Moore Hill and its relative relationship to the Plaza and the Plaza Church.  

 

 

 

 

Before and After

 
(ca. 1900)*** - Old Mission Church with "Gazebo Tower"
  (ca. 1901)^*# - Old Mission Church with "Bell Tower"

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1901)* - View of the 'Old Plaza Mission' (Plaza Church) with its new 3-bell tower. A man and child can be seen crossing the street heading toward the church.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1900)^*# - Open air market at the Plaza, view is looking northwesterly from the fire house.  

 

Historical Notes

Initially, the majority of vegetable selling in Los Angeles was done around the circular Olvera Street Plaza, just South of Macy Street, where Caucasian, Japanese and Chinese farmers congregated with their goods. However, the increased presence of wagons and the long hours of the makeshift vegetable market became a nuisance to the city.^^^#

Click HERE to see more about the Los Angeles City Market.

 

 

 
(1901)*** - Caballeros and señoras parading on horseback in front of the Plaza Church during La Fiesta de Los Angeles. Throngs of well-dressed people crowd the sidewalks on both sides of the street. The Grand Marshall of the parade is Francisco Figueroa. The young woman on the horse in black (foreground) is Katie Abbot, daughter of Merced Abbot of Merced Theatre.  

 

Historical Notes

“La Fiesta de Los Angeles” also called "La Fiesta de Las Floras" was a week-long party that the city threw in its own honor during the 1890s and early 1900s. Staged by the Merchants’ Association, it featured parades—a flower parade, a parade with floats, a torchlight procession—and athletic competitions, a costume ball, and a carnival attended by masked revelers. The first fiesta was held in April, 1894.

The Spanish title was reflective of a goal: to capture the color and the aura of old Los Angeles in its days as a pueblo under Mexican rule. Men in the garb of caballeros (horsemen) and vaqueros (cow hands) participated. So did Chinese, native Americans, and African Americans. It was a multi-cultural gala, distinct from any celebration elsewhere.**#

Historical Notes

“La Fiesta de Los Angeles” also called "La Fiesta de Las Floras" was a week-long party that the city threw in its own honor during the 1890s and early 1900s. Staged by the Merchants’ Association, it featured parades—a flower parade, a parade with floats, a torchlight procession—and athletic competitions, a costume ball, and a carnival attended by masked revelers. The first fiesta was held in April, 1894.

The Spanish title was reflective of a goal: to capture the color and the aura of old Los Angeles in its days as a pueblo under Mexican rule. Men in the garb of caballeros (horsemen) and vaqueros (cow hands) participated. So did Chinese, native Americans, and African Americans. It was a multi-cultural gala, distinct from any celebration elsewhere.**#

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1902)++# - View showing a group of well-dressed men standing on the edge of the LA Plaza and also across the street in front of the Old Plaza Church. There is a horse-drawn wagon parked by the curb near the church with a streetcar passing by.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1905)*** - Panoramic view of the Los Angeles Plaza, looking west.  The F.W. Braun Building, Plaza Catholic Church, and shops along Main Street are visible in the background. Men are sitting, standing or moving about near the church, plaza and along Main Street. An electric streetcar is passing on Main Street carrying about a dozen passengers. Rocks and other forms of debris litter the dirt road. Utility lines and utility poles run along the streets.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1905)*** - Photograph of a painting by Will N. Drake of the old Plaza Church. The painting depicts a street scene in front of the Plaza Church: In the foreground a cart vendor in dark clothing is pictured. Closer to the church itself are several horse-drawn carriages, drawn both by dark and light horses. Between both the vendor and the carriages, towards the center of the image, a woman with a basket holds the hand of a child to her left. They are followed by what appears to be a dog. Short palms line the side of the church.   

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1909)*** – Panoramic view showing the front of the Plaza Church.  A wire fence and palm trees can be seen to the right of the church, while tall buildings and water tower are visible behind and to the left of the church.  A trolley can be seen at left, a cyclist and a pedestrian are visible just to the right of the church, and a horse pulling a carriage or wagon is visible at right.  

 

 

 

 

 
(1906)*^# - Raising of the first El Camino Real bell at Los Angeles Plaza near Olvera Street to launch the state’s first road marker program. In the next few years, 450 of the bells were placed along the original mission route from San Diego to Sonoma.  

 

Historical Notes

A story on the original El Camino Real bell appeared in the Aug. 16, 1906 Los Angeles Times:

“Quaintly beautiful and picturesque were the ceremonies held at the old Plaza Church yesterday noon in dedication of El Camino Real and also in commemoration of the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the ancient and honorable pueblo of Los Angeles.  …

Father (Juan) Caballeria made the opening address and announced the object of the meeting. He spoke eloquently of the wonderful growth of the Golden State and the auspicious affair they were celebrating.

He told graphically of when the bare feet of the padre of a century ago trod the famous highway that stretched its entire length throughout the entire State and how the padres that followed in the footsteps  of the illustrious fathers of former days had endeavored to add their efforts to the building and growth of the great State.

A stirring scene followed the termination of Father Caballeria’s address. As he concluded Gen. Antonio Aguilar, one of the last of the old guard that fought under Fremont and was present when Los Angeles was taken by the United States troops, fired a salute and simultaneously the clapper of the bell on the sign post of El Camino Real was raised and throughout the city echoed the sounds of all the bells in the Catholic churches as they tolled in honor of the reopening of the King’s highway again to travel. …”

 

 

 

 
(1905)+# - View showing the Montezuma Saloon "firehouse" across from the Plaza, advertising Zobelein.  

 

Historical Notes

Over its life, the Old Plaza Firehouse was used as a saloon, cigar store, poolroom, "seedy hotel", Chinese market, "flop house", and drugstore. The building was restored in the 1950s and opened as a firefighting museum in 1960.^*

 

 

 
(ca. 1905)^*# - Preparation for the Chinese New Year in front of the Montezuma Saloon, previously the Old Plaza Firehouse.  

 

 

 

 
(1905)* - Exterior front view of the two-story Vicente Lugo adobe house, seen with hipped roof and dormer windows. The home is located at 518-520 North Los Angeles Street and Sunset Boulevard, and faces the Plaza. When this photograph was taken, the adobe was home to the Pekin Curio Store with brick buildings flanking it on either side; and the road was still unpaved.  

 

Historical Notes

La Casa de Don Vicente Lugo located on the east side of the El Pueblo Plaza at North Los Angeles Street and Sunset Boulevard. Built in 1839 by Vicente Lugo, it was one of the few two-story homes in Los Angeles at the time. It was donated in 1867 to St. Vincent's College (which later became Loyola University), the first college in Southern California; but later became known as the Washington Hotel, and later, the Pekin Curio Store. Unfortunately, the structure was so altered, that it does not resemble an adobe.

The site of the Vicente Lugo adobe house was designated California State Historic Landmark No. 301.

Click HERE for more about the Vincent Lugo Adobe.

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1909)*** - Photograph of the Teatro Mercedes (or Merced Theatre). Below the Romanesque architecture of the three-story building, a crowd of pedestrians stand in front of the Japanese shops at ground level which read "A. Itami Clothing Store" and "Yamanobe Grocery". An early model automobile is partially visible in the foreground.  

 

Historical Notes

The Merced Theater, completed on December 31, 1870, opened its first professional engagement on January 30, 1871. It was "used later as an Armory, then again as a Fire Engine house".***

 

 

 
(ca. 1910s)** - View of the Avila Adobe house on Olvera Street; a small car is parked along the front of the wooden porch next to one of the staircases. Next door on the right (out of view) is the Los Angeles Railway (LARy) Plaza Substation.  

 

Historical Notes

Don Francisco Avila, a wealthy cattle rancher and one-time Mayor of the pueblo of Los Angeles, built the Avila Adobe in 1818. The Avila Adobe, presently the oldest existing residence within the city limits, was one of the first town houses to share street frontage in the new Pueblo de Los Angeles.**

 

 

 

 
(1913)#*** – View of the Los Angeles Railway (LARy) Plaza Substation (Eastside).  The other side of the substation building fronts Olvera Street and is adjacent to the Avila Adobe.  

 

Historical Notes

The Plaza Substation was an electrical substation that formed a part of the "Yellow Car" streetcar system operated by the Los Angeles Railway from the early 1900s until 1963. After being threatened with demolition in the 1970s, the Plaza Substation was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.^*

 

 

 

 
(1913)#*** – Interior view of the Plaza Substation showing three motor-generator sets used to provide electricity for the Los Angeles Railway (LARy).  

 

Historical Notes

In May 1903, Henry Huntington, owner of the Los Angeles Railway, announced plans to build a new substation near the old plaza. The Los Angeles Times reported: "Another mammoth electricity substation is to be constructed by the Los Angeles Railway Company. Its location will be on the Plaza, and its completion will mean a long step forward toward the perfection of a system that already is surpassed by few in this country."   The substatin was operating by 1905.

The substation is one of the two buildings in the Los Angeles Plaza Historic District that is itself separately listed in the National Register of Historic Places, having been so listed in September 1978 (The Avila Adobe is the other.).^*

 

 

 

 
(Early 1900s)*** - Photograph of the bell of El Camino Real at the Los Angeles Plaza Mission. Behind it is a 1-story brick building with a wooden arched doorway and a dormer window is visible. On the bell in raised lettering "1769 & 1906, El Camino Real". The sign reads: "El Camino Real; San Gabriel Mission, 12 miles, via Aliso St. & Mission Rd.; San Fernando Mission, 23 miles, via Sunset Blvd. & Cahuenga Pass".  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1910)*** - View of the bells in the Los Angeles Plaza Church tower.  Through one of the tower openings can be seen sidewalks, trees and people in the Plaza.  

 

Historical Notes

The Plaza Church bells were cast by Paul Revere's apprentice George Holbrook.

The bells bear inscriptions that read: "Across the street from the Plaza and to the west is the Old Plaza Church (535 Main St.), first established in 1784 as a chapel. The oldest religious structure in Los Angeles, this 1822 building is also known as the Church of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels. Originally built as a simple adobe by Franciscan Padres with the labor of local Native American Indians, it took an additional 40 years to construct the whole church. This Catholic Church now features some fine modern additions, including a tile mosaic of The Annunciation, created by artist Isabel Piczek in 1981. The interior displays ornate designs of wrought iron and gold leaf. A collection of religious canvases adorn the alter, and murals grace the ceilings. Today, Our Lady Queen of Angels serves as an active church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles." ***

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1915)*** -  View of the Old Plaza Church, showing what appears to be a new bell tower. Four churchgoers are seen behind a wrought-iron fence in front of the chapel. In the background on top of Fort Moore Hill can be seen the Banning House.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1917)* - A wedding at the Plaza Church in downtown Los Angeles. Maria Bidart Erramauspe is the bride. Several members of the Bidart family, originally from the Basque region in France and early settlers in Los Angeles, are present.
 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1920s)*** - View of the front of the Old Plaza Church as seen from the L.A. Plaza across the street. Early model cars are seen parked in front of the church. Note the new ornate 5-bulb streetlight in front of the church. Click HERE to see more in Early LA Streetlights.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1920s)^- Plaza Fountain. Several men appear to be reading the daily newspaper. A horse drawn wagon can be seen in the upper left.  

 

 

 

 
(Early 1900s)* - Detailed map of the LA Plaza area in its early days.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1920)** - View of North Main Street at Arcadia Street in the Plaza area circa 1920. From left to right: Pico House, Merced Theater, Masonic Temple, and Hotel Orchard on the corner of Arcadia Street. Small shops are at street level, and cars are parked along the curb. Streetcar tracks are in the foreground.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1920)*** - View of the Vickrey-Brunswig Building located on the northwest corner of N. Main and Republic streets.  The name of the building appears on two signs, one over the doorway and one on top of the roof.  

 

Historical Notes

Prominent architect Robert Brown Young designed the Vickrey-Brunswig Building in a transitional Italianate style, varying the treatment of each story of the facade for greater visual interest.  The windows of the upper floor feature Romanesque arches, while those of the third floor are embellished with turned posts that serve as the mullions between the grouped sashes. 

R. B. Young was the principal of one of Los Angeles's earliest architectural firms, R.B. Young & Son. Young's office garnered a number of prestigious hotel commissions, such as the Clifton (his first commission in Los Angeles, at the corner of Broadway and Temple Streets), Lankershim, Westminster, Lexington, Hollenbeck, and Occidental hotels. Young also designed the Lankershim office building, the Barker Brothers' block, the Wilson Block, and the California Furniture Company.^^^^

 

 

 
(ca. 1921)** - Closer view of the Vickrey-Brunswig Building located at 501 N. Main Street. The roof sign reads: 1888 - Brunswig Building. The sign over the building entrance reads: Brunswig Drug Co.  

 

Historical Notes

The Vickrey-Brunswig Building was constructed of brick on a trapezoidal plan and stands five stories with a full basement. It was constructed in the Italianate style commonly used for commercial architecture in the Iate-19th and early 20th centuries. Characteristic elements of the building include the decorative stringcourse located above the fifth floor windows and the segmental and rounded arched brick windows featured on the south and west elevations.^^^^

 

 

 

 
(1920)*#^ -  View looking south on Main Street showing the Old Plaza Church and Brunswig Building (Brunswig Drug Company) on the right and the LA Plaza and Pico House on the left. The new City Hall which would stand two blocks south would not be built until 1928. Early model cars share the road with electric streetcars.
 

 

Historical Notes

Note the elevated kiosk on the edge of the plaza to the lef ot the photo. Elevated booths like these were used by the Los Angeles Railway and the Yellow Cars as a switchman’s tower to control the flow and path of streetcars through the intersection.  Many of these were still standing well into the 1920s.

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1928)^* - View looking south on Main Street showing the newly constructed City Hall standing in the background (corner of Temple and Main streets) with the Brunswig Building and Old Plaza Church at right.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1920)*#^ - View of the Pico House as the National Hotel from the Plaza circa 1920.  

 

Historical Notes

In 1880, Pico lost the hotel by foreclosure. From 1892-1920 the building was called the National Hotel.^#^

 

 

 
(ca. 1920)** - Corner view of the Pico House as the National Hotel with a sign for "Plaza Employment Agency" on the right side of the building. A crowd of people are hanging around the corner, and a row of cars is parked up the left side, while 3 or 4 cars are seen on the right side.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1920)** - P. Garnier is chiseled in the stonework of the Garnier Block at 415 N. Los Angeles Street. The building was used by Chinese merchants at the time of this photograph.   

 

Historical Notes

The Garnier Building was built in 1890, by Philippe Garnier, a French settler who arrived in Los Angeles in 1859 at the age of eighteen.  Philippe Garnier and his brothers, Eugene, Abel, and Camille, owned the 4,400 acre Rancho Los Encinos in the San Fernando Valley where they raised sheep.  Despite losing a considerable sum of money in the wool market crash in 1872, the Garniers were financially well off and remained influential in local commerce. Philippe Garnier served as a bank director on the Board of the Farmers and Merchants Bank from 1879 to 1891 and is believed to have constructed several other buildings in Los Angeles.^#^

 

 

 
(ca. 1920)** - Garnier Block, formerly known as the Plaza House had shops on the ground level and the Plaza Hotel on the second floor. A short distance to the right (out of view) sits the Old Plaza Firehouse.  

 

Historical Notes

The Garnier Building was designed primarily for Chinese commercial tenants.   It is the oldest building in Los Angeles exclusively and continuously inhabited by Chinese immigrants from the time of its construction in 1890 until the State took it over in 1953.  The building was the headquarters of major Chinese American organizations and housed businesses, churches, and schools.  It was an important structure in the original Los Angeles Chinatown.^#^

 

 

 
(ca. 1925)** - On the left is the Jennette Block on the northwest corner of Arcadia and Los Angeles Streets, and on the right is the Garnier Building at 415 North Los Angeles Street. The construction of the #101 Freeway took away the Jennette Block and left the Garnier Building.  

 

 

 

 
(1920s)*#^ - The Olvera Street side of the Pelanconi and Sepulveda Houses prior to restoration.  

 

Historical Notes

Sepulveda House is a 22-room Victorian house built in 1887 in the East lake style. The original structure included two commercial businesses and three residences.

Pelanconi House, built in 1857, is the oldest surviving brick house in Los Angeles. In 1930, it was converted into a restaurant called La Golondrina, which is the oldest restaurant on Olvera Street.^*

 

 

 
(1920s)** - Map of early LA with the Plaza seen just west of Alameda. East of Alameda is the older part of Chinatown that was relocated when the Union Station was built in the late 1930s. Union Staion opened in May of 1939.  

 

 

 

 
(n.d.)* - View of Sanchez Street, lined with brick buildings, looking toward the Plaza.  

 

Historical Notes

This small street, which ran south of the Plaza, was officially named in 1861 for Tomas Avila Sanchez, through whose property it passed. Sanchez was elected Sheriff of Los Angeles County 17 times. He resided for many years in a Glendale adobe.*

 

 

 
(1921)* - View of Sanchez Street, lined with brick buildings, looking north toward the Plaza in 1921. The first building at far left is the rear side of the Pico House and the rear side of the Merced Theater.  

 

Historical Notes

Sanchez Street juts south from the plaza, opposite its more famous twin, Olvera Street, on the north side. It's just a block long, but it's seen a lot of history.

In the 1880s and '90s, it was the scene of several crimes reported in The Times. Most involved the local saloons and Chinese gangs of the day, including the 1889 shooting death of the "Peruvian Princess," a woman whose tortured life took her from Lima to China to San Francisco and finally to her death in a Sanchez Street boarding house.

In 1914 police fought protesters on Sanchez Street during the Christmas Riot. A member of the International Workers of the World, or Wobblies, was shot and killed.*^#

 

 

 

 
(1918)^*# – View looking down from the top of the Plaza Church showing (L to R): the LA Plaza, the Old Fire Station with “Owl Cigar” billboard on its side, Sanchez Street, and the Pico House.  

 

 

 

 

 
(1920s)** - View showing the El Pueblo Hellman/Quon Building on the southeast corner of Republic and Sanchez streets, across from the Plaza, with the Old Fire Station on its left.  

 

Historical Notes

The Hellman/Quon building is named for its two long-time owners, a white European builder and a Chinese businessman. When Hellman, the original owner, died in 1920, the building was sold to Quon How Shing, who helped fellow Chinese learn English and taught them how to adapt to American society. The building had a hidden bell to alert occupants to the presence of unwelcome visitors who might take issue with the gambling and opium smoking within. It is now the offices of Las Angelitas del Pueblo, the volunteer organization that offers free tours of El Pueblo de Los Angeles, and El Pueblo Education Center.++

The Hellman/Quon Building site was where Governor Pio Pico's Office once stood, the last California capital of Mexico.

 

 

 
(1920s)*#^ - View of the Firehouse with three men standing at the corner, when it was the Cosmopolitan Saloon.  The sign over the corner doorway reads: Locatuen Cigar Store.  

 

Historical Notes

Over its life, the Old Plaza Firehouse was used as a saloon, cigar store, poolroom, "seedy hotel", Chinese market, "flop house", and drugstore. The building was restored in the 1950s and opened as a firefighting museum in 1960.^*

 

 

 
(ca. 1924)** - Aerial view of the Los Angeles Plaza and surrounding buildings. The streets from top to bottom are: Alameda Street running diagonally at the upper left, Los Angeles Street, and Main Street. Nearly half the buildings to the right of the Plaza (south of the Plaza) were demolished in the 1950s to make way for the Hollywood Freeway.  

 

Historical Notes

The sole occupant of the entire city block bounded by Los Angeles, Marchessault, and Alameda streets (upper left corner of the photo) was a sturdy, square, two-story brick structure. Built originally for a furniture factory, it was later remodeled to serve as a headquarters of  the Los Angeles Water Department’s predecessor, the Los Angeles City Water Company.

Click HERE to see more in Water Department's Original Office Building.

 

 

 
(ca. 1924)#*** -  View looking north on Main Street with the Los Angeles Plaza visible in the upper right.  A Los Angeles Railway (LARy) streetcar and several early model autos are seen on Main Street.  

 

 

 

 
(1920s)^^^ – View looking northwest toward The Plaza Church from second floor of The Pico House.  Three LARy streetcars are seen near the Old Plaza Church.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1925)** - The Plaza Church on Main Street across from the Plaza and Olvera Street. Behind the streetcar is the Hotel Pacific, the office of Philip Morici and Co., "Agencia Italiana," and the grocery store of Giovanni Piuma, who also made wine (Piuma Road in Malibu was named for him). The area north of the Plaza was at this time an Italian neighborhood.  

 

Historical Notes

The area’s decline as the center of civic life led to its reclamation by diverse sectors of the city's poor and disenfranchised. The Plaza served as a gateway for newly arrived immigrants, especially Mexicans and Italians. During the 1920s, the pace of Mexican immigration into the United States increased to about 500,000 per year. California became the prime destination for Mexican immigrants, with Los Angeles receiving the largest number of any city in the Southwest. As a result of this dramatic demographic increase, a resurgence of Mexican culture occurred in Los Angeles.^*

 

 

 
(ca. 1925)*** - Exterior view of the Plaza Church from across the street. An elevated LARY booth can be seen on the right edge of the photo.  

 

Historical Notes

Elevated kiosks were used by the Los Angeles Railway and the Yellow Cars (LARY) as a switchman’s tower to control the flow and path of streetcars through intersections. 

 

 

 
(1927)** - View of the plaza with several men lounging and sitting under a big tree. The Plaza Church can be seen in the background. To the right of the church is a parochial school. Next to the school is Azteca, a jeweler's that also carries religious artifacts.  

 

 

 

 
(1920s)*#^ - Olvera Street looking north. Avila Adobe on right, old cars parked on west side of street, Sepulveda House has large pole in front of it, Tool and Die shop at north end.  

 

 

 

 
(1920s)** - View looking south on Olvera Street before improvement and also before City Hall was built. On the left the Avila Adobe is seen. To the right is the Sepulveda House with a gas pump on its side.
 

 

Historical Notes

The Avila Adobe was built ca. 1818 by Don Francisco Avila, alcalde (mayor) of Los Angeles in 1810. Used as Commodore Robert Stockton's headquarters in 1847, it was repaired by private subscription in 1929-30 when Olvera Street was opened as a Mexican marketplace. It is the oldest existing house in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 
(1930)*** - View of Olvera Street looking south toward the Plaza before vendor kiosks or restaurants were put in place. Later that year things would change.  

 

 

 

 
(1930)** – View looking south on Olvera Street with City Hall in the background.  A man is seen looking at the Avila Adobe.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1930)** - A view of Olvera Street looking across at vending booths in front of the Avila Adobe with two pedestrians walking near.  

 

Historical Notes

In 1930, through the efforts of activist Christine Sterling, the Plaza-Olvera area was revived with the opening of Paseo de Los Angeles (which later became popularly known by its official street name Olvera Street).^*

 

 

 

 
(1930s)^ - View of three women dressed up in traditional Mexican/Spanish clothing posing for the camera in front of a fountain on Olvera Street. Socialite and preservationist, Christine Sterling led efforts to preserve the historic plaza and its buildings.  

 

Historical Notes

Current historians note that the original intention of Olvera Street was to focus on LA’s Spanish past instead of its Mexican/Indigenous one. William Estrada, author of “The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space,” writes: "Olvera Street was successful and even surpassed Mexican tourist zones along border in Tijuana & Mexicali because it fulfilled tourists’ preconceived notions about Mexico & quaintness of its culture without risk or ‘reality’ of actually crossing border." #**

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1930)** - A view down Olvera Street shortly after its revitalization with building on the left, booths on both sides, and pedestrians strolling through. The two-story building on the left is the Sepulveda House.  

 

Historical Notes

The Sepulveda House is a 22-room Victorian house built in 1887 in the East lake style. The original structure included two commercial businesses and three residences. It fronts both Olvera and Main streets.^*

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1930)*#^ - Postcard view of Olvera Street looking south with City Hall in background. Pelanconi House and Sepulveda House on right (west) side. Palm tree and fountain on left side (east).  

 

Historical Notes

The new City Hall was built in 1928.

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1930)** - Late afternoon view of Olvera Street with City Hall in the background.
 

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1930)** - A painting by Chris Siemer of Olvera Street, with L.A. City Hall in the background. The painting was created for display for the L.A. Chamber of Commerce.
 

 

Historical Notes

As a tourist attraction, Olvera Street is a living museum paying homage to a romantic vision of old Mexico. The exterior facades of the brick buildings enclosing Olvera Street and on the small vendor stands lining its center are colorful piñatas, hanging puppets in white peasant garb, Mexican pottery, serapes, mounted bull horns, oversized sombreros, and a life-size stuffed donkey. Today, Olvera Street attracts almost two million visitors per year.^*

 

 

 

 
(1930s)*## – Postcard view of El Paso de Los Angeles "The Pathway of the Angels", Olvera Street, Los Angeles, CA.  

 

 

 

 

 
(1930s)*#^ - Hino Josa leading a donkey. View toward City Hall-looking at Sepulveda House, donkey on Olvera Street. The Sepulveda House fronts both Olvera and Main streets.  

 

Historical Notes

The Sepulveda house was once the private home of one of the most powerful families in early Los Angeles. The Sepulveda House was built by Eloisa Martinez de Sepulveda in 1887, at a time when all predictions were that the population boom of the 1880s would last. However, Señora Sepulveda's hopes for Main Street were not fulfilled and by 1900 the area around her house was mostly industrial. Since the turn of the 20th century, Sepulveda House has been a bordello, a tearoom and the USO canteen during World War II.^*

 

 

 
(1930s)*#^ - Interior view of the Sepulveda House showing wooden floors and staircase.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1930s)** - View of Garnier Block with City Hall in the background. Photo by Herman Schultheis.
 

 

Historical Notes

The construction of the #101 Freeway (Hollywood Freeway) took away everything to the left of (south of) the Garnier Building, an area referred to as the Jennette Block. The Old Plaza Firehouse is to the right of the Garnier Building. The Jennette Block was built circa 1888 and the Garnier Building in 1890.**

 

 

 

 
(1930)** - A man stands on a soapbox in front of a crowd of men gathered at the Los Angeles Plaza.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1930)** - People are seen sitting on benches and relaxing in the shade of a large rubber tree in the Plaza. To the left is seen the Pico House.
 

 

 

 

 
(1930)^#* - Shoe shine in the LA Plaza, circa 1930.  

 

 

 

 
(1932)** - View of the Avila Adobe house on Olvera Street, taken in 1932 - two years after Olvera Street was converted to a colorful Mexican marketplace - as made evident by the small vendor stands visible throughout.  

 

 

 

 
(1935)** - Avila Adobe as seen from a building across Olvera Street. In front of the house is a wooden cart, and a Mexican flag is by the entrance. It is located at 14-16-18 Olvera Street and was used by the Avila and Rimpau families.  

 

Historical Notes

The Avila Adobe, presently the oldest existing residence within the city limits, was one of the first town houses to share street frontage in the new Pueblo de Los Angeles. The original structure was nearly twice as long as it is now, and was L-shaped with a wing that extended nearly to the center of Olvera Street, which was the town's plaza.**

The Avila Adobe is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also listed as California State Landmark No. 145 (Click HERE to see more in California Historical Landmarks in LA.)

 

 

 

 
(1930s)#+ – Postcard view showing the Avila Adobe on Olvera Street.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1935)** - View of the sign in front of the Avila Adobe, the oldest existing residence within the city limits.  

 

Historical Notes

In 1847, this adobe became the temporary headquarters for Commodore Robert Field Stockton and General Stephen Watts Kearny during the American occupation of Los Angeles. At that time, it was the permanent home of Doña Maria Encarnación Avila - widow of Don Francisco Avila. When the townspeople got word that American troops were rapidly approaching the pueblo, many of them evacuated their homes to seek refuge at outlying ranchos. Doña Encarnación was among those that fled their adobes. At which point, Commodore Stockton's men seized the adobe for their commanding officer. When the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed a few days later, Stockton abandoned the adobe and Doña Maria Encarnación returned to her beloved home, where she remained until her death in 1855.**

 

 

 

 
(1930s)** - View of the Avila Adobe house on Olvera Street, showing the rear of the home. Several windows and doorways are visible under the long, covered "corredor" (or porch); steps lead down to a lower area of the courtyard.  

 

Historical Notes

The Avila Adobe consisted of a generous courtyard with covered porches for each of the garaging areas, stables, workshops, etc., as well as a garden and vineyard, which Don Francisco tended to regularly.**

 

 

 
(ca. 1930s)** - An Avila Adobe room - possibly a sitting room or living room. The focal point of the room is a well-used and smoke-stained fireplace along the back wall; a wooden shelf rests along the length of the wall, displaying pots, pans, plates, and knick-knacks. Several different types and styles of chairs are located around the area, and a small table with a tablecloth is visible on the left.  

 

Historical Notes

In 1953, the State of California acquired the Avila Adobe as part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park, and has been opened to tours since 1976.**

 

 

 
(ca. 1930)* - Group of musicians and dancers pose in the central courtyard of the Avila Adobe.  

 

 

 

 
(1934)** - The Pico House, sometimes called "Old Pico House", built by Pio Pico in 1869-70. Seen from across the street, "Old Pico House" is on top of the building, and at street level a sign for "Pico House Cafe" is painted on the right side corner of the building. There is an open door in the middle of the block and a closed door farther to the left. One car is parked in front and several people are standing or walking in the area.
 

 

Historical Notes

In 1868, Pío de Jesús Pico constructed the three story, 33-room hotel, Pico House (Casa de Pico) on the old plaza of Los Angeles, opposite today's Olvera Street. At the time of its opening in 1869, it was the most lavish hotel in Southern California. Even before 1900, however, it began a slow decline along with the surrounding neighborhood, as the business center moved further south. After decades of serving as a shabby flop house, it was deeded to the State of California in 1953, and is now a part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Monument. It is used on occasion for exhibits and special events.^*

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1935)** – View looking north showing the La Plaza (United) Methodist Church, Plaza Community Center, and the Methodist Headquarters Building, with a portion of the Plaza in the foreground.  

 

Historical Notes

The Church is located on the site of the Tapia/Olvera adobe, which served as an early service building for the United Methodist Church mission in Los Angeles.  The Methodist Church was also the founding agent in Southern California for Goodwill Industries.  The adobe was torn down in 1917 and, nine years later, architects Train and Williams completed this Churrigeresque-style church. ^#^

 

 

 

 
(1936)^*# - View of the Plaza as seen from the roof of the Brunswig Building. The Plaza Methodist Church can be seen on the left, where once stood the Olvera Adobe. Several large gas storage tanks are in the background.  

 

 

 

 
(1892)* - Identical view of the Plaza taken from the exact same spot as the previous photo but in 1892 (44 years earlier) with the Olvera Adobe on the left.  

 

 

 

 

Before and After

 
(1892)* - View showing the LA Plaza with the Olvera Adobe at left background and Olvera Street adjacent to it.   (1936)^*# - View of the LA Plaza showing the Plaza Methodist Church at upper-left where the Olvera Adobe once stood.

 

Historical Notes

The Olvera Adobe was torn down in 1917 and, nine years later, architects Train and Williams completed the Churrigeresque-style Plaza Methodist Church.

 

 

 

 

Old Plaza Church

 
(ca. 1930)##* – Postcard view of Our Lady, Queen of Angels, Old Mission Plaza Church.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1937)** - A man is crossing Main Street directly outside of La Plaza Church. Signage on a water tower (upper left) promotes the nearby "Brunswig Drug Co."  Photo by Herman J. Schultheis  

 

 

 

 
(1937)** - According to the sign above the awning "giant malts" and "coloso ice cream cones" can be found at this Mexican ice cream store. Located at 523 North Main Street, El Popo is seen next door to the bells and crosses of the Plaza Church.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1937)** - Felipe de Neve statue at the center of the Los Angeles Plaza Park  

 

Historical Notes

The inscription on the statue reads: "Felipe de Neve (1728-84). Governor of California 1775-82. In 1781, on orders from King Carlos III of Spain, Felipe de Neve selected a site near the River Porciuncula and laid out the town of El Pueblo de La Reina de Los Angeles, one of two pueblos he founded in Alta California."

 

 

 
(ca. 1930)*** – View of the proposed site for Union Station construction.  This is one of the oldest areas in the City, with the Los Angeles Plaza at center and Chinatown at lower right.  Main Street is seen at lower center running towards the background.  Baker Block is at lower center-right.  

 

Historical Notes

In 1926, a measure was placed on the ballot giving Los Angeles voters the choice between the construction of a vast network of elevated railways or the construction of a much smaller Union Station to consolidate different railroad terminals. The election would take on racial connotations and become a defining moment in the development of Los Angeles. The proposed Union Station was located in the heart of what was Los Angeles' original Chinatown. Reflecting the prejudice of the era, the conservative Los Angeles Times, a lead opponent of elevated railways, argued in editorials that Union Station would not be built in the “midst of Chinatown” but rather would “forever do away with Chinatown and its environs.” Voters approved demolishing much of Chinatown to build Union Station by a narrow 51 to 48 percent.^*

 

 

 

 
(1933)*** - Panoramic view showing the Los Angeles Plaza (arrow) and surrounding area including most of Chinatown. The photo has been annotated to delineate the boundaries of the proposed new Union Station.  

 

Historical Notes

The above photo comes from the September 18, 1933 issue of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.  The article reads:  "Chinatown faces extinction in Los Angeles with erection of the new Union Station on the Plaza site. The area enclosed by broken line will be occupied with tracks and the station. It includes most of Chinatown. Upper left hand line shows where trains enter station area from Southern Pacific bridge over Los Angeles River." ***

 

 

 

 
(1934)*** - Caption reads:  “Site of new Union Terminal (enclosed by lines), where dirt to be removed from Fort Moore Hill will be used for filling in. This great depot will serve all steam railroads entering Los Angeles. Chinatown is seen in foreground of station site." The Los Angeles Plaza can be seen at left-center. The old Baker Block is still standing (lower-left).  

 

Historical Notes

The ornate three-story Baker Block was completed in 1878 by Colonel Robert S. Baker. For a number of years, the building housed offices, shops, and apartments. Goodwill Industries of Southern California purchased it in 1919. Despite plans to relocate the structure for another purpose, the city purchased the Baker Block from Goodwill in 1941 and demolished the building a year later. U.S. Route 101 now runs beneath where these buildings once stood.^

Click HERE to see more in Early LA Buildings (1800s).

 

 

 
(1935)*** - View looking west across Lyon Street near its intersection with Aliso Street. The Union Station construction site is seen at center.  Ridges in the area are fills, where tracks will be laid. In center, under construction, is the pedestrian tunnel to the tracks. The LA Plaza is at upper-left. Photo Date: August 19, 1935  

 

 

 

 
(1935)*** - Panoramic view of the construction of Union Station looking northwest from the top of the Los Angeles Gas and Electric tank, August 27, 1935. The site of the terminal is at right and is a trapezoidal area full of graded dirt. The LA Plaza can be seen in the upper-center left. The Hall of Justice Building stands in the upper left.  

 

Historical Notes

By the early 1950s, the section of the 101 Freeway (Hollywood Freeway) that runs through downtown would go right through where Aliso Street is shown above, running diagonally away from bottom center of photo.

 

 

 
(1938)*** - View looking north toward Union Station, still under construction. The main road going along the left side of the photo is Alameda Street. Aliso Street is at the southern end of the station near where the Hollywood Freeway is located today. The LA Plaza is out of view at left-center.  

 

Historical Notes

When Union Station was opened in May 1939, it consolidated remaining service from its predecessors La Grande Station and Central Station. It was built on a grand scale and became known as "Last of the Great Railway Stations" built in the United States.^*

 

 

 
(1939)*** - Crowds watch early model train while celebrating completion of the new Union Station located at 800 N. Alameda Street.  

 

Historical Notes

Examiner clipping attached to verso, dated May 4, 1939: "Stirring awake memories that had slumbered for more than a century, railroad officials yesterday staged a colorful pageant of transportation that thrilled thousands of Angelenos for two hours. Gayly costumed ladies of the Gay Nineties -- and the years before -- rode stage coaches and horse cars and stuttering, slow-moving trains of another era. Derby-hatted, mustachioed gentlemen in tight coats pumped high-wheeled bicycles -- 'bone-crushers' they were known as in those days -- all to celebrate formal opening of the new Union Station, pictured in background as oldest Union Pacific train approaches the city's newest in beautiful architecture." ***

 

 

 
(1940)** - Exterior view of Los Angeles Union Station, showing several palm trees, arched windows, and the large tower and clock.
 

 

Historical Notes

Union Station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It also is listed as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 101.

Click HERE to see more on the Los Angeles Union Station.

 

 

 
(ca. 1938)*** - View of downtown looking southwest from where Union Station sits today. The new Federal Courthouse Building is under construction as seen between City Hall and the Hall of Justice. Alameda Street is in the foreground. The old Baker Block with its distinctive three towers still stands at the center of photo.  

 

Historical Notes

The area in the extreme foreground is now Union Station. The street in front is Alameda Street, and those buildings ahead of Alameda were knocked down and are now landscaping and on ramps to the 101 Hollywood/Santa Ana Freeway. Old Chinatown started being demolished around 1933, and Union Station opened in 1939.^*#

To the right-center of the photo is the Pico House in front of the LA Plaza which is out of view to the right. The old 1877-built Baker Block with it's distinctive three towers can be seen in the center of the photo just below the Federal Courthouse Building. The Baker Block would be demoished in 1942 to make room for the 101 Freeway.

Click HERE to see more on the Baker Block.

 

 

 
(1939)^*# - View of the Plaza with the LA downtown skyline in the background. From left to right stand City Hall, the Federal Courthouse still under construction (completed in 1940), the Hall of Records, and the Hall of Justice.  The old Brunswig Building can also be seen on the other side of the LA Plaza across from the Pico House.  

 

 

 

 
(1939)* - Exterior front view of the two-story Vincent Lugo Adobe house, located on Los Angeles Street and facing the Plaza. It is now flanked by brick buildings, with cars parked on the street in front. Click HERE for more about the Vincent Lugo Adobe.  

 

 

 

 
(1949)*^# - View of the southeast corner of Marchessault and Los Angeles St. The old two-story Vincent Lugo Adobe house can be seen with its hipped roof and dormer window. It sits directly across the street from the LA Plaza. The brick building on the corner is the Fook Wo Lung Curio Company building. The painted sign on its side reads: Dragon's Den Chinese Food.  

 

Historical Notes

In 1935, Eddy See opened the Dragon's Den Restaurant in the basement of the F. Suie One Company. On the exposed brick of the basement walls, Benji Okubo, Tyrus Wong and Marian Blanchard painted murals of the Eight Immortals and a dancing dragon. An arty crowd, including Walt Disney and the Marx Brothers, came to see the murals and sample the "authentic fare." In an era when Chinese restaurants were known as chop-suey joints, Dragon's Den served egg foo young, fried shrimp and almond duck. Non-Chinese diners during the Great Depression considered these "exotic" dishes.^##^

 

 

 
(ca. 1939)** - View of Chinatown, looking south on Los Angeles and Marchessault streets. The Dragon's Den, a Chinese food restaurant, is in the Fook Wo Lung Curio Company building at the corner of the block.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1939)*** - View looking up Marchessault Street (with Alameda Street crossing at bottom and Los Angeles Street crossing at mid distance) shows the LA Plaza. The old Water Department Building, now occupied by the F. See On Company, stands on the northwest corner of Marchessault and Alameda.  

 

Historical Notes

In 1939, the first home of the Department of Water and Power was sold to the City to make way for the Civic Center development planned in connection with the new Union Passenger Depot. Located at the corner of Marchessault and Alameda Streets, directly across from the almost completed railroad station, the property was the main office of the municipal water works when the City bought out the private water companies operating here until 1902.^

 

 

 
(1939)*** - Photo caption reads:   "Another Landmark Gives Way to Progress -- Photo shows wrecking yesterday of first home of the Department of Water and Power, recently purchased by the City, to make a wide approach by way of Marchessault Street to the new Union Station. With work being rushed, thousands of persons will occupy the site of this landmark on May 3, when the celebration's parade passes on Alameda Street. The old building was the main office of the municipal water works when the City bought out the private water companies operation here until 1902." Click HERE to see more in Water Department's Original Office Building.  

 

 

 

 

 

(ca. 1942)+++ – View looking toward the Terminal Annex Building showing an Acme Semaphore Traffic Signal standing on the southeast corner of Marchessault and Los Angeles streets.   To the left is the eastern face of the Plaza Substation building.  Seen on the right is a sailor in uniform about to cross Los Angeles Street, heading toward the Plaza.  Behind him, on the other side of the street, is where the old Water Department Building once stood.

     

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1940)*** - Aerial view of the Civic Center, Union Station and the LA Plaza. The Plaza is in the upper center-left of photo.  The flattened lot of the where the old Water Department building once stood can be seen just to the northeast of the Plaza.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1941)^#* - View of the Plaza Church from the roof of the Pico House with N. Spring Street at the right and the Villa Cabrini orphanage (grounds of the J.W. Robinson Mansion) upper left. Clear shot of the Bozanni Motors building (former PE terminal) at N Broadway and Sunset Boulevard.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1940)* - View of the main facade of the "Old Plaza Church" as it is now called.  

 

Historical Notes

The older part of the building is seen here with the three bells; the church was expanded and the plaza was added much later, which includes a hall and rectory. It was dedicated as California Historic Landmark No. 144.

 

 

 
(1940)* - Los Angeles Plaza as it appeared in 1940. There appears to be lots of foot traffic in and around the Plaza.  

 

 

 

 
(1939)** - Exterior corner view of the Pico House, the hotel facing the Plaza. At the time it was called the Old Pico House. It was built by Pio Pico. Photo dated: May 4, 1939.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1945)* - Exterior view of front of the Merced Theater and businesses to the left and right down the street. Signs can be seen for a barber shop, a shoe shop, the Tom Hotel and others. To the left of the Merced is a portion of the Old Pico House.
 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1940s)* - The Old Pico House exterior with an electric bus seen in front.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1940s)^* - MASTER PLAN – Ultimate street pattern and the boundaries for Pueblo de Los Angeles are portrayed in this drawing.  Eleven square blocks on all sides of the Old Plaza have been made “sacred and inviolate.”  

 

 

 

 

 
(1940s)#**# – Panoramic View looking northeast showing a pair of LARy streetcars passing one another near the intersection of Spring and Sunset with the back of the Old Plaza Church at right and the Plaza further back (out of view).  The Terminal Annex building with its twin towers looms in the distance.  

 

 

 

 

 
(1940s)#*** – Panoramic view looking east at the intersection of Sunset and Spring with two LARy streetcars (side-by-side) in the foreground. The Union Station tower can be seen at top-center of photo.  The back of the Old Plaza Church is at right with the Los Angeles Plaza (cluster of trees) directly behind it.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1940s)* - erial view showing the Plaza and surrounding area  before construction of the Hollywood Freeway. The new Union Station is in the center of the photo. A parking lot exists now where the Baker Block once stood.  

 

Historical Notes

Union Station opened in May, 1939.

The Hollywood Freeway would not be constructed until 1950.

 

 

 
(1941)*** - Night view of the L.A. Plaza, Union Station, and Terminal Annex Post Office as seen from City Hall.  

 

 

 

 
(1947)^*# - View of Los Angeles Street looking north. The large trees in the upper left are in the LA Plaza and across the street is the Vicente Lugo adobe house with its distinctive hipped roof and dormer windows. In the background can be seen both the Terminal Annex Post Office and Union Station.  

 

 

 

 

 
1947)*#^ - Firehouse as a Chinese store with City Hall and the Federal Courthouse in background.  

 

 

 

 
(1950s)*#^ - View from Union Station of San Antonio Cafe, now Firehouse #1, at the corner of Los Angeles and Plaza streets.  

 

 

 

 
(1950s)*#^ - Front view of the San Antonio Cafe, now Firehouse #1.  

 

 

 

 
(1951)*** - View of the San Antonio Cafe (Old Plaza Firehouse #1) with City Hall rising above in the background.  

 

 

 

 
(1954)*#^ - View of the San Antonio Cafe (Old Firehouse #1) with City Hall and the Federal Courthouse in the background.  

 

 

 

 
(1960)*** - Birdseye view of the old adobe Plaza Church. The large rectangular building has archways surrounding the perimeter of its courtyard and the church roof is made from terracotta tiles. Union Station can be seen in the distance at right and is identified by its large tower. In the upper left stands the Terminal Annex Post Office with its two domed towers.  

 

 

 

 
(1960)*** - View of the Old Plaza Church from the north end of the Plaza.  City Hall can be seen in the background.  

 

 

 

 
(1949 – 1959)*^# - Two photos of the El Camino Real bell located at the Old Plaza Church. Maria Luz Ramirez, left, on May 26, 1959, with the El Camino Real bell. On right is a Jan. 22, 1949 image of Esther Tarin with the bell. Credit: Frank Q. Brown and Jack Carrick (both of the LA Times).  

 

Historical Notes

Some 450 of these 100-pound iron bells mounted on staff-shaped steel standards 11 feet high once lined El Camino Real from San Diego to Sonoma. The first was installed with great ceremony in the Los Angeles Plaza on Aug. 15, 1906. Spaced approximately a mile apart along the El Camino Real, the bells each had a sign showing the direction and distance to the nearest mission.*^#

Click HERE to see the 1st installation.

 

 

 
(n.d.)* - Sign for the Los Angeles Plaza. It reads "Historical Landmark, State of California, No.156." People sitting in the park can be seen in the background.  

 

 

 

 
(1961)*** - View of landmark plaque in the Los Angeles Plaza with the Old Plaza Church in the background.  

 

 

Click HERE to see more in California Historical Landmarks in L.A.

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1940s)* - Aerial view of Los Angeles near the Plaza before construction of the Hollywood Freeway with Union Station in the background. The Plaza is seen to the left.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1950)*** - Construction of the 101 Freeway begins through the old section of Los Angeles. Photo by Dick Whittington.  

 

 

 

 
(1970s)** - Panoramic view from Los Angeles City Hall, looking northeast from the southern side of Highway 101. Several landmarks are visible, including the Terminal Annex Post Office, Union Station, and La Plaza.  

 

Historical Notes

The Hollywood Freeway through Downtown LA opened on December 27, 1950. Construction of the highway spelled the end for several pieces of Downtown history. Compare the above aerial photo with previous photo dated ca. 1940s. Note the number of buildings that are now gone.

The route cut through Fort Moore Hill, site of the Los Angeles High School. The school originally opened at Broadway and Temple in 1873, and was moved to the Fort Moore site.

The Broadway tunnel also found its end come with the construction of the freeway. The razing of Fort Moore Hill and the cut of the freeway brought the new roadway into the path of Broadway. That tunnel, which opened in 1901 (the same year as the Third Street Tunnel) was 760 feet long and 40 feet wide. It was closed on June 2, 1949.**^

 

 

 
(1970s)** - Aerial view of the Plaza area looking northeast from the top of City Hall. The Plaza may be seen in the lower left of this photo, showing the rear of Pico House and the Garnier Building. Union Station and the huge Post Office Terminal Annex is near the center of this photo. The Hollywood Freeway is at the bottom.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1950s)** - Aerial view of the Los Angeles Plaza (center), Olvera Street, and Union Station (left) after the Hollywood Freeway was built.  

 

 

 

 
(1971)*#^ - View of the Kiosko area of the Plaza looking towards the Biscailuz Building, taken from the roof of the Pico House.  

 

Historical Notes

The Biscailuz Building (1925-26) is located on the site of Juan Sepulveda's adobe. It had served as the United Methodist Church Conference headquarters, the Plaza Community Center and the Consulate-General of Mexico. In 1968, it was named after Eugene Biscailuz, a former Los Angeles Sheriff, who had helped Christine Sterling in her struggle to save this historic section of Los Angeles. In 1978, Leo Politi painted a mural on the south and east facades that depicts the Blessing of the Animals, a traditional event held annually in El Pueblo on Easter Saturday. It now houses El Pueblo's administrative offices and the Instituto Cultural Mexicano.**^^

 

 

 
(1971)*#^ - A closer view of the Plaza and Kiosko bandstand just east and south of original plaza site between Main Street and Los Angeles Street looking towards the Pico House. The Old Firehouse can also be seen in the background.  

 

 

 

 

 
(1950s)#++ – Postcard view looking north on Olvera Street.  Note the Theatre sign.  That was the Olvera Street Theatre that once occupied the Old Machine Shop Building.  

 

Historical Notes

The Machine Shop is a one and a half story building that was built on Main Street around 1910 and extended all the way back to Olvera Street.  The building is located on the site of what is believed to have been the stables of Doria Deighton Jones’ adobe home which was torn down in 1886, and was built by her daughter Constance Jones Simpson.  The first tenants of the building were engaged in light industrial occupations such as tinsmithing, electroplating, metal patterning and machining.  With the advent of the Mexican market place on Olvera Street in 1930, the uses of the Machine Shop were changed and the front doors were opened on Olvera Street, rather than Main Street.  The first tenant was the Leo Carrillo Theatre, followed by the Olvera Street Puppet Theatre.  The proscenium arch and a segment of the stage still survive. ^#^

 

 

 

 
(1970s)*#^ - View looking north on Olvera Street showing the old Machine Shop building with faded Theatre sign (on the left) and the two-story Sepulveda House (center).  

 

 

 

 
(1977)*#^ - Sepulveda House, Olvera Street side, with second floor balcony and puestos in view.  

 

 

 

 
(1970s)*#^ - View of the second floor reconstruction of Sepulveda House on the Main Street side in the mid 1970’s.  

 

Historical Notes

The twenty two room building had two large stores fronting on Main Street, and for boarders, fourteen bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor.  Senora Sepúlveda’s private quarters in the rear were separated from the stores by a breezeway.  In 1901 she gave the building to her favorite niece and goddaughter Eloisa Martinez de Gibbs who had married Edward Gibbs, a City councilman.  Several of the Gibbs children were born in the Sepúlveda House.  Senora Sepúlveda died in 1903 and the Gibbs family moved away in 1905, but owned the building until the State of California took it over in 1953.^#*^

 

 

 
(1978)*#^ - Close-up view of the bay window of the Sepulveda House, Eastlake style.  

 

 

 

 
(1970s)*** - Photograph of an exterior view of the Plaza Church, Los Angeles, ca.1970-1979. The two-story building can be seen at center. Three bells can be seen hanging above the roof at left, while two crosses are visible atop the roof. A lamp-post is visible on the sidewalk in front of the arched entrance.  

 

 

 

 
(1970s)*#^ - Calle de la Plaza facade of the Pico House.  

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1971)*^*^ - View of the Pico House's interior courtyard shortly after it was restored.  

 

 

 

 
(1968)** - View showing the front of the Merced Theater. At the very top reads, "1st L.A. Theater Mercedes." On the left is the Pico House.  Photo by William Reagh  

 

Historical Notes

Ezra F. Kysor designed the Italianate theater, built in 1870 by William Abbott and named for his wife. It opened on January 30, 1871 and is the oldest surviving theater in Los Angeles.**

The Merced Theatre was dedicated as California Historical Landmark No. 171.

 

 

 

 
(n.d.)+^ – View looking northeast from Olvera Street showing the El Pueblo Plaza Substation (built in 1903-1904).  In the background can be seen one of the two towers of the old Terminal Annex Building (built in 1939-1940), located across Union Station on Alameda Street.  

 

Historical Notes

The Plaza Substation was an electrical substation that formed a part of the "Yellow Car" streetcar system operated by the Los Angeles Railway from the early 1900s until 1963. After being threatened with demolition in the 1970s, the Plaza Substation was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.^*

 

 

 
(2006)++ - View showing the front (east side) of the El Pueblo Plaza Substation as it appears today. The other side of the building faces Olvera Street.  

 

Historical Notes

After being threatened with demolition in the 1970s, the Plaza Substation was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Plans now call for the building to become a museum on Los Angeles trolley cars.++

Click HERE to see more on the Plaza Substation.

 

 

 
(n.d.)#*#* – View showing the Vickrey-Brunswig Building located at 501 N. Main Street, across the street from the Pico House. Photo by Flora Chow  

 

Historical Notes

The County of Los Angeles purchased the Vickrey-Brunswig Building and the adjacent Plaza House in 1948 and renovated them for use by the Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission, County Superior Courts, Police Crime Laboratories and the County Sherriff’s offices through the mid-1970s. #*#*

 

 

 
(2014)*** - View of the Vickrey-Brunswig Building as seen from the LA Plaza with the Pico House on the left and the Plaza House on the right.  

 

Historical Notes

After enduring three decades of vacancy and deterioration, the County rehabilitated both buildings to house LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a Mexican and Mexican-American cultural center which opened in 2011. #*#*

 

 

 

 
(2010s)**++ – View looking northeast toward the entrance to Olvera Street as seen from the Plaza showing the Plaza Methodist Church with its clock tower. To the right of the Church is the Mexican Cultural Institute of Los Angeles.  

 

Historical Notes

The State of California purchased the Church, Community Center and Headquarters in 1956 under the threat of eminent domain to create the Los Angeles Plaza Historic District.  The Church signed a 50-year lease to continue operations that was successfully renegotiated in 2011 with the City of Los Angeles.  Located next to the church in the Biscailuz Building is the Mexican Cultural Institute of Los Angeles, which is the premier venue for the expression of traditional and contemporary art and culture from the Mexican, Mexican American and Chicano perspective. #+++

 

 

 

 
Close-up view showing Plaza Methodist Church's beautiful clock tower. - LA Times Photo (Dec. 13, 1955)  

 

Historical Notes

The Churrigeresque-style Methodist Church was designed by architects Train and Williams and built in 1926 on the site of the old Olvera Adobe (demolished in 1917).

 

 

 

 
(2011)***+ - Closer view of the Plaza Methodist Church with the Biscailuz Building next door to the right.  

 

Historical Notes

The building to the right of the Plaza Methodist Church is the Biscaliuz Building, built 1925-1926. Located on the site of the Juan Sepulveda adobe, it was designed as the Untied Methodist Church Conference Headquarters and the Plaza Community Center.  In 1968, the building was re-named after Eugene Biscailuz, a former Los Angeles County Sheriff, who had helped Christine Sterling in her struggle to save this historic section of Los Angeles.  In 1979, Leo Politi painted a mural on the south and east facades that depicts the Blessing of the Animals, a traditional event held in the Park every year on Easter Sunday.*#^ 

 

 

 

 
(2015)#* – Google street view looking north showing the Plaza Methodist Church as seen from the Plaza with the entrance to Olvera Street on the left and the Biscailuz Building on the right.  

 

Historical Notes

Today, the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument Administrative Offices are located in the Biscailuz Building, to the east of the Plaza Methodist Church.

 

 

 

 
(1977)** - View of the Pico House from the Plaza with City Hall in the background. Ornate 5-lamp streetlight sits in the foreground. Click HERE to see more in Early L.A. Streetlights.  

 

 

 

 
(1977)*#^ - Facade of the Pico House looking up sides of the building's arches.  

 

 

 

 
(n.d.)** - Exterior of the Old Plaza Fire House which houses "Firetruck No. 1". To the left is the restored Garnier Building. City Hall and the Federal Courthouse are seen in the background.
 

 

Final Note

A plaque across from the Old Plaza commemorates the founding of the city. It states: "On September 4, 1781, eleven families of pobladores (44 persons including children) arrived at this place from the Gulf of California to establish a pueblo which was to become the City of Los Angeles. This colonization ordered by King Carlos III was carried out under the direction of Governor Felipe de Neve." The small town received the name El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Ángeles sobre El Rio Porciuncula, Spanish for The Town of Our Lady Queen of the Angels on the Porciuncula River. The original pueblo was built to the southeast of the current plaza along the Los Angeles River. In 1815, a flood washed away the original pueblo, and it was rebuilt farther from the river at the location of the current plaza.^*

 

 

 

 

 
(2010)^*# - Aerial view of the Los Angeles Plaza and surrounding area - El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument.  

 

 

Click HERE to see a detailed map of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument

 

 

 

 

ANNOUNCEMENT

 
 

NEW LADWP HISTORICAL EXHIBIT IS COMING SOON TO THE EL PUEBLO DE LOS ANGELES MONUMENT!

 
 

Click HERE for details.

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

 

More Historical Early Views

 

 

Newest Additions

 

 

Early LA Buildings and City Views

 

 

History of Water and Electricity in Los Angeles

 

 

* * * * *

 

References and Credits

* DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

^ LADWP Historic Archive

**LA Public Library Image Archive

*^LA Fire Department Historical Archive

^^California Historical Landmark Listing (Los Angeles County)

#^Huntington Digital Library Archive

#+Maviealosangeles.com: Avila Adobe

#*Google Street View

++The City Project

+^You Are Here: Peublo Substation

+#LA County Natural History Museum

***USC Digital Library

*#^LAPL-El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument Photo Archive

^#^El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monuments; Garnier Building; Plaza Methodist Church; Machine Shop

^#*Flickr.com: Michael Ryerson

^##California State Library Image Archive

^**UCLA-DWP Library Collection: Map of the City of Los Angeles as it Appeared in 1850

^*^Electric Railway History Association: The Street Railway History of Los Angeles

^*#Noirish Los Angeles - forum.skyscraperpage.com; North Los Angeles Street

^^^Metro - Los Angeles Transit History

**^History Matters: Calle de los Negros, 1880s

**#Metnews.com:  ‘La Fiesta’ Is Annual Event in Late Victorian L.A.

^^#The Museum of the San Fernando Valley

*^#LA Times: What's in a name? A family's history, Sanchez Street, (4-5-2-10); Los Angeles Chinatown then and now

^^#Big Orange Landmarks

*#*Picture Gallery of Los Angeles History

*##Calisphere: University of California Image Archive

##*Boston Public Library: Flickr.com

#**LA History: Olvera Street

#^^Flickr.com: Views of Los Angeles

#++Pinterest.com

#*^Flickr.com: Views of Los Angeles

#^*Flickr.com: Michael Ryerson

*^*LA Times: Los Angeles Street Name Origins

**^Blogdowntown: Hollywood Freeway

*^^Los Angeles Magazine: Zanja Madre 1868

^^*Los Angeles History Resources: Brunswig Building

+++Pulpinternational.com: Semaphore Traffic Signals

**^^El Pueblo Biscailuz Building

***+KPCC - Plaza Methodist Church

**++You Are Here: El Pueblo de Los Angeles

*^^*KCET - El Aliso: Ancient Sycamore Was Silent Witness to Four Centuries of L.A. History; LA's First Streetcars

^*^#Facebook.com - Bizzare Los Angeles

^^^^US Department of the Interior: Vickrey-Brunswig Building

^^^#A History of the Los Angeles City Market

^#*^ElPueblo.lacity.org: Plaza Map; Sepulveda House

^#^*Nathan Masters: Los Angeles From the Air, 1887 vs. 2013

^##^Asian Pacific American Center: Dragons Den

*##*Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles Asistencia Gallery

#***Flickr.com: Metro Library and Archive

#+++The Plaza Methodist Church Collection

#*#*Los Angeles Conservancy: Vickrey-Brunswig Building

#**#The Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society (PERyHS)

#^#^Chinese Los Angeles in 1870-1871 - Scott Zesch

*^*^UCLA Libraries Special Collection: Pico House Courtyard

^*^*^Los Angeles Telephone

^* Wikipedia: Pío Pico; Los Angeles Plaza Historic District; Hollywood Freeway; History of Los Angeles; The Church of Our Lady the Queen of Angels; Fort Moore; History of Los Angeles Population Growth; Olvera St.; Sepulveda House; Los Angeles High School; Union Station; Plaza Substation; Chinese Massacre of 1871; Wikimapia: Brunswing Building ca. 1928; Wikimapia: Vickrey-Brunswig Building

 

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