Early Views of Bunker Hill (1930s - Present)

(ca. 1939)* - Panoramic view of Bunker Hill as seen from City Hall.  


Historical Notes

Initially a residential suburb, Bunker Hill retained its exclusive character through the end of World War I. Around the 1920s and the 1930s, with the advent of the Pacific Electric Railway and the construction of the freeway, and the increased urban growth fed by an extensive streetcar system, its wealthy residents began leaving for enclaves such as Beverly Hills and Pasadena. Bunker Hill's houses were increasingly subdivided to accommodate renters. Bunker Hill was at this time "Los Angeles's most crowded and urban neighborhood". By World War II, the Pasadena Freeway, built to bring shoppers downtown, was taking more residents out. Additional postwar freeway construction left downtown comparatively empty of both people and services. The once-grand Victorian mansions of Bunker Hill became the home of impoverished pensioners. Over time, these tenements became more prominent, and apartment buildings started being built alongside these houses. As more and more people crowded into these cheap housing units, the population of the hill increased 19%, most of whom were low income.*



(ca. 1939)* - Panoramic view of Bunker Hill as seen from City Hall (Right Panel).  





(ca. 1939)* - Panoramic view of Bunker Hill as seen from City Hall (Left Panel). Second Street Tunnel can be seen in center of photo.  





(ca. 1937)^* - View looking northwest from City Hall tower over the Hall of Records. Bunker Hill is covered with multiple dwellings.  


Historical Notes

The prominent street running diagonally up from the lower right corner is Temple Street coming from the intersection with Broadway (barely seen, lower right corner). This baroque rooftop in the bottom of the image is the Hall of Records which reaches through from Spring Street all the way to Broadway. Court Street can be seen running directly away from the camera near the left edge. At lower-left, can be seen Court Flight running from the eastern terminus of Court Street down to Broadway (out of view). Mount Lee and the Hollywood Hills are seen in the distance where the elongated white smudge near the top of the ridge is the Hollywoodland Sign.^*




(ca. 1940)*^# – Postcard aerial view looking northwest showing City Hall and the Civic Center.  The State Building and Hall of Records can be seen on Spring Street at center-left.  The Hall of Justice, Federal Courthouse and U.S. Post Office Building (built in 1940), and International Bank Building are at center-right on Temple Street (to the right of City Hall). Bunker HIll at upper-left is still covered with residential buildings.  





(1943)++# – Night view looking west toward Bunker Hill as seen from the observation deck of City Hall with the LA County Hall of Records in the foreground.  All the streets are lit up including Broadway (running left to right at bottom), Temple Street (right), and Court Street (running away from the camera at center).  





(1945)* - Aerial view over Bunker Hill looking east toward the Los Angeles Civic Center before construction of the Hollywood and Harbor freeways. Temple Street is on the left running away from the camera. Court Street is on the right running toward the Old Hall of Records and City Hall buildings. A small section of First Street can be seen at upper-right. Figueroa Street runs horizontally at bottom.  


Historical Notes

The California Community Redevelopment law of 1945 allowed counties and cities to create and implement agencies to help deal with the redevelopment of local cities. Along with political factors, other things which led to the conclusion of the blighted neighborhood. The Los Angeles Police Department called the area a "high frequency crime area", due to the fact that the area's apartments catered to known offenders. The health department of Los Angeles also called the area a health hazard for its city. It wasn't until the CRA had won an ongoing court case against the residents of Bunker Hill. This loss for the residents of Bunker Hill led to the displacement of many families and removal of many of the low income residents of the area. This victory for the CRA led to them being able to buy land to redevelop as they saw fit. Within the plans for the redevelopment, there was a section for the rehabilitation of the buildings of Bunker Hill. The section was slated to preserve the historical buildings of Bunker Hill, but instead were demolished since there was no actual rehabilitation planned.*




(1946)* - Bunker Hill looking east toward City Hall.  


Historical Notes

The above photo was taken by Walter Sanders for LIFE Magazine, for their series on American neighborhoods falling into disrepair, which they titled “Ugly America.”




(1949)* - Aerial view showing the construction of the four-level interchange (top of photo). Note that Bunker Hill is still covered with apartment buildings and houses.  


Historical Notes

The development of Bunker Hill caused much controversy. The creation of the Public Works Administration and the 1949 U.S. Federal Housing Act helped quickly to clear and acquire the land on which "slum and blighted" areas of Downtown's Bunker Hill were situated. The city cleared the land and sold this land to private and public development according to the plan made by the CRA.*




(1951)^.^ – View looking northwest from the top of the Hall of Records showing Bunker Hill as it appeared in the early 1950s.  The Four Level Interchange is seen under construction at center-right.  Parking lots fill the void where apartment houses once stood.  Court Street is seen at left running away from the camera.  At lower-right is the instersection of Temple and Hill streets. At lower-center is the eastern terminus of the Hill Street Tunnels.  The Hollywood Hills and Hollywood Sign can be seen in the distance.  


Historical Notes

Over the next dozen years Bunker HIll would undergo a major transformation. The hill would be graded to make room for the new Civic Center expansion which would inlcude the construction of new City and County buildings, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theatre, and the Department of Water and Power General Office Building.




(1954)* - Temple Street looking west. The eastern terminus of the Hill Street Tunnels is seen center-left with cars parked on top.  





(1954)** - Aerial view looking southeast over the newly constructed four-level interchange showing Bunker Hill (center-right), future home of both the DWP General Office Building (GOB) and the Music Center.   


Historical Notes

The Four Level Interchange was the first stack interchange in the world. Completed in 1949 and fully opened in 1953 at the northern edge of Downtown Los Angeles, it connects U.S. Route 101 (Hollywood Freeway and Santa Ana Freeway) to State Route 110 (Harbor Freeway and Arroyo Seco Parkway).




(1954)** - Aerial view looking southeast across the four-level interchange and Bunker Hill showing the futue home of the General Office Building.  





(1954)* - View looking southeast showing Bunker Hill and a portion of Los Angeles civic center. Note how most of the buildings on Bunker Hill have been removed and replaced by parking lots.  






(ca. 1954) - Bunker Hill parking lot.  






(1956)** - Panoramic photograph composite taken from the City Hall tower, facing west to northwest towards Bunker Hill and Hollywood. Bunker Hill has been slightly shaved off to make room for the County Courthouse, which is under construction, as well as several parking lots. There are still a few remaining dwellings at the far end of Bunker Hill. Broad





(1956)* – View looking northwest from above Hill Street towards Grand Avenue and Bunker Hill showing the early stages of construction on the Los Angeles County Courthouse.  1st Street is on the left and the building with the turret in the upper-left is the Seymour Apartments.  


Historical Notes

Los Angeles County had gone nearly twenty-six years without a dedicated courthouse structure after the previous 1891 sandstone courthouse was damaged in the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. The Los Angeles Times noted that the architects of the present courthouse, which is home to both municipal courts and superior courts, designed it to last 250 years.^




(1956)**^ – View looking northeast showing the steel framing of the new County Courthouse located on the north side of First Street between Grand Avenue and Hill Street. In the distance (upper-right) can be seen the Hall of Justice, Federal Building, and the Hall of Records. In the foreground is a row of apartment buildings on the south side of First Street. The building with the turret in the right foreground is the Seymour Apartments (S/W corner of First and Olive).  





(1957)^^#* – View looking west on 1st Street at Olive Street with the Seymour Apartments on the southwest corner.  All the buildings on the south side of 1st Street will be demolished within a year.  





(1957)^^#* – View looking northwest showing the Seymour Apartments (S/W corner of 1st and Olive) shortly before the building was demolished.  Across 1st Street can be seen the County Courthouse under construction.  





(1945)* - Looking east on First Street from Grand Avenue towards Olive, with City Hall and the California State Building visible over the hill on the left.  





Then and Now

(1945 vs 2022)* - Looking east on First Street from Grand Avenue.  





First and Olive

(ca.1950)* – View looking west on 1st Street at Olive Street toward the top of Bunker Hill.  






(1945)* – Close-up view of the northwest corner of First Street and Olive Avenue, today the side entrance to the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.  





Then and Now

Then and Now – Looking west on 1st Street at Olive Street.*  


Historical Notes

It should be noted that the top of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is about where the bottom of the buildings on the older shot is. They did not just remove the buildings, they also carved off the top of the hill.





(ca. 1960)^^^ - View looking n/w from City Hall toward Bunker Hill prior to construction of the GOB and Music Center.  





(ca. 1970)^^^ - View of from City Hall looking northwest after construction of the GOB and Music Center.  





Before and After

1960 vs. 1970  






1960 vs. 1970  






Then and Now

(1945 vs. 2022) - Aerial view over Bunker Hill looking east toward the Los Angeles Civic Center. Temple Street is on the left running away from the camera.  





Then and Now

(1951 vs. 2022) - Aerial view looking down toward Bunker Hill.  





Before and After

(1954)** vs. (1970)*  





Then and Now

(1954)** vs. (2020)  






(ca. 1950)* - View looking northeast from south side of 2nd Street between Olive Street and Grand Avenue. Shows nearby houses and apartments, with downtown buildings and City Hall in the distance.  


Historical Notes

The beautiful Queen Anne style residence on the left was the Koster House. It was located at 507 W. Second Street. On the right is the mansared-roofed Argyle Hotel/Apartments located on the NE corner of Olive and 2nd streets.





(ca. 1950)* - View looking east at northeast corner of Second and Olive Streets. Automobiles are parked in the foreground next to two gasoline pumps and on Olive Street. The mansared-roofed Argyle Hotel/Apartments are located at the corner, near other Victorian-era houses. City Hall tower is visible in the left distance.  


Historical Notes

The Argyle Hotel, the oldest hotel on Bunker Hill, built in the 1870s and located on the northeast corner of 2nd and Olive Streets. It was demolished along with the two beautiful homes to its left in the 1960s to make way for a parking lot which still exist today (Click HERE for contemporary view).





(ca. 1950)* - Looking at the northeast corner of 2nd and Olive Streets showing the mansard-roofed Argyle Hotel/Apartments, containing a laundry and a grocery. City Hall is seen at right.  





(1955)* – City Hall as seen from the south side of 2nd Street looking over the Olive Street roofline with light in eastern sky peeping through low overcast.; Caption slip reads: "Photographer: Wesselmann. Date: 1955-03-11  


Historical Notes

The above street light is a Union Metal UM-1747 "Pacific" model with GE Form 18-B lanterns. They were found all over Bunker Hill until the neighborhood was bulldozed into oblivion. Only one Bunker Hill example survives as of 2021. It's on the East side of Olive Street, just South of 4th Street.

Click HERE to see more 'Pacific' UM 1747 dual-lamp streetlights (Contemporary Views)





(ca. 1965)* – A decorative dual-lamp ‘Pacific’ (UM-1747) stands in front of the Koster House, a Queen Anne style residence at 507 W. Second Street on Bunker Hill. The Los Angeles Times Building, and City Hall are seen in the distance on the right. Also seen is a parking lot where the Argyle Hotel once stood.  





Grand and 2nd Street

(1957)^*# – View looking at the Richelieu and Melrose Hotels from the corner of 2nd Street and Grand Avenue. Both hotels were razed shortly after this photo was taken.  





(1957)* - One of the last photos taken of the former Bunker Hill hotels on S. Grand Avenue; from left to right, the Melrose Hotel "Annex" (at 120), the original Melrose (at 130), and a glimpse of the Richelieu Hotel (at 142).  


Historical Notes

For nearly seventy years the pair of Queen Anne Victorian buildings were two of the most stunning structures on the Hill, but the Richelieu always stood in the shadow of its counterpart. The Melrose once played host to President McKinley, was memorialized by artists like Leo Politi, and was covered by local press when the wrecking crews came. The Richelieu on the other hand, was far less celebrated but no less important, making its small mark on the history of a neighborhood that no longer exists.^




(1957)^^* – Long shot of Melrose Hotel to be torn down after 75 years with City Hall tower in background. View is from the future home of the Disney Hall. Photo Date: April 8, 1957.  





Before and After






Then and Now

(1957 vs. 2021) - Looking toward the east side of Grand Avenue between 1st and 2nd streets, where two of the most stunning Queen Anne Victorian buildings once stood, the Melrose and Richelieu Hotels.  






(1960)*# –   View looking southwest from the L. A. County Courthouse at 1st and Grand showing a large empty lot sitting on top of Bunker Hill.  This will become the site of the Walt Disney Concert Hall (completed in 2003).  The multi-story building with the dome seen in the upper-left is the Dome_Hotel and Apartments (S/W corner of 2nd and Grand).  Today, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum stands at  




(1960)*# – Closer view showing the Dome Hotel and Apartments (built in 1903) on the southwest corner of 2nd and Grand.  The lot to the right is the future location of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  In the background through the haze and smog can be seen the Richfield Oil Company Building which was demolished in 1969 to make way for the ARCO Towers.  


Historical Notes

On the morning of July 25, 1964, the Dome burst into flames.  The building would be razed later that year to make room for a parking lot which existed until 2014 when construction began for the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (completed in 2015).





(1963)* – View looking South on Grand Ave at 1st Street with the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (right) and the L. A. County Courthouse (left). In the distance can be seen the AT&T Madison Complex Tandem Office Building and the Dome Hotel and Apartments.  





Then and Now

(1963 vs. 2019)* – Grand Avenue looking South toward First Street.  






(ca. 1955)* – Looking southwest across the intersection of Temple Street (foreground) and N. Grand Avenue (left) towards the Cadena Hotel located at 600 Temple Street; Cadena's Market occupies the ground floor. On the far right is the Art Deco style building at 610-614 Temple Street occupied by the offices for the Federation of Jewish Welfare Organizations, and on the far left, a portion of the former St. Angelo Hotel is visible.  





Then and Now (Grand and Temple Street, SW Corner)

(1955 vs. 2021)* – Looking at the SW corner of Temple Street and Grand Avenue, current location of the Ahmanson Theatre.  






Then and Now (Grand and 1st Street, SW Corner)

(1954 vs. 2022)^ – View looking toward the Southwest corner of Grand Avenue and 1st Street...present site of the Disney Concert Hall.  






(1969)* - View of the last remaining residences on Bunker Hill, "The Castle" and "The Saltbox". The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Stanley Mosk County Courthouse can seen behind them to the north.  


Historical Notes

Both "The Castle" and "The Saltbox" were successfully relocated to Heritage Square in March 1969. Unfortunately, the area was not well protected, and both the Castle and the Salt Box were burned to the ground by vandals in October 1969





(1971)**^ – View looking north over the Bunker Hill Redevelopment area on a stormy-looking day. From left to right can be seen Bunker Hills Towers, DWP Building, Music Center, LA County Courthouse, California State Building, Federal Building, City Hall, and in the lower-right foreground, the AT&T Madison Complex Tandem Office Building. Photo by Julius Shulman  


Historical Notes

Atop the actual Bunker Hill (but generally thought of as lying within the Civic Center) are two of the first buildings to follow the neighborhood’s redevelopment, the beautiful John Ferraro Building (formerly known as the Department of Water and Power’s General Office Building), completed in 1964, and the Los Angeles Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (1964), Ahmanson Theater (1967), and Mark Taper Forum (1967).





* * * * *




Other Sections of Interest


Early City Views (1800s)

Historical Bldgs (1800s)

Early Hollywood (1850 - 1920)

Early San Fernando Mission

Early Los Angeles Plaza

Water in Early Los Angeles

Early So Calif Amusement Parks

Baseball in Early Los Angeles

Aviation in Early Los Angeles

Early San Pedro and Wilmington

Mystery History: Q & A

Early City Views (1900 - 1925)

Historical Bldgs (1900 - 1925)

Early Views of Hollywood (1920 +)

Early Views of the San Fernando Valley

California Historical Landmarks in LA

Electricity in Early Los Angeles

Historical Timeline of Los Angeles

Los Angeles River - The Unpredictable

Early Views of Mt. Lowe Railway

Early Views of Santa Catalina Island

Early Views of the Miracle Mile

Early City Views (1925 +)

Historical Bldgs (1925 +)

Early Views of Hollywood Bowl

Early Views of Pasadena

Early Views of Santa Monica

Early Views of Glendale

Early Views of UCLA / Westwood

Early Views of USC

Early Views of Historic Main Street

Early Los Angeles Streetlights

'Miracle Mile' (1920s & 1930s)




Water and Power in Early LA






Newest Additions





New Search Index


A new SEARCH INDEX has been added to help navigate through the thousands of topics and images found in our collection. Try it out for a test run.


Click HERE for Search Index



* * * * *


< Back