2nd Street Tunnel - Downtown Los Angeles

(1921)^ - Two men seated in the cabin of a Bucyrus backhoe operate the machine as steam rises from the top. One man holds onto the rope that leads to the pulleys. Another man operates the levers that dumps a mouthful of dirt into a dump truck. They are digging out Bunker Hill to construct the 2nd Street Tunnel.  


Historical Notes

The 2nd Street Tunnel was built to relieve congestion on the earlier 3rd Street Tunnel. Construction actually began in 1916 but was stalled for five years by litigation. Steam shovels didn't begin tearing into the hillside until April 11, 1921.




(ca. 1921)^^ - Hill Street entrance to the 2nd Street tunnel under construction.  A ditch filled with lumber stands in the foreground, quickly meeting an archway under which an automobile can be seen parked. A small workman's shack has been erected to the left, and scaffolding lines the street on the bridge above and the road leading up to it on the left side. Two men in suits stands amidst the building materials at the right side of the ditch. High rise buildings and an inclined street can be seen in the background.  


Historical Notes

For a time, it seemed the tunnel would never open; it became the laughingstock of the city. But by July 25, 1924, workers had finally bored 1,502 feet through Bunker Hill’s shale and sandstone.*




(1924)* - Grand opening of the 2nd Street Tunnel on July 25, 1924. A procession of dignitaries await the start of the parade while police on horseback maintain crowd control.  


Historical Notes

Construction of the 2nd Street Tunnel began in 1916, and wasn't completed until 1924, with its formal opening on July 25 of that year. The distinctive white tiles, which give the tunnel its glow, came from Germany, which caused controversy at the time due to the legacy of World War I and protectionist feelings.^





(1930s)^ – Noir image showing a man wearing a hat walking through the 2nd Street Tunnel.  






(1940s)* - View looking toward the 2nd Street Tunnel from Hill Street. Note the old semaphore traffic signal.  





Before and After

(1920 vs. 1940)* - View looking west on 2nd Street from Hill Street.  






(1950s)*^^ - Close-up view of the east end of the 2nd Street Tunnel showing the deterioration of the neighborhood’s boarding houses and residential hotels.  


Historical Notes

The last days of Bunker Hill: this view from the Second Street tunnel clearly shows the deterioration of the neighborhood’s boarding houses and residential hotels. The Hill would soon be scraped clean to make way for “redevelopment”.




(1950s)** – View looking at the eastern portal of the 2nd Street Tunnel showing a line of cars heading toward the civic center. Hill Street is in the foreground.  





(2017)* – Google street view showing the eastern portal of the 2nd Street Tunnel as seen from Hill Street.  





(2020)^.^ – Eastern portal of the Second Street Tunnel. Photo by Carlos G. Lucero  




2nd Street Tunnel (Western Portal)

(1921)*^ – View showing the 2nd Street Tunnel construction site before the boring of the tunnel, from the Figueroa Street side (Western Portal). The multi-story building at upper-right is the Stanley Hotel and Apartments.  


Historical Notes

The above photo was published in the Aug. 22, 1921, Los Angeles Times with story claiming the tunnel would be finished in less than a year. The tunnel did not open for nearly three years.



(1950s)*^^ - View looking east toward the west end of the 2nd Street Tunnel.  The Stanley Hotel and Apartments stand above the tunnel on Bunker Hill.  In the distance can be seen the dome of the Dome Hotel and Apartments on the SW corner of 2nd and Hill streets. Bunker Hill would soon be scraped clean to make way for “redevelopment”.  





(1950s)*++ – Close-up view showing the western portal to the 2nd Street Tunnel with the Stanley Hotel and Apartments above (demolished in 1966) for the redevelopment of Bunker Hill.  





(1968)#+ – View looking east toward the west end of 2nd Street Tunnel as seen from the southwest corner of 2nd and Figueroa. Bunker HIll Tower (completed in 1968) is seen near the tunnel.  





(2015)##^* – Google street view showing the west end of the 2nd Street Tunnel as it appears today.  





(2020)^.^ - Time tunnel to the future…..Photo by Howard Gray  





(2012)++^ – View showing the west entrance of the 2nd Street Tunnel in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Rian Long  


Historical Notes

The tunnel's two entrances are very different in character – "the grittier east entrance and the glowing aperture of the west side, with flaring buttresses reminiscent of the shell of the Hollywood Bowl." The tunnel creates interesting light textures especially at night.  It’s been frequently used as a backdrop in movies and even more frequently in car advertisements.^




(2010)^.^ - 2nd Street Tunnel – Photo by Jeremy D. Horowitz Photography  





(1978)*## - Headlights bounce around on the tiled surface of the 2nd Street Tunnel in downtown Los Angeles during light rain.  





(2000)^ - As if straight out of a science fiction movie, cars seem to spill out of the darkness and into the spiral-like light of day. The photo was taken from inside the 2nd Street Tunnel, two pedestrians walking on the right side, and a row of ceiling lights that are spaced out through the entire tunnel are the only visible things inside this black hole.  


Historical Notes

The 2nd Street Tunnel in Los Angeles is probably the most recognizable city landmark most Americans have never heard of. The tunnel — a 1,500-foot-long bore lined with white tile, like a bathroom that never ends — has been used as an exterior in dozens of films and TV shows, most famously in the sci-fi masterpiece “Blade Runner.”



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