Early Los Angeles City Views (1800s)

Historical Photos of Early Los Angeles

(ca. 1880s)^ - Panoramic view of L.A. in the 1880s. Shown in the foreground is the Second Street Cable Car, located west of downtown in an area called "Crown Hill." Cable car is stopped in front of W.C. Bowers staple and fancy groceries store. On the left side is a small Real Estate building. In the background several dwellings may be seen scattered over the bare hills.  


Historical Notes

In the 1880s, located one mile west of downtown Los Angeles, a scrubby hill transformed into an area of prime real estate development. Even before the hill had been named, the Second Street Cable line opened in 1885, carrying passengers from Second and Spring Streets over Bunker Hill, to the terminus at Second and Belmont.

By the late 1880s, mansions and businesses owned by wealthy Angelenos such as the Witmer, Summers, and Lewis families, were dotting the hillside. Among the businesses were hotels, St. Paul’s, the Huntley and the Belmont.^^



Second Street Cable Railway

(ca. 1880s)^^ - Exterior view of the car barn for the Second Street Cable Car system in Los Angeles, showing a group of uniformed conductors.  


Historical Notes

The Second Street Cable Railway was the first cable car system to open in Los Angeles. Opened in 1885, it ran from Second and Spring Streets to First Street and Belmont Avenue. The completed railway was 6,940 feet long, just over a mile and a quarter, with a power house constructed in the middle, at Boylston Street. It was a single track system, with sidings where a down-hill car could coast past an up-hill car.*^




(ca. 1885)#+ – View looking east on 2nd Street from Olive Street showing two cable cars of the Second Street Cable Railway at center. The First Presbyterian Church with its tall spire can be seen in the distance on the S/E corner of 2nd and Broadway. Further back is the copula of St. Vibiana's Cathedral on the east side of Main Street just south of 2nd Street.  


Historical Notes

The Second Street Cable line began service with 80 trips per day, operating out of a power station and car house at Second and Boylston Streets. The line featured the steepest cable gradient in North America, a 27.7% slope between Hope Street and Bunker Hill Avenue.*##




(1886)+^ - View looking west on 2nd Street at Spring showing a cable car of the Second Street Cable Railway heading toward Bunker Hill. To the right is LA’s 2nd City Hall (1884-1888).  The two-story Hollenbeck Block (expanded to four stories in the second half of 1887) and the spire of the First Presbyterian Church are on the left.  





Then and Now

(1885 vs. 2021)* - Looking east on 2nd Street from near Olive Street in downtown LA. Top photo shows two cable cars of the Second Street Cable Railway that ran over Bunker Hill. When comparing the Then and Now photos note that 2nd Street does not align exactly. That’s because in the 1920s a tunnel was bored under Bunker Hill (2nd Street Tunnel) which is located on the right below the parking lot.  






(ca. 1885)^^ - A cable car of the Second Street Cable Railway passes through the line's deep cut in Bunker Hill. In the background can be seen the lightly populated area which the line's promoters hoped would grow and provide riders.  





(ca. 1886)*v* – Close-up view showing passengers posing for the camera as they sit in a Second Street Cable Car. By 1896, much of the city's cable car trackage had been converted to electricity and incorporated into a growing electric railway network. Click HERE to see more in LA's Cable Railway Into Obsolescence (1885-1902).  





(ca. 1886)^ – View looking west showing a tandem 2nd Street Cable Car heading west through the Bunker Hill cut toward the Belmont Hotel.  


Historical Notes

In the distance (upper-left) can be seen the Belmont Hotel (built 1884; destroyed by fire in 1887), current site of Belmont HS, and the Ellis College for girls (built in 1886; burnt down 1888). The line of trees at center, coming down the slope, marks the former site of Second Street Park. Mount Lee (current location of the Hollywood Sign) and Mount Hollywood (Griffith Park Observatory is below the peak) are in the upper-right.

By 1896, much of the city's cable car trackage had been converted to electricity and incorporated into a growing electric railway network. Click HERE to see more in LA's Cable Railway Into Obsolescence (1885-1902).




(ca. 1886)^ – View looking west showing a tandem 2nd Street Cable Car heading west through the Bunker Hill cut toward the Belmont Hotel. Image enhancement and colorization by Richard Holoff.  





(1886)* - View looking north from the Belmont Hotel. Residential homes can be seen across the rolling hillside.  


Historical Notes

The Belmont Hotel on Crown Hill opened in July 1886 at the terminus of the Second Street Cable Railway that was completed a year earlier. The easy access to the line, the graceful architecture, beautiful landscaping, fresh air, and stunning views were attractions for visitors and wealthy Los Angelenos who held a number of social events there. The Belmont’s owner, Rev. John W. Ellis, was also the proprietor and director of another Crown Hill establishment, Ellis Villa College, a finishing school for young ladies.*#^




(1886)* - Close-up view looking north from the Belmont Hotel. Residential homes can be seen across the rolling hillside.  






(1886)* - View looking north from the Belmont Hotel. Residential homes can be seen across the rolling hillside. Photo by W. H. Fletcher; Image enhancement and colorization by Richard Holoff.  






(ca. 1886)^^ - Panoramic view of Los Angeles looking northwest on Third Street from Grand Avenue, showing the Belmont Hotel on top of Crown Hill. Houses are spaced widely apart on hilly terrain with mountains in the background. In the distance to the left, the building and spire of the Belmont Hotel is visible. The hotel was built in July 1886. The Hollywood HIlls can be seen in the background.  


Historical Notes

The Hotel Belmont was the first noteworthy building to stand atop Crown Hill, the present site of Belmont High School (1575 West 2nd Street).*^




(ca. 1886)^*# - View looking NW from the Belmont Hotel showing several homes and a couple of dirt roads. The Hollywood Hills stand in the background.  





Then and Now

(1886 vs. 2020) - Then and Now: View looking NW from near Belmont High School.  






(1886)^ - Photograph of the exterior view of the Belmont Hotel and its yard, Belmont Avenue & 2nd Street. The three-story hotel featured shingled walls, triangular shaped dormer windows, triangular gables, inclined roof, a balcony, and a square tower.  


Historical Notes

The Belmont Hotel on Crown Hill opened in July 1886 at the terminus of the Second Street Cable Railway that was completed a year earlier. The easy access to the line, the graceful architecture, beautiful landscaping, fresh air, and stunning views were attractions for visitors and wealthy Los Angelenos who held a number of social events there. The Belmont’s owner, Rev. John W. Ellis, was also the proprietor and director of another Crown Hill establishment, Ellis Villa College, a finishing school for young ladies.*#*




(ca. 1886)^*# - View looking south from the Belmont Hotel located at Belmont and 2nd Street showing miles and miles of mostly undeveloped land as far as the eye can see.  





(ca. 1887)^ - Photograph of the Belmont Hotel on fire at the corner of Belmont Street and First Street,  December 16, 1887. While firemen hose down the hotel, people are shown milling around on the lawn which is covered with assorted sheets, furniture, etc. (This is the earliest photograph of a major fire in Los Angeles and possibly the earliest photo of the newly formed Los Angeles Fire Department in action.)^^*  


Historical Notes

In December of 1887 the Belmont Hotel burned down just a little over a year from the time it was built. Several years later the private Belmont School for Girls was built on the same site. After the school was destroyed by yet another fire, the grounds were left vacant, except for five oil wells and a pumping plant for the Los Angeles Oil Field. On February 28, 1921, the Los Angeles Board of Education purchased the site for $100,000, for the purpose of constructing Belmont High School.

Belmont High School opened its doors on September 11, 1923, to about 500 students, all sophomores, and 28 faculty members.*^




Second Street Park

(1887)^ - View of Second Street Park, located on Diamond Street (later Beverly) and Lake Shore Avenue (later Glendale Blvd) near where 1st and 2nd streets merge today.  


Historical Notes

Located at the present-day intersection of Glendale Boulevard and First and Second streets, the park was part of an ambitious plan to transform what had been a remote, inaccessible wilderness into the upscale residential district of Crown Hill. Built around 1885 by the Los Angeles Improvement Company -- the real estate syndicate behind the Crown Hill development -- the park would attract potential customers to the site, which could be reached from Los Angeles by the Second Street Cable Railway.*




(ca. 1890)^ - View of Second Street Park and surrounding area which is nestled in the ravine of the Arroyo de los Reyes.  


Historical Notes

Arroyo de los Reyes originates near the Catholic school on Glendale Boulevard – right by the 2 off-ramp.  It flowed southward, along Glendale Boulevard, occupied the area now taken by Echo Park Lake, and continued down to 2nd Street, then crossing through downtown LA, about a block or two south of Pershing Square, where it spread and created a big muddy mess.  These flows eventually connected with the Los Angeles River, when they didn’t seep into the ground first.^




(ca. 1890)^ - View of Second Street Park and surrounding area which is nestled in the ravine of the Arroyo de los Reyes.  AI image enhancement and colorization by Richard Holoff  





(1891)^ - Second Street Park appears in the center of this detail from an 1891 map, courtesy of the Library of Congress. Note that north points toward the bottom of the map.  





(1894)*– Map showing Second Street Park and Lake located at the intersection of Lake Shore Ave (later Glendale Blvd) and 1st and 2nd streets (at lower-center).  The larger Echo Park Lake is seen at upper-center, at the intersection of Bellevue Ave and Lake Shore Ave. Map courtesy of the Library of Congress.  


Historical Notes

The Second Street Park's demise came quickly when the oil boom hit in the early 1890s and a forest of wooden derricks carpeted the neighborhood’s hills.  Area residents would soon flock to two other nearby municipally owned parks, Westlake Park (opened in 1880) and Echo Park (1890).

In the early 1900s, the private park was sold to a real estate syndicate led by Tyler & Co. and J. F. Jones.  The syndicate filled in the former lake bed, graded the tract, and sold it off in 53 individual pieces.*


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(1886)^ - A view of Grand Avenue, south from 2nd in the year 1886. The right side of the street is lined with houses, hidden behind large trees. On the left side of the photograph, a horse-drawn carriage is seen mid-photo, and a half-wall, half-picket fence can be seen in the forefront, with a house barely visible behind trees and shrubbery. Grand Avenue is a long earthen road, and the sidewalks appear to also be unpaved.  





(ca. 1886)^^ - View of Hill Street looking south from Court Street, showing an unpaved street and large homes (at right).  Also at right is one of the City’s first electric streetlights.  At 150-ft in height, it towers over all the surrounding homes.  


Historical Notes

The white three-story building with balconies is the Highland Villa, located on the northwest corner of 1st and Hill streets.

Approximately 30, 150-foot tall poles with carbon-arc lamps were installed in Downtown Los Angeles between 1882 and 1885.  These were reported to provide illumination equal to the level of a full moon.^^#^

Click HERE to see more in Early L.A. Streetlights.




Broadway and 1st Street (Note: Broadway was known as 'Fort Street' until 1890)

(1886)^ - View looking east on 1st Street. The Times Building is under construction at middle left, on the northeast corner of 1st and Broadway. Left of that on Broadway is the People's Store. Numerous other buildings and houses dot the panoramic view.  





(1886)^^ - A view of the northwest corner of 1st & Broadway. Horses and carriages were common as were the stables and liveries. The De Turk Livery Feed & Sale Stable seen here later became the Tally Ho Stables. Later the first home of the Chamber of Commerce was located here. The LA Times Building would soon be built on the NE corner (lower-right).  


Historical Notes

In the lower right hand corner of the photo is an excavation for the L.A. Times building which was completed in 1887. At the upper-left, the 3-story building at the northwest corner of First and Hill is the Highland Villa.




Then and Now

(1886 vs 2023)* – Looking at the NW corner of Broadway and 1st streets.  






(ca. 1887)^ - View looking at the northeast corner of 1st and Broadway showing the Los Angeles Times Building (2nd location). The building next door, to the right, was occupied by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce from February 1889 until March 1890. Click HERE to see the 1st Los Angeles Times Building.  


Historical Notes

In 1884 Harrison Gray Otis bought out the Los Angeles Daily Times from the Mirror Company and formed the Times-Mirror Company.

Otis was known for his conservative political views, which were reflected in the paper. His home was one of three buildings that were targeted in the 1910 Los Angeles Times bombing. During his time as publisher of the Times Otis is known for coining the phrase "You are either with me, or against me."

His support for his adopted city was instrumental in the growth of the city. He was a member of a group of investors who bought land in the San Fernando Valley based on inside knowledge that the Los Angeles Aqueduct would soon irrigate it.*^




(ca. 1887)^ - Carriers of the Los Angeles Times assembled in the street outside the old building on 1st and Broadway.  





(1888)^ - A view of the unpaved old Fort Street (since renamed Broadway), looking north. On the northeast corner of 1st and Broadway is the Los Angeles Times building, completed in 1887 (it was later dynamited in 1910). Adjoining the building was the second home of the Chamber of Commerce.  




(ca. 1888)^ - Panoramic view looking east on an unpaved 1st Street from near Hill Street. The first cross street is Broadway, where a streetcar is turning the corner hading south onto Broadway. The Times Building is on the northeast corner of 1st and Broadway, and the Tally Ho Stables is on the northwest corner. The Metropolitan Stables is at right, on the south side of 1st Street. St. Vibiana's Church steeple is in the right distance.  





(1886)^ - An unpaved 6th Street from Main Street, looking west in 1886. Spring is the first cross street shown. The State Normal School, is at far right on a hill, the later site of the Los Angeles Central Library. The area is mainly residential.  






(ca. 1880s)* - Two drawings of Los Angeles. The upper is of Bunker Hill, with street light, and the lower of Central Park (later called Pershing Square), looking east.  


Historical Notes

The first electric street lights in Los Angeles were installed in 1882. Click HERE to see more in Early Los Angeles Street Lights.





Hill and 11th Street

(ca. 1880)^ - A horse and buggy plod down earthen, tree-lined Hill Street at Eleventh. Eucalyptus branches frame the photo on the left.  






(ca. 1885)^^ - View of Compton Boulevard looking west from Alameda Boulevard in Compton.  


Historical Notes

In 1867, Griffith Dickenson Compton led a group of thirty pioneers to the area. These families had traveled by wagon train south from Stockton, California in search of ways to earn a living other than in the rapid exhaustion of gold fields. Originally named Gibsonville, after one of the tract owners, it was later called Comptonville. However, to avoid confusion with the Comptonville located in Yuba County, the name was shortened to Compton.*^




(ca. 1885)^ - View of Compton Boulevard with horses and buggies in standing water.  


Historical Notes

Because of its proximity to one of the main tributaries feeding into the Los Angeles River (Compton Creek), Compton and its surrounding area would periodically experience flooding especially during severe storms.




(ca. 1880s)^ - Man crossing a muddy Compton Blvd. Several horse-drawn wagons are parked along the curbs.  


Historical Notes

By 1887, the settlers realized it was time to make improvements to the local government. A series of town meetings were held to discuss incorporation of their little town. Griffith D. Compton donated his land to incorporate and create the city of Compton in 1889, but he did stipulate that a certain acreage be zoned solely for agriculture and named Richland Farms. 

In January 1888, they forwarded a petition supporting the incorporation of Compton to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, who in turn forwarded the petition to the State Legislature. On May 11, 1888 the city of Compton was incorporated, it had a total population of 500 people. The first City Council meeting was held on May 14, 1888.*^




(1887)^ - View showing the business block in Compton including a hardware and grocer. A horse-drawn cart can be seen at right. Shop owners are standing in front of the brick building housing various businesses, posing for the camera.  





(1890s)^ - Front exterior of the Ambrose & Shepard General Merchandise Store, in Compton.  A horse drawn buggy is visible at right. At the store entrance, people are posing for the photograph, including a young boy sitting on his bicycle.  





(ca. 1890s)^^ - Horses providing mechanical energy to operate an irrigation machine.  Seen are 4 horses tethered to a rotating pole which in turn operates ropes connected to a device raising water to fill a small reservoir used to irrigate the surrounding fields in Compton.  



Click HERE to see more early views of Compton


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Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (Santa Fe Railway) - 2nd Transcontinental

(1885)^ - View showing the first Santa Fe locomotive engine to enter Los Angeles.  


Historical Notes

When the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad (aka Santa Fe) charted its own solo course across the continent in 1885 it chose Los Angeles as its western terminus, and in doing so fractured the Southern Pacific Railroad's near total monopoly on rail transportation within the state.

The original purpose of this new line was to augment the route to San Diego, established three years prior as part of a joint venture with the California Southern Railroad, but the Santa Fe would subsequently be forced to all but abandon these inland tracks through the Temecula Canyon (due to constant washouts) and construct its Surf Line along the coast to maintain its exclusive ties to Los Angeles.*^




(ca. 1895)*^ - Passenger Train of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.  

Historical Notes

Santa Fe's entry into Southern California resulted in widespread economic growth and ignited a fervent rate war with the Southern Pacific.  It also led to Los Angeles' well-documented real estate "Boom of the Eighties." The Santa Fe Route led the way in passenger rate reductions (often referred to as "colonist fares") by, within a period of five months, lowering the price of a ticket from Kansas City, Missouri to Los Angeles from $125 to $15, and, on March 6, 1887 to a dollar! The Southern Pacific soon followed suit and the level of real estate speculation reached a new high, with "boom towns" springing up literally overnight. Free, daily railroad-sponsored excursions (complete with lunch and live entertainment) enticed overeager potential buyers to visit the many undeveloped properties firsthand and (hopefully) invest in the potential of the land.*^

The Moorish-inspired La Grande railroad station was used as a passenger terminal for Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.^




(n.d.)+^^ – View showing the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway locomotive #18 and a stagecoach.  


Historical Notes

Major advertising campaigns by the SP, Santa Fe, Union Pacific, and other major carriers of the day not only helped transform southern California into a major tourist attraction but generated intense interest in exploiting the area's agricultural potential. Word of the abundant work opportunities, high wages, and the temperate and healthful California climate spread throughout the Midwestern United States, and led to an exodus from such states as Iowa, Indiana, and Kansas; although the real estate bubble "burst" in 1889 and most investors lost their all, the Southern California landscape was forever transformed by the many towns, farms, and citrus groves left in the wake of this event.*^


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Cahuenga Valley Railroad

(1888)^ - Little steam engine and carriage of the Cahuenga Valley Railroad, which ran from Temple Street, Los Angeles, to Hollywood. Photograph is taken at Hollywood Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue.  





(ca. 1880s)^ - In this photo the Cahuenga Valley Railroad line cable car is also called the "Dummy line." Note the inside of the cable car is actually hollow with wooden chairs being used for sitting. The Cahuenga Valley Railroad was a steam railroad built in the 1880's to provide access to Hollywood. Click HERE to see more in Early Views of Hollywood.  



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(1887)^ - Several men and children stand posed outside the New City Market at 252 South Spring Street.  





(ca. 1880s)^ - Drawing of the Downey Block on the northwest corner of Main and Temple Streets. Various horse-drawn vehicles are seen on the street, including horse cars to Agricultural Park/Washington Garden, Spring & 6th Streets/S.P.R.R. Depot, and Boyle Heights/Los Angeles and Aliso Avenue/Perry Villa Tract.  


Historical Notes

The Los Angeles Public Library was housed on the second floor of the Downey Block from 1872 to 1889.

The Downey Block was demolished in 1904. Since then the corner has been the site of two Federal Buildings: the Federal Building and Post Office (1910 - 1937) and the Federal Courthouse and U.S. Post Office Building (1940 - Present).

Horse-Drawn Streetcars remained the primary mode of public transportation through the 1880s, at their peak rolling through much of the booming city of Los Angeles.




(1887)^^ - View looking north on Main Street showing the Downey Block (right) on the N/W corner of Main and Temple. The Temple Block (current site of City Hall) is seen at left. A multitude of horse-drawn carriges and wagons are 'parked' along the curbs.  





(ca. 1888)^^ - View looking northeast showing the west side of Main Street.  The Cosmopolitan Hotel (formerly the Lafayette Hotel; subsequently the St. Elmo Hotel) can be seen in the lower right corner.  The Downey Block, on the northwest corner of Main and Temple streets, is seen at center-left. The structure with the triangular, peaked roof in the upper-right (above the Cosmopolitan Hotel) was built in 1864 as the St. Athanasius Episcopal Church; it was the first Protestant Church in Los Angeles located at the south-west corner of Temple and New High Streets. In the background, at left, the Nadeau Hotel (1882-1931) can be seen; it was located at the south-west corner of Spring and First Streets. Bunker Hill with houses and trees can be seen at upper-right.  





(ca. 1890)^## – View looking north on Main Street showing the Cosmopolitan Hotel at left.  





(ca. 1890)^## - View showing the front of the Cosmopolitan Hotel (previously Lafayette Hotel) on Main Street. Note that the people standing on the sidewalk and front balcony appear to be posing for the photographer.  



First Electric Streetcars

(ca. 1887)^*# - Rear view of Los Angeles’ first electric streetcar at Pico and Main Street.  Note the draped curtains on side of trolley.  


Historical Notes

On September 11, 1886, Charles H. Howland chartered the Los Angeles Electric Railway Company.  It began operations on January 4, 1887 with the line opening from Pico Boulevard and Main Street traveling west to Harvard Boulevard.*##




(1887)#^*^ – Wide angle view showing well-dressed riders standing on and in front of two of the Los Angeles’ first electric streetcars on Pico Street.  The sign on the side of the streetcar reads:  “Electric R.R. – Maple Ave. – Pico St.”  





(1887)^ - View of the first electric trolley in Los Angeles as seen on Pico St. and Maple Avenue. The front car with its large wheels is pulling a trolley full of passengers.  


Historical Notes

The first electric streetcars in Los Angeles began operating on the Los Angeles Electric Railway Company Pico Street line in January 1887. These cars used a two troller system designed by Leo Daft to get electricity from overhead wires. While the cars were capable of transporting people quickly, technical problems, breakdowns and delayed service were frequent. Following a powerhouse boiler explosion in June 1888, operation resumed with horse cars. Soon after the company declared bankruptcy.^^^*




(1887)^ - View of the first electric car in Los Angeles, the G.O.P. line out Pico to Hoover Street. The trolley is filled to capacity with men standing on the runner board.  


Historical Notes

In 1886, Charles H. Howland chartered the Los Angeles Electric Railway Company, L.A.'s 1st electric trolley system. Four years earlier (1882), he also built the first electric light power plant in Los Angeles, on the corner of Alameda and Banning Streets.*




(1883)* - Banning Street Electrical Plant -- The first electric light plant in Los Angeles was built in 1882 by Charles L. Howland on the corner of Alameda and Banning Street. Originally built to provide electricity for his new streetlights (LA's first electric streetlights), Howland would later expand the plant to provide power for his new streetcar company. Click HERE to see more in Early Los Angeles Streetlights.  


Historical Notes

Charles Howland is also known for starting Los Angeles' first electric utililty, LA Electric Compnay, in 1883. That company would evolve to become LA Gas and Electric Corporation. In 1937, the electric side of LA Gas and Electric Corp. was bought out by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The gas side of the company became Southern California Gas Company.



Click HERE to see more in First Electricity in Los Angeles.





(1888)* - Banning Street Electrical Plant now showing two smokestacks. The building as been enlarged from its original footprint as seen in the previous photo. Charles Howland built the power plant in 1882 and incorporated to become LA's first Electric Utility - LA Electric Company.  



Click HERE to see more in Early Power Generation



Highland Park

(1887)^ - Panoramic view of Highland Park looking north in 1887. Garvanza was the north section of Highland Park. The Garvanza Hotel is the largest building in this picture (center-left). Arroyo Seco is in the foreground. In the right background is Johnson Lake; just below the lake is Miller's Hall.  


Historical Notes

One of the oldest settled areas of Los Angeles, Highland Park is also one of the most scenic due to its location along the Arroyo Seco, between the Mt. Washington hills, the San Rafael hills and the Monterey Hills.*^

Garvanza is considered a sub-district of Highland Park.  The area was named for the garbanzo beans that once flourished there. In 1899, Garvanza was annexed by the City of Los Angeles.*^



(ca. 1886)^ - Exterior view of the newly constructed Queen Anne revival style Garvanza Hotel.  


Historical Notes

Opened in 1886, the hotel was located at South Avenue 63 and York Boulevard in Garvanza, a former section of Highland Park.^




LA Plaza

(1886)^ - Los Angeles Plaza in 1886, looking northeast. Olvera Street is at extreme left. Note 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.^*#  




(2013)^#^* - Roughly the same view in 2013. Satellite imagery courtesy of Google Earth.  


Historical Notes

In 1887, Los Angeles City's population: Approx. 20,000. *^

In 2013, Los Angeles City's population: 3.9 million. *^




Before and After

(1887)^ - Aerial view of Early Los Angeles - Population: 20,000   (2013)^#^* - Aerial view of Los Angeles - Population 3.9 million





(1880)^^ - View of Buena Vista Street, looking north from the school grounds on Fort Moore Hill. Buena Vista Street later became North Broadway. The adobe at left was used as a tearoom.  





(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 can be seen on top of the hill.  


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 of Mary Hollister Banning (upper-center), widow of General Phineas Banning. Part of the trenches of old Fort Moore, built in 1846-1847, are visible in the upper left. The structure was originally built by Jacob Philippi as a beer hall, but Banning purchased and transformed it into a home.  


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. 1887)^ - Exterior view of Plaza Church seen from the plaza, across the street. A trolley can be seen on the right side of the photo. In the background can be seen the Banning House sitting on top of Fort Moore Hill.




(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. The Banning Residence can be seen in the background on top of Fort Moore Hill overlooking the LA Plaza. Click HERE to see more in Early Plaza of L.A.  




(1888)^ - Men standing outside a saloon in Sonora Town at the corner of Bellevue and upper Main Street, which later was known as San Fernando Street and finally as North Spring Street. Adobes surround the intersection. On the hill in the background is the residence of J. W. Robinson, founder of the department store bearing his name.  



Spring and 1st Street

(1888)^ - Looking south from First Street at Spring. A parade is seen heading north on Spring Street.  





(1888)^ - The north side of First Street between Spring and Main Streets in 1888. The Widney Building is on the left.  


Historical Notes

Joseph Pomeroy Widney, M.D. D.D. LL.D (December 26, 1841 – July 4, 1938) was a physician, clergyman, entrepreneur-philanthropist, proto-environmentalist, prohibitionist, racial theorist, and prolific author.

He at one time owned the Widney Block on First Street (near the corner of Temple and Spring Streets), another Widney Block located at Sixth between Hill and Broadway, and a property at the corner of Ninth and Santee streets, where he erected the Nazarene Methodist Episcopal Church. Additionally, he owned a building at 445–447 Aliso Street, where the first college of medicine for the University of Southern California was located from 1885 to 1896.*^



(1888)^ - Looking west on 1st Street from Spring Street. The tower in the background is the general alarm tower of the fire department.  The 3-story white building with the balconies is the Highland Villa (n/w corner of 1st and Hill).  



Court and Main Streets

(1888)^ - Southwest corner Court street and Main street; shows three-story Western Union Telegraph Company building with corner turret, chimneys and bay windows, address, 47 North Main Street; Chicago Hat Company at 35 North Main at left; horse-drawn carriages in street in foreground. On the right, behind the horse drawn wagon, can be seen stairs leading up to the Old Clocktower Courthouse.  




(ca. 1920)^.^ – View looking north on Court Street toward Main Street with the Western Union Telegraph Company building seen on the SW corner.  


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Main Street

(1888)^ - View looking north on Main Street near 1st Street. Horse-drawn carriages can be seen throughout. The Baker Block can be seen in the distance.  




(ca. 1887)^ - 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.  




(1888)^## – View looking south on 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).  





(ca. 1890)^##  – View looking south showing the Baker Block and on the historic 300 block of N. Main Street.  



Click HERE to see more in Early Views of the Historic 300 Block of N. Main Street


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City Hall (1884 - 1888)

(ca. 1886)^ - View looking west on 2nd Street from Spring Street. The building to the right was Los Angeles City Hall between 1884-1888 (site of current Los Angeles Times Building). Across the street is the Hollenbeck Block, with the First Presbyterian Church behind it on the southeast corner of 2nd and Fort Street (later Broadway).  


Historical Notes

The following historical timeline lists the buildings used by City Council, also known as City Hall, since 1850, when Los Angeles was incorporated as a municipality:

◆ 1850 - 1853 - used rented hotel and other buildings for City meetings

◆ 1853 - rented adobe house (aka Rocha Adobe) on Spring Street - across from current City Hall (now parking lot for Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center). The buliding was shared with the County who used it as a Court House.

◆ 1861 - moved into John Temple's Clocktower Market Building, but only stayed for less than a year before the County Court House moved-in

◆ 1861 - 1884 - relocated back to the Rocha Adobe and stayed for over 20 years

◆ 1884 - 1888 - moved to new City Hall Building at South Spring Street and West 2nd Street (site of current Los Angeles Times Building)

◆ 1888 - 1928 - moved to new Romanesque Revival Building on 226-238 South Broadway between 2nd Street and 3rd Street; demolished in 1928 and now site of parking lot between LA Times Parking structure and 240 Broadway.

◆ 1928 - moved to current City Hall Building *^



City Hall (1888)

(1888)^ - View looking south on Broadway from 2nd Street showing the new City Hall. It was built in 1888 to replace the City Hall seen in previous two photos.  


Historical Notes

The new City Hall with its rectangular tower was located at 226 So. Broadway. Built in 1888, it was used until 1928 when the current City Hall was completed.

Click HERE to see more early views of the 1888-built City Hall.


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Main Street

(1888)* - Exterior view of the new Turnverein building located at 321 So. Main Street. It has a group posing in front. This was a club of German Americans.  




(1888)^ - Photo of the first concert given by the Ellis Club, the first male chorus in Southern California, started by C. J. Ellis and three friends and organized on April 6, 1888. There were 16 men. The concert was given on July 19, 1888, at Turnverein Hall, with 40 singers. Conductor was Harold Burton. Charles James Ellis, founder, is in the last row, first person left of the center aisle.  


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Spring Street

(1888)^ - View looking south on Spring between 1st and 2nd streets. Horse-drawn buggies are parked in front a commercial building on the left. The sign above the large awning reads: GORDON BROS. A horse-drawn streetcar is seen heading north on Spring Street. Click HERE to see more on horse-drawn streetcars.  





(ca. 1888)^## – View of Spring Street looking north from near 4th Street.  In the far distance can be seen the Bryson-Bonebrake Block at the northwest corner of Spring and 2nd streets.  




Bryson-Bonebrake Block (Spring and 2nd)

(ca. 1888)^ - View looking at the northwest corner of 2nd and Spring streets showing the newly built Bryson-Bonebrake Block. On the left is the Hollenbeck Block shortly after it was enlarged to include a 3rd and 4th floor. Just to the left of the Bryson-Bonebrake Block can be seen part the short-lived City Hall Building (1884 - 1888).  


Historical Notes

The Bryson-Bonebrake Block was one of the more important office buildings built during the 1880s building boom in Los Angeles. It had six stories, with a typical Queen Anne Style variety of shapes, materials and ornamentation for which architect John Cather Newsom was famous.*##*



(ca. 1888)^ - Drawing of the west side of Spring Street, including the Bryson-Bonebrake Block on the left, between 1st and 2nd Streets as it appeared circa 1888.  


Historical Notes

Designed by architects Joseph Carter Newsom and Samuel Newsom,  the Bryson-Bonebrake Block was completed in 1888. The 126-room bank and office building cost $224,000, a staggering sum at the time. Bonebrake was one of the richest men in the city at the time, and he could afford making such an investment. He located the main headquarters of his bank in the Bryson-Bonebrake Block.^##*




(ca. 1888)^ - Spring Street looking north from the roof of the Stowell Building at 2nd Street. The Hollenbeck Block/Hotel is the first building on the left, next the Bryson-Bonebrake Block (n/w corner of 2nd and Spring). Also seen in the background are the LA County Courthouse, roof of Phillips Block, Temple Market Block and Baker Block.  





(1888)^ - View of Spring Street at 2nd Street, looking north. The Hollenbeck Hotel is on the left (southwest corner). The Bryson-Bonebrake Block can be seen across the street on the northwest corner. A horse-drawn streetcar is in the middle of the street and two horse-drawn carriages are seen parked at the curb.  


Historical Notes

Horse-drawn streetcars remained the primary mode of public transportation through the 1880s, at their peak rolling through much of the booming city of Los Angeles. But soon technological innovation would doom the horse-powered street railway with the introduction of electric cable streetcars.^


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Los Angeles Cable Railway

(ca. 1889)^ - View over the 1st Street viaduct with a L.A. Cable Railway car and a horse-drawn wagon crossing the viaduct. The Los Angeles Terminal railway depot, yards, and roundhouse are shown. In foreground below, at track level, is an Atlantic and Pacific flatcar.  


Historical Notes

Incorporated in 1887, Los Angeles Cable Railway was the largest transit venture in the city, operating from Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles out to Westlake Park and Grand Avenue. It was the last city line to convert to electrification. It was renamed the Pacific Railway Company in 1889 and was later sold to Henry E. Huntington.




(ca. 1889)^ - View of the Los Angeles Cable Railroad viaduct at Spring Street which crossed the LA River to Downey Ave.  


Historical Notes

In 1888 a cable line succeeded the old horse car line which went over the old North Spring Street bridge to Downey Avenue, East Los Angeles. The cables were carried over the Southern Pacific freight yards to the bridge on this old viaduct. Its use was abandoned in 1904 and it was torn down in 1910. Counting this old viaduct as a part of the old North Spring Street bridge, that ancient wooden structure was more than two miles long. Downey Avenue is now the portion of North Broadway east of the Los Angeles River.




(ca. 1889)^ - Los Angeles Cable Railroad viaduct at Spring Street and College Street. The Capitol Milling Company and the old Central Pacific (later Southern Pacific) freight house can be seen in the distance. At that time this was the center of commerce activity for the city.  


Historical Notes

Amazingly, the building with the company name still stands. The new Los Angeles to Pasadena light rail line (The Gold Line) passes directly in front of the building on an elevated structure, with the Chinatown station located just to the left of the cable cars in the photo above.




(ca. 1889)^^ - Streetcar coming over the south end of the Los Angeles Cable Railroad viaduct at Spring Street and College Street. The elevated viaduct comes in from the distance at right, extending into the left foreground where a streetcar and its trailer car make their way down the off-ramp full of passengers, a pedestrian in front of them. The sign over the exit-way reads "Caution, no Thoroughfare." The Capitol Milling Company building is partially visible in the background. Utility poles stand, off in the distance to the right, along with hills. The caption under the photo reads "Though Horses and Buggies Created the Traffic Problems About 1889, the Los Angeles Cable Railway Used This Elevated Viaduct".  


Historical Notes

At the time, this was one of the most extensive cable-worked railroads in operation in the U.S., its length being about twenty-one miles of single track, worked by three power stations.

Click HERE to see more in an 1891 Scientific American Article on the LA Cable RR Viaduct.




(1889)^ - View of opening day for the Los Angeles Cable Railway to Boyle Heights at the First Street Bridge on August 1, 1889  





Los Angeles Cable Railway - Boyle Heights

(1889)* - A crew of workers is busily employed digging a trench to prepare for the tracking for the Los Angeles Cable Railway at First near State streets.  At the right are a couple of residences, while some commercial buildings are down the street and to the left.  


Historical Notes

Los Angeles Cable Railway was the largest transit venture in the city, operating from Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles out to Westlake Park and Grand Avenue. The opening of the viaduct line over the LA River benefited real estate developers and residents in the Boyle Heights area.




(1889)* – View showing the laying of the Los Angeles Cable Railway's tracking system along First Street near Cummings in Boyle Heights.  Notice that a horse-drawn streetcar has been halted to demonstrate the contrast of the "old-fashioned" 1870s system to the new technology of the cable system.  A mixture of residential and commercial buildings, including a grocery near the streetcar at the left, are partially in view.  


Historical Notes

Notation on the reverse side of photos reads:  "Broad gauge, double track horse car line, which W.H. Workman built to Boyle Hts & sold to cable company." 





(1889)^*# - View of the inauguration of cable railway in Boyle Heights which became Los Angeles' first streetcar suburb.  






(1889)^^ - Residents celebrate the 1889 opening of the Los Angeles Cable Railway's in East Los Angeles.  


Historical Notes

The owners of the Los Angeles Cable Railway Company ran into financial difficulty and had to sell their controlling interest to C. B. Holmes, and associates, of Chicago, Ill. They organized a new company, known as the Pacific Railway Company, capitalized at $5,000,000.00 and finished the construction of the cable lines, which when completed covered many of the LA streets with double tracks.*





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References and Credits

* DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

^ LA Public Library Image Archive

**LADWP Historic Archive

^^USC Digital Library

*#Publications of the Historical Society of Southern California, Volume 9: Eternity Street

#+Flickr.com: Broadway

*#^Historic Hotels of Los Angeles and Hollywood (USC - California Historic Society):; Belmont Hotel

***Los Angeles Historic - Cultural Monuments Listing

*v*OnBunkerHill.org: Second Street Cable Railway

*^*California Historical Landmarks Listing (Los Angeles)

*^#Public Art in LA: Campo Santo

^*^LA Street Names - LA Times

^^^LA Times: The Gush of Oil Was Music to 'Queen's' Ears

^*#Noirish Los Angeles - forum.skyscraperpage.com; Sunset and San Fernando Hotels; Belmont Hotel View; 1st Electric Trolley

*##Metro.net - Los Angeles Transit History

^##California State Library Image Archive

###Denver Public Library Image Archive

#^*Flickr.com: Michael Ryerson

#**Historic Los Angeles Theaters: Child's Opera House

#*^LA Conservancy: Boyle Hotel

#^^Historical Buildings - boyleheightsbeat.com

+^^Kansas Historic Society:  Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company

+++Mt. Lowe Preservation Society

*#*KCET - Inventing LA: Port of Los Angeles; Belmont Hotel View; A Brief History of Palm Trees; How LA Lost One of its Earliest Parks; Rediscovering Downtown L.A.'s Lost Neighborhood of Bunker Hill; Fort St. to Broadway

**#The Cable-Car-Guy.com: The Los Angeles Railway; Temple Street Cable Railway

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

^^*LA Fire Department Historical Archive; Belmont Hotel Fire

****Theeastsiderla.com: Angelino Heights Oil Boom

^^#^The George A. Eslinger Street Lighting Photo Gallery

*##^The Street Railway History of Los Angeles - erha.org

^##*Pacific Coast Architecture Database (PCAD): Bryson-Bonebrake Block

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

^^^*Rails West: City Street Railways

^*^* KCET: LA's First Streetcars

^*^^San Fernando Valley Historical Society/Facebook.com: Burbank Villa Hotel

^*#*Panoramonview.org: Paorama of the Siege of Paris

^^^#LA Creek Freak: Arroyo de los Reyes

*^^*Los Angeles Past: Requena/Market St.

*^^#Boyle Heights History Blog: Los Angeles Cable Railway Construction

*^*#Paradise Leased: Arcadia Hotel

^^**LMU Digital Collection: Arcadia Hotel

*#*#Santa Monica Beach Stories

^#^# San Fernando Valley Relics: The Palms of San Fernando

#*^*The River Project: Taylor Yard

#^**Facebook.com: West San Fernando Valley Then And Now

#^*^Calisphere: University of California Image Archive

#^^^Southland.gizmodo.com: LA Once Had Cable Cars

##^^Flickr.com: Views of Los Angeles

^**^Wikipedia Images: Early L.A. Oil Wells

*^ Wikipedia: Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker; Bunker Hill; Prudent Beaudry; Jonathan Temple; Los Angeles High School; Joseph Widney; Pershing Square; Port of Los Angeles; Belmont High School; Hollenbeck Park; Ducommun; Isaias W. Hellman; Abel Stearns; Sawtelle, Los Angeles; Sawtelle Veterans Home; Arcade Station; Alhambra; Fort Moore; History of Santa Monica; History of Los Angeles; Burbank; Belmont High School; Mt. Lowe Railway; Los Angeles City Oil Field; History of Los Angeles Population Growth; Garvanza, Los Angeles; Highland Park; Compton; Harrison Gray Otis; Los Angeles City Hall; Angelino Heights; Boyle Heights; Boyle Hotel - Cummings Block; History of Transportation in California; Mount Lowe Railway


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