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Los Angeles: 1899

Circa 1899. "General view, Los Angeles." The righthand section of a three-part panoramic series. Detroit Publishing Company glass negative. View full size.

Circa 1899. "General view, Los Angeles." The righthand section of a three-part panoramic series. Detroit Publishing Company glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
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Angels Flight

Am I right in assuming that the slope in the center would be the site of the Angels Flight funicular railway?

[See this comment below. -tterrace]

the hill

Bunker Hill in L.A. was once a neighborhood of the wealthy. In the 20th century it went into decline as more multi-unit apartments were built and it became a cheap neighborhood for transients, drug addicts and working poor. It served as a backdrop of many American noir films and of one excellent docudrama about the Native American population of Los Angeles called "THE EXILES". This semi-ghetto was razed in the 1960's to make room for the Music Center and more steel and glass towers. L.A. author John Fante moved there in 1929 and his first and last novels ASK THE DUST and DREAMS FROM BUNKER HILL both come out of his experience there.

Bunker Hill

This is Bunker Hill in Los Angeles where I grew up in the 1940's through the 1960's, long after this photo was taken. Many of these buildings survived into my era, though, so I remember them. Many more had been replaced by larger apartment houses and residential hotels as the area changed from the refuge of wealthy Angelenos, as it was when this photo was taken, to become home to lower income working families, artists, writers and the elderly. I know all the streets visible here. It is wonderful to see the Hill in its youth when everything seems so new. You can almost smell the newly cut lumber and fresh paint. I love the Hi-def detail of the photos in the Archive because it enabled me to identify the Castle which is one of the Victorian buildings my family owned. It is the light colored building with the dark roof in the background just to the right of the northern slope of the Baldwin Hills in the distance. It sat on S. Bunker Hill Ave. What a thrill to see it. None of the buildings in this photo survives. It was all razed in the 1960's in the name of urban renewal. What an irreplaceable loss.

Regarding "Modern" comment

The "modern" looking building is the north non-street-facing side of the Tajo Building, built in 1897 on the northwest corner of 1st and Broadway. Since this side was not meant to be seen from the street, it was kept as simple as possible. The smaller image is taken from a colorized postcard circa 1905. The large view of the front and side dates from about 1942.

East Coast Influence

To see Los Angeles back then is like looking at an East Coast city.

The Village Blacksmith

At bottom is the workshop of A.L. Nies:

A.L. Nies came into Los Angeles in 1882 and established his blacksmith shop near the present Hotel Broadway. He liked the friendly little town where passersby called each other by name and spoke of personal affairs to man, woman and child. For sixteen years he was content. Then the devil of Progress began to alter landmarks and inundate the streets with "foreigners." More here.

Los Angeles, 1880

How about this photograph by Carleton Watkins from the J. Paul Getty Museum of the Plaza in Los Angeles from 1880? The Plaza church is still there today.


This can't be L.A. There are people out walking.

Pneumonia Hall

The Lewis Bradbury house of 1887 (on the right) was at Court and Hill Streets. Bradbury was a property developer who died in 1892, before the completion of the building he is known best for, the Bradbury Building on Broadway.

Later the house was converted to apartments. Harold Lloyd, who lived there when he was starting out, dubbed it "Pneumonia Hall." It was torn down in 1929 for a parking lot.

Very early cellphone tower?

Up on the left horizon. Either a cellphone tower, or the worlds largest lightning rod!

[It's an arc lamp. - Dave]

Watch your step

Downtown LA is perched on the edge of some very hilly terrain. The driveways deliver you right up to the front doors today.

Since I was not alive to see these homes, it's jarring to see the long and meandering stairways leading from the street to these banker-lawyer type homes. It's quite a journey from porch to horse and carriage.

Nobody Walks In LA. Now. Not so then.

Just mindblowing

What an amazing image!

So I'm guessing that we're looking west/southwest and the ridges in the distance are Baldwin Hills (extending in from the left of the frame) and the Santa Monicas (from the right)? Just WOW.

The Music Box

Isn't that Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy, right after they delivered the piano?

My hometown

I can't say how pleased I was to see this on Shorpy this morning. I'm a Los Angeles lifer and love it, but L.A., as has been noted by other commenters, is not what you'd call a history-conscious town.

I watch old Dragnets on Hulu just to see the shots of L.A. in the '60s, so a pic like this, peeking back into the 19th century, is just a delight.

The stairs to Los Angeles

I can almost see Arturo Bandini climb those stairs, eating oranges and smoking. Although that would have been some 30 years later.


The most amazing building to me is the one exactly halfway up the left side of the photo, the one whose side is covered with large triple windows. It looks totally modern. Nice flat wall with no adornment. The windows are simply punched into place and have dark frames to blend with the dark glass. The top floor's simple Cupid's bow dormers. A very clean look without all the frilliness of the other buildings.

Bunker Hill

This is Bunker Hill on the NW edge of current downtown LA. The last standing Victorian houses were razed in the 60s and the hill partly levelled for development of the music center and hotel district. The large house to the right is the Bradbury mansion of 1887.

Broadway and Franklin.

We are looking at Bunker Hill from the Old Courthouse. The Hall of Records is yet be be constructed. The intersection in the foreground is Broadway and Franklin Street. Franklin, which no longer exists, would be where the parking west of the Criminal Courts Building is.

The Court Flight, a funicular railway, would be built in 1904 connecting the intersection of Court Street and Hill Street (visible up on Bunker Hill) with Broadway below. So clearly this dates the photos as before 1904. Its sister, Angel's Flight, would be built down the way at 3rd and Hill (off the left edge of the photo) in 1901.

Here is my source. It is an excellent site with parsed post card views of the area:

Start here for background (including a colorized version of our photo!):

Then continue here:

The grand house on the left

The Crocker Mansion.

That great house on the right

is the Bradbury mansion.

The blacksmith shop at the bottom is on Hill Street.

Stair masters

Without the caption I would've guessed this was San Francisco. I had no idea Angelenos had so many stairs to climb.

LA locale

This looks like the general area I lived in for years. Any chance we can see more of the panorama? Would love to get some street names. Since LA tends to raze everything and build anew, longstanding architectural landmarks are few and far between.


Great house at the right side of the picture, wonderful details. It's probably gone now. This photo helps keep it alive!

Shorpy Does It Again!

Just a spectacular view that's reaching back over a hundred years. The architecture has so much character. The topography can clearly be seen as a force to reckon with.


Before Smog -- this shows a totally different L.A. from what we all know and I, who was born there and lived there for many years, can hardly believe my eyes. We think of L.A. as flat but it is really surrounded by hills on three sides! What a shame there is no trace of those gorgeous Victorian-era buildings. Can anyone place the location?

Look out below!

Check out the outhouse perched halfway up the hill. I don't think I'd care to live in one of those houses directly downslope from it!

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