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Bill Cotter

Vanishing Los Angeles

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Here's a view of El Segundo, CA (near Los Angeles) in 1952:

el-segundo-1952.jpg

We're looking east on Grand Avenue crossing Richmond Street.

I wanted to get some views of how it looks today but it's not a location on Street View on Google yet. It does appear that the large building on the left is still there. If anyone has view of how it looks today I'd love to see them. As folks living out here now, El Segundo isn't the most scenic of places. I enjoyed this tranquil looking view, complete with oil wells!

Here's a view sure to stump the armchair detectives out there. This is somewhere in the Los Angeles area, again in 1952. If anyone can pinpoint the location I will be suitably impressed.

unknown-la-1952.jpg

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I learned a short time ago that the Hollywood sign stands on mounds of earth placed in front of the massive dam built by Mulholland in the 1920's. The dam was the same design as the St. Francis dam (gravity arc) which suddenly collapsed just a year after its construction in 1928. Mulholland was blamed and courageously took full responsibility. (There are remarkable photos of the dam and the aftermath on varieous web sites.)

Fearing a flaw in the design of the two dams, LA placed thousands of tons of dirt in front of the LA dam. As it turns out, geologists learned in the last ten years that it was not a design flaw which caused St. Francis to collapse (killing nearly 600 people). It was an ancient geologicial fault which was not even discovered until the late 1990's. Mulholland could never have known this nor would any other geologist at that time. The poor guy died a broken man.

I understand that a huge theme park stands just a mile or so from where St. Franci once stood in the Santa Clarita valley. I cannot recall the name of that park.

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I do have at least one Brown Derby shot - but where is it?

The theme park is Six Flags Magic Mountain. It's about 10 miles north of me. I think it's more like 10-15 miles from the dam collapse site. I have a book about that event and it was truly incredible how much devastation it caused.

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Well, the water tower is still there. I scrolled to the east and there she is up on the hill. I laid a ruler from the water tower to the cap on the building and it brings you right to where the 1952 photo was taken from. There's also an open space after the water tower that looks like it could be where the oil wells were (or might still be)

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What site were you looking at, Doug?

As to Palos Verdes, very possible. Could also be Hollywood Hills. I wish people labeled things!

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OK, here are some more from 1952. [Edit - wrong! see below!]

la-52-hollywood-vine.jpg

The world famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine.

la-52-hollywood-bowl.jpg

The Hollywood Bowl. The large pool of water in front of the stage was replaced long ago with more box seats.

la-52-torrance.jpg

Torrance, south of LAX. No oil wells anywhere in sight today. Other shots in this sequence show cattle grazing and a cowboy watching over them. I bet the people living and working there today wouldn't believe it was the same place.

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That first photo has to be later than '52, no? The cars...

The Hastings Hotel apparently came down in 1994.

Was Schwab's already gone at this time?

Good stuff!

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I agree with Mike about the first photo. The car at the corner of Hollywood and Vine looks like an early 60's Pontiac. The bottom photo is a 1961 Pontiac Parisiene. BTW, Did anyone find a broken bottle of love potion #9 in the view?

post-1280-124613796238_thumb.jpg

post-1280-124613794217_thumb.jpg

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Sorry, haste makes waste. I was cutting and pasting and got it wrong.

The Hollywood & Vine and Hollywood Bowl photos are dated September 1965.

The oil wells in Torrance shot is dated April 13, 1952.

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Here's a view of El Segundo, CA (near Los Angeles) in 1952:

el-segundo-1952.jpg

We're looking east on Grand Avenue crossing Richmond Street.

I wanted to get some views of how it looks today but it's not a location on Street View on Google yet. It does appear that the large building on the left is still there. If anyone has view of how it looks today I'd love to see them. As folks living out here now, El Segundo isn't the most scenic of places. I enjoyed this tranquil looking view, complete with oil wells!

Not much changes is El Segundo, in fact it is known as 'Mayberry' surrounded by the Chevron plant, LAX, Hyperion Plant and Sepulveda blvd on all 4 sides - it can't grow anymore, although about a quarter of the residential buildings are new or have 2'nd stories added on) all those buildings remain. Google street view is difficult to decipher sometimes because of the distorted perspective (I had a heck of a time finding Johnny at the Fair's Texaco Station by the BQE (near Navy St and on the Texaco Map - not that I want to bring up a sore subject); Behind the Chevron station in the background are some new to '52 buildings that block the view of the industrial portion of the city and the 'second' refinery in CA, hense 'El Segundo'. Gone are those stylized cast concrete 3 lamp street lights.

From today 6/27/09:

575611715_E5zrj-XL.jpg

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That is one amazing match! Did you just go out and shoot it or happen to have it handy?

The street looks pretty nice now with the trees and a switch to underground utilties. I see the Chevrolet dealer and those buildings are gone, but the rest of it looks pretty similar to 1952. Thanks for the match!!

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That is one amazing match! Did you just go out and shoot it or happen to have it handy?

The street looks pretty nice now with the trees and a switch to underground utilties. I see the Chevrolet dealer and those buildings are gone, but the rest of it looks pretty similar to 1952. Thanks for the match!!

I shot that today when I saw your post. There is a diner on the right called Wendy's with 1950's counter and booths in red naughyde that has been used for period filming (if you ever get this far South check it out) it looks like where the brown colored sign is in your photo, although I can't read it. Didn't notice the Chevy dealer, now Blockbuster (ironically both business models that have been passed by the times). The telephone poles are gone but unfortunately so are the street lights the '52 version looks nicer; the high tension lines in the far background are still there.

I've been meaning to get in touch about Arcadia publishing, since I now have enough material for another part of vanishing Los Angeles and one that reminds me a lot of Flushing Meadow Park: Playa Del Rey that was taken over when LAX expanded, from 1968-1971 822 homes were demolished or moved (and my house was one of the few that was moved) leaving behind only the streets and traces of the homes that were once there, like a ghost town. The area is fenced off so these streets have not been walked on in 40 years:

Labor Day 1967:

314880394_Ci3vv-XL-5.jpg

and a street as it appears today:

575742794_WEcfE-XL.jpg

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Thanks for taking the trouble to match up the shots. I know the area you're talking about near LAX. It looks weird flying over it or driving past.

I'd be glad to talk with you about Arcadia. Send me a PM with your phone number and I'll give you a call.

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Here's something that hasn't changed much - rush hour in Los Angeles was crowded then and it is crowded today.

la-hollywood-freeway.jpg

This is looking north on the Hollywood Freeway as it crosses the Harbor Freeway. I'm not sure of the date, but the Harbor Freeway (the 110 today) is labeled "Pasadena Freeway", Route 66 and 6 to the East and Harbor Freeway, Route 6, to the West. It appears the Hollywood Freeway (Route 101 today) is Route 99. Hopefully someone knows of a freeway history site that would help date this.

It looks like this was taken from the vicinity of the intersection of N. Boylston and Boston Streets, or just north of there on Bellevue Avenue. Unfortunately that area isn't available on Street View from Google yet.

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Tell me about it. My wife's car decided to die last month, so I had to buy a new one. Then my daughter's car felt neglected and did itself in. That meant buying two cars in slightly less than three weeks, all unplanned. It's my contribution to keeping the auto industry in business (except they were both foreign cars).

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Reminds me of a funny story I always tell from around 15 years ago when I was in Bora Bora and ran into a grizzled old American ex-pat sitting at a bar. He asked me where I was from, and when I answered Los Angeles, he threw up his hands in disgust, saying he used to live there himself but finally left when he couldn't take the traffic anymore. "When was that," I asked. "1966," he answered.

Only now that I see this picture, I guess it isn't so funny anymore. Having sat on the 101 for over an hour this morning-- it's hard to believe things already looked that bad when this pic was taken!

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I`m not an expert on freeway history but,judging by the cars I can spot a 61 Chevy and 61 Ford so my guess would be circa 61=62

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Here's something that hasn't changed much - rush hour in Los Angeles was crowded then and it is crowded today.

la-hollywood-freeway.jpg

This is looking north on the Hollywood Freeway as it crosses the Harbor Freeway.

I can almost hear a built-in Jack Webb "This is the city..." voiceover that should accompany that one!

I've never been to LA in my life, but these pix are fascinating. Thanks for sharing them, Bill.

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