Bunker Hill is a ghost, and though you may today walk streets named Grand and Hope and imagine that you stand where once were grand Victorian homes turned flophouses, you are in fact one hundred feet beneath the old roads, which the city shaved away to make a wider footprint for the high rise tenants that replaced them.
Look up, ten stories up, and if you’re a dreamer you can almost see the big houses bobbing there between the towers, old men and women toddling out onto the porches and down the avenues, exchanging gossip, feeding the cats, collapsing under some junkie’s fists, boarding Sinai or Olivet for the ride down to Grand Central Market, pruning the roses, taking a nickel every time someone parks on their lawn, a taxi dancer and her mother hearing angels dictate a mystic book, pretty girl children rolling hoops, raucous longhaired boys sledding downhill and crashing into the side of Hazard’s Pavilion, John Fante dreaming of girls who won’t date him, carrier pigeons conveying messages from Avalon, phony mediums and real ones spewing ectoplasm in shadowy parlors, Kay Martin and Leo Politi painting the old houses just ahead of the wreckers, The Crockers and the Bradburys spinning in their ballrooms, landladies, bankers, writers and bums, all the possibilities of a great neighborhood as it is born, flourishes, fades and is demolished.
On Bunker Hill is the 1947project in its fourth incarnation. Previously our little band of social historians devoted itself to time travel L.A. crime blogging. In our first year, we blogged a crime a day for 1947, then 1907, and the 1927 work has just been finished. For the next year, we will be exploring the lost neighborhood of Bunker Hill in all its permutations. Yes, we’ll be reporting on the crimes upon the hill, but we’ll also look at architecture, social life, notable residents, transportation, redevelopment, its mysteries and what small survivors remain from the glory days. With this project, we intend to shine a light on a community that was displaced by a well intentioned but misguided slum clearance plan that tore the heart out of L.A.’s downtown, a blow the city still staggers from. As downtown struggles to be reborn as a city center, we need a history more than ever before. Visit On Bunker Hill this year and share in our discoveries, or join us and contribute your own.