A Drive Through Bunker Hill and Downtown Los Angeles, ca. 1940s

An amazing discovery from the good folks at the Internet Archive. Visit the Off Bunker Hill list, where LA historians and former Bunker Hill residents have been identifying structures and dating vehicles. One person even thinks they’ve spotted their father leaning on a lampost!

Author: Kim Cooper

Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including The Real Black Dahlia. She is the author of The Kept Girl, the acclaimed historical mystery starring the young Raymond Chandler and the real-life Philip Marlowe, and of The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons and forensic science seminars of LAVA- The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage, vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For Life, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, Lost in the Grooves and an oral history of Neutral Milk Hotel.

3 thoughts on “A Drive Through Bunker Hill and Downtown Los Angeles, ca. 1940s”

  1. Stan and Ollie and a Drive Through Bunker Hill

    The footage not only provides a wonderful glimpse of post-WWII Bunker
    Hill, now lost to civic redevelopment, but illuminates Los Angeles
    during the silent film era as well.

    As I explain in my book Silent Visions, Harold Lloyd filmed scenes for
    seven different movies at the intersection of 3rd and Grand, on Bunker
    Hill, more scenes than at any other location in Los Angeles. It was a
    popular place for Laurel and Hardy, and other Hal Roach Studio stars to
    film as well. The Prelinger film drives twice by Lloyd’s intersection of
    3rd and Grand, providing razor sharp images of where Lloyd and other
    silent stars filmed.

    You can see where several Roach silent comedies were filmed along the Prelinger film route on my blog below.


    Here is a route driven during the stock footage.

    Downtown 1934 n arrows text lr copy

  2. Here at OBH HQ, there’s forever something clackety-clackin’ on the ol’ Bell & Howell.  Sometimes it’s Criss Cross, oftentimes it’s Cry DangerAct of Violence and Losey’s M are usual suspects up on the silver.  But it ain’t every day something new comes along, much less something so remarkable this writer goes into dehydration-related coma due to drooling; I can say without fear of contradiction that the Citizen Kane of Bunker Hill pictures has at last been released, and good things come in small packages:  our Kane is all of six minutes long.  This movie without a name.  The Greatest Movie Ever Made.

    Don’t get me wrong:  I love violence and nudity, and that other nonsense they put in Vaster Achievements of Cinema, whatsitcalled, narrative, and this picture still achieves greatness after dispensing with all that stuff.  This is a mere piece of process-plate photography, footage shot so, whomever, Alan Ladd could lounge in some studio, well-lit and well-recorded, "driving" in a fake-o car and they’d throw this filmic business behind him, while we’re in the OBH HQ screening room sixty years later yelling "Hey Alan Ladd!  Move your stupid head!  That’s the Lovejoy Apartments you’re blocking!"

    The values of its structure notwithstanding (it actually does have three acts) this cinematic curiosity pops its head up, how, after sixty some-odd years (it has been dated to the Summer of ’48 with convincing authority).  Of course I thought it would be fun to link to a few of the OBH posts we’d written, and make mention of just a few of the structures we failed to cover.

    We begin innocently enough, peering down Second over the railing above the tunnel.  The Fashion League Bldg (née the Union League, LA’s arm of the Republican Party) and Astor Hotel are at our left and right, in the distance, on Hill. 


    The Northern sits atop Clay, the Claridge above; at our immediate right is the Mission.  Then we begin to ascend — glimpse the Argyle down on Olive — and turn to proceed down Grand.  Note the Moderne genius that is 144 S Grand hanging out with the Richelieu and Melrose in the bg. 

    dome There’s the Dome at the corner of Second and Grand, and across the street, the Frontenac.  Third and Grand harbor of course the Nugent and the Lovejoy. 


    When you see the Biltmore at about 1:35 —


    — the white building across the street from it is the Capitol Hotel, once site of the Bryan Mansion; to its immediate south, the service garage at Fourth and Grand that was once the site of the Brunson Mansion. 

    zeldaCrossing Fourth and Grand, we pass by the Zelda, the Granada, and just a wee bit of the Sherwood

    Then at about two minutes in, it’s ka-bang, we’re right back where we started, Second & Olive.  Pointed toward the Mission, backing up the street toward Grand, just like a minute ago, though this time, we see some dishy dames strolling toward the aforementioned 144…


    …and then there’s a rare shot of the Shell station across the street from the Dome:

    shellllCriminally underphotographed because everyone’s back was to it, shooting, as they were, the Dome (yeah, I’m talking to you, Hylen.  You too, Reagh!)…this is roughly equivalent to why we have so few pictures of the Snow (all n sundry shooting the Richfield) or the Casa Alta (everbody capturing Angels Flight upper terminus).  Of course, who in 1948 would photograph a gas station?  More importantly, come 2011, who could care?  (Most saliently, how have I ever had a girlfriend?)  It is still the greatest capture ever, and if you disagree, you are a stupidy dumb stupidhead (a term I lifted from Pauline Kael).  But I digress.

    We go past The Judd at 344 and in the distance view the Casa Alta at Third and Olive and the Mutual Garage at Fourth and Olive:

    casaalta Here, then is the Boyde right above the brand-spankin’-new Telephone Building:juddandstuff

    Which, like the Astor, you remember, way back at the beginning of this post?  Is still extant. 

    At 3:35 we turn onto 5th St.  We view the back of the Biltmore Theatre, and some of the Biltmore’s backside, then cruise past the Central Library; at 3:43 a guy seems to notice the camera car and waves at us.  Also, nice "AirporTransit" bus.

    At 4:10 we turn up Flower. 


    At 4:54 upit

    we cross Third with a kathump, and thereafter get a sense of this being a hill.  The Aida Apartments we remember as the Rollin.  A couple doors up from there, the St Regis and the Marcella.  The Van Fleet is on the other side of the street, as is the Stanley, stanley

    on the corner of Second.  Then we cruise up to First and idle a bit, and make the turn south onto First.  Of course, therefore, we go by our old friend 101-111 S Flower.  first

    We continue down First and about the last thing that happens is we pass through the intersection of First and Hope — the multinamed Rossmere/Lima/St James visible at left.  rossmere

    And then…and then it’s all over.  Then we play it again.

    Of course, there’s other activity to be had…get on the LA Noire free roam and just go driving around.  Which roughly approximates this movie…right?  It’s been two months since the last of the LAN dlc; Nathan, you ask, aren’t you hard at work producing the definitive wrap-up of this game?  I am.  It’s in production.  But the Greatest Movie Ever has been distracting me.  (Well, that, and this.)   But my LA Noire postmortem is at present twenty thousand words long, and should I prune its vain and fantastical imaginations (prone as I am to what Bacon termed Distempers of Learning) it would be reduced to a mere twenty. 

    But before I go shear nineteen thousand words off of some post about LA Noire, I’m going to watch this video…just…one more time.  

  3. Very Interesting. My aunt lived on First and Flower Sts., in November 1958 we arrived in Bunker Hill for a few days before we found an apartment for our family. I only remember my aunt’s apartment building at the corner of 1st St. and Flower, I went to central Market a couple of times, but I don’t remember seeing victorian houses or any other apartment buildings, were they gone by then? I do remember looking down at Figueroa St. from First St., and looking at the cars going by. I also remember a ramp at the corner of 1st St. going to Figueroa, there were no steps there, so I used the ramp a couple of time when I visited my aunt afte we found an apartment close to Bunker Hill. I also remember a couple of buildings on same block as my aunt, and the first time I saw the Angel’s Flight going down the steps on third st. Other than that, I don’t remember anything else, I was 13 years old then.

Comments are closed.