Journey to the Center of 1909

Back when the New Year turned 2000, some sort of promised computronic glitch was supposed to send us back to 1900. Remember that? I booted up everything I could find, sat in a room full of Coleco Adams, VIC 20s and TI 99/4s, wearing a high starched collar and waiting for President McKinley to send wire that all was well. It never happened.
I won‘t say that I go through the same ritual every year, but it was hard not to plummet, turning as we were to 2009, deep into the wonder of 1909. You may lose yourself in the limpid pools of your lover‘s eyes, or the majesty of your maker‘s sunsets; I was transported to the world of Los Angeles, 1909, courtesy the Western Lithograph Company. Unfortunately, I came back. So I‘ll plop down in front of my beloved Apple Lisa, which once failed to transport me to 1900, and try and take you around a bit to Bunker Hill, 1909.

Our journey involves a map. There are in fact two versions of the beast-in-question: one published by the Birdseye View Publishing Company, which included a legend at the bottom. Another variation without the legend, commonly known as the "Worthington Gates," as it names its compiler, was published the same year by Birdseye (or "Birds Eye" as they’re called on the WG; it as well identifies itself as product of the Western Litho. Co.). For the record, contrary to popular belief, these are not entirely the same map. For example, here‘s the corner of Fourth and Hill. The Birdseye-View map:
Now note the Worthington Gates–which we should note was also printed smaller, and in and of an overall brownish hue, as opposed to the verdant greens of Los Angeles in the Birdseye above–apparently published later: while the buildings have remained untouched, their naming has altered slightly (the LAP building) and some names have been added (note Danziger and University Club to the north of the Wright-Callender).

Very well. We commence our journey through the interstices of space-time!

From the get-go, let’s get a feeling for just how high the Hill once lorded over downtown:


Starting with our western edge:


Fifth and Olive, of course, the unassuming future site of the Auditorium Hotel, a mere year away. In the future. Heading up Olive into the Hill there’s our old friend the Trenton.

Swinging around to our southern border:


Third and Grand at upper left, Third and Olive center, Third and Hill bottom right. The Nugent stands proud at 3&G; there’s the Elks, the Astoria, the YWCA and of course perennial favorite Angels Flight. Note that what’s usually known as the Mission Apartments over at Second and Olive is called the Castle Craig.


A couple more you should recognize above–Zelda at Fourth and Grand, over her shoulder, the Touraine.

Of course no account of BH would be complete without an image of the Second/Hill area:


…covered of course to an absurd degree here and here. In this depiction one gets a feeling for the majesty of the Hotel Locke, and of the ornate nature of those façades lopped off due to Second Street‘s widening during construction of the tunnel (say goodbye to the Argyle turret!).


The Rose Mansion at the bottom corner of Fourth and Grand (closest to the Fr in Fremont). Kitty-corner across from the Rose are the towers of the Hershey/Castle; next to her, the magnificent Brunson Mansion. The Fleur de Lis you’ll remember as the blink-of-an-eye Bryan Mansion. Upper right, looming large at Third and Bunker Hill Avenue is the Alta Vista; behind, on Flower, the St. Regis.

While we’re on the subject of Buker Hill Ave., let’s take a closer look-see:


…heading up the street we’ve got the Salt Box, 333 South Bunker Hill, the Castle, the Lady McDonald, and the distinctive tower of the Foss/Heindel all on the east side of the street.


A bit further north is Hill standout The Dome (aka the Minnewaska) at Second and Grand; the Majestic, top, at First and Hope, later became the Rossmere; our turreted pal in the upper left is at First and Flower.

Bunker Hill north of First tends to get the short shrift around here. (For that we apologize and look forward to remedying this injustice in the coming year.) Not that we haven‘t poked around up there a bit:


Here for example, center right, is the St. Angelo, up on North Grand. Lurking behind would be the Larronde residence.

And that’s just a taste of the Hill. (Where, you ask, are the Melrose and Fremont, to name but two?) And the map stretches from West Lake Park to the river. But don’t take my word for it. Whether you cleave to the Worthington Gates, or cotton to the Birdseye View, there’s no better way to spend the better part of, oh, the rest of your life than poring over these maps. You’ll find as well that a quick internet search will reveal no lack of suitable-for-framing reproductions to be had of both kinds.

Now then. Having applied quantum gravity to traversable wormhole metrics, and stuff, I’m pretty sure I’ve constructed a time machine by affixing a Powerbook 180 to the Worthington Gates.


See you in the lobby of the Cumberland, Kip Thorne!

Kartography Korner

Golly, I cain‘t never remember, is the Dome right kitty-corner to the Melrose? Weren‘t there the Richelieu ”˜tween ”˜um? I kin hardly recall. Reckon there ought to be a map.

Reader, we hear this sort of comment often, though we are yet to understand why it is forever posed à la Opie Taylor. That notwithstanding, it is a reasonable query, and rest assured we are working on a map of Bunker Hill, replete with requisite names and addresses and footprints, and in a perfect world, will also include neat stuff like topographies, chronologically morphing blocks, and rollover, uh, hyperlinks. While I cannot promise all or any of the futuristic ideas I believe I‘ve heard bandied about, it should definitely have pretty colors, and by the next time you go to MOCA, you‘ll be able to call up the map on your PocketEniac™ and say “ah yes, we‘re just now on the site of the (tap tap tap) Lovejoy Apartments.”

Until such time, let me offer you this map. It has none of the aforementioned geegaws, save for the pretty colors, and only comes in one year: 1921. Behold, Baist‘s Real Estate Atlas of Surveys of Los Angeles. You may have heard of the Baist‘s map; you can get a good look at it here (and their 1910 outing here). Plat Seven is the one to click for Bunker Hill. I suggest you head down to Central Library in a couple weeks and take a gander at an in-the-flesh Baist‘s. Please be advised that as regards pretty colors, red=brick, yellow=frame, beige=stone.


Soooo…here you go!


Bunker Hill!


Bordered by Temple, Hill, Figueroa and Fifth!


Ok, so this doesn‘t do you any good.








Let’s look at something up close. Something we can really sink our teeth into.


Now we’re cooking with gas. Above, Hope, Grand and Olive run north. There’s the Fremont and Zelda along Fourth. The Sherwood is yet to have the Edison as her neighbor. And T stands for Trenton. (Bottom right, note Neher & Skilling‘s 1910 Auditorium Hotel, which once existed in all its finial’d glory, before mid-30s streamliny reincarnation into the San Carlos hotel [dig the 1955 Armet & Davis Googies addition]…Neher had a hand in designing the hotel’s big brother, the Auditorium itself, which also underwent a cleanlining).

Alright, off somewhere else:


Between Second and Third; I’ve typed in street names up top to keep y’all oriented (that’s Bunker Hill Avenue between Hope and Grand). Familiar faces–façades? footprints?–abound: Marcella, The St. Regis, Van Fleet, The Elmar, the Brousseau Mansion, the Dome (still listed as the Minnewaska) and of course the Alta Vista, venerable home of John Fante, model for Arturo Bandini’s residences in Ask the Dust and Dreams from Bunker Hill. Many other tales on this blog occured in as-yet-unnamed locales; we now know from the particular slice of mappery above that this tale occured at The Raymond.


The Vanderbilt! The Imperial! Such regal names for two of my favorite places on the Hill. And the 300 block of South Flower is rich with goings-on, most notably at the Glenview. And yes, that’s the Hildreth down at the corner of 4th and Hope.


I want to add that the footprints of the buildings are not Sanborn-quality; do not take them as gospel. And at 321 S. Olive, that’s the Ems, not the Elms. So, ok, not everyone at Baist’s was as exacting as a Sanborner. Nevertheless, gaze here upon the glory of the Northern! Places of unusual unusualness! Herein lurks the future CRA offices themselves. And more of the usual suspects–the Astoria, the BPOE.


In 1921, we still had 411 and 409 standing on West First, though the Hotel Locke is gone…and if you’re wondering what it is I’m talking about, you can always consult the egregiously over-detalied mapping on the subject in this post, and this. And notice how 425 was called the Rio Grande. There’re our old pals the Richelieu, Melrose, Argyle and Moore Cliff.

Well, you get the idea. As we cast our light on bulldozed hills and fallen homes (and as you get to know the forgotten folk whose culture was so different, but whose attitudes were so similar to yours) perhaps when you dream of Bunker Hill, you’ll be able to traverse the grand avenues (and dart down the alleyways) with surety. Because as much as we’d like to rebuild Bunker Hill on some empty acreage, we had too much self-respect to get one of those "Everyone Deserves Everything" loans so popular until recently. We may have to content ourselves with designing a 3D tactical shooter, with HLSL and dynamic tonemapping. Again, until such time, we have this map.

Special thanks to Kim Cooper, who hipped me to the Baist beast’s whereabouts, and without whom I couldn’t have snatched it up.