Here's a picture I nabbed from teh Interwebs. It's half of an old stereoscopic slide from the mid-1870s, and it shows a view across the residential district of Los Angeles about four blocks south of what was then the center of town. The street running across the foreground at the base of the hill is Hill Street, and 3rd Street runs southeastward, crossing Fort Street (now Broadway) and Spring Street before jogging a hundred feet southward at Main Street. The Round-roofed house and its neighbors were on Main Street. Beyond them were open fields, vineyards and orchards sprawling across the rich flood plain of the Los Angeles River. In the hazy distance are the bluffs where the residential suburb of Boyle Heights would soon be built.
I'm not sure exactly where the twin-towered church in the middle distance was located, but I'd guess somewhere in the vicinity of what became 4th and Wall Streets. Within about twenty-five years of the date when this picture was taken, the population of the city would explode from about 15,000 to almost 100,000, and most of the land visible in the distance would be built up. A photo taken from the same location in 1900 wouldn't show more than a bit of that development, though, because buildings of several stories would rise on Hill Street, Broadway, Main and Spring Streets, blocking the view.
One reason that this particular picture fascinates me is because that bucolic village it depicts lasted such a brief time. A single person could have seen everything in this photo appear from nothing and then vanish leaving no trace but some of the street pattern in considerably less than a lifetime. The place was both product and victim of the industrial age, built by hand but using machine made tools and machine processed materials. It rose and was consumed by those forces which accelerated everything to the world we inhabit now. So, in a way, I guess looking at this picture is a bit like not being able to look away from a train wreck. My brain looks at the placid image and says Oh my God, Los Angeles is happening! Somebody do something! But all that gets done is that everything comes undone. There it was, here we are. All that's left is this picture.
(Click photo to embiggen)
|View of Los Angeles, c1875
View east along 3rd Street in Los Angeles, with Hill Street crossing in the foreground, as it appeared around 1875.