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Urban Exploration: Inside The 7th Street Bridge

5:26 am in Biking in LA, History, LA by Will Campbell

One of the oldest spans across the Los Angeles River, the 7th Street Bridge dates back to 1910 when the at-grade version included two-sets of trolley tracks. It quickly became one of the most congested ways across the river and by the late 1920s it was decided that rather than demolish the entire structure, a second level would be built on top giving it a double-decker appearance and allowing traffic to move freely without being impeded by any freight trains traveling  through.

Ever since I first noticed that open but inaccessible lower level of the 7th Street Bridge about eight years ago, I’ve wondered what it’s like inside, and my curiosity only increased a couple years ago when LA River advocate Joe Linton found a way in and wrote about it on his blog LA Creek Freak. It again was piqued a few months ago when the news hit that there are plans in the very early stages to convert the space to an open-air market.

During a visit paid to the bridge last summer while on one of my riverbed rides, I couldn’t figure out how Linton got up there, and I had pretty much reconciled that the space was to remain off limits to me — until a couple weeks ago, when an acquaintance of Linton’s contacted me out of the blue and said she knew how he got in and would I be game to try. Of course I would, I said.

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Los Angeles Plaza Historic District In 1869

10:39 am in Downtown, History, LA, Vintage by Will Campbell

Happy 4th of July! Being a sucker for historic images of our city, I just had to share the following two exquisite views of Main Street, La Placita Church and the historic Los Angeles Plaza that I found on the History, Los Angeles County blog and the Watt Way blog. Both photographs were reportedly made in 1869, and may very well have been done by the same photographer on the same day — the first one facing east from Fort Moore Hill and the second facing north from the Pico House Hotel that was completed that same year (click to slightly enlargify):

Bonus image after the jump is one from Fort Moore Hill looking a bit more southeast of the location seven years later with Pico House at the right and the plaza having adopted its round configuration that remains today.

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Time Is On Our Side

5:25 pm in Entertainment, History, LA, News, Science, Theatre/Stage by Will Campbell

It's NOT the end of the world as we know it, says Griffith Observatory Planetarium lecturer Kelley Hazen, just the daze of our lives.

I got an invite last week to come to a media preview of Time’s Up, the Griffith Observatory’s new planetarium show, so in between Good Samaritan Hospital’s never-miss Blessing of the Bikes yesterday morning and a long-overdue physical exam that afternoon, I biked up the hill to one of my favorite places in Los Angeles to take advantage of the Observatory’s hospitality and see how and why they decided to counter the anxiety being produced by those doomsdayers dead-set in their belief that the Mayans predicted the world to end this coming December 21 and that it’s so going to happen.

The answers are with a provocative and eye-popping new program in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium that opens on the beach next to the Santa Monica Pier, serene for a few moments until meteors start raining explosively down upon the westside, a huge tsunami closes in and a rogue planet grows larger as it bears down on its collision course with earth — accompanied by flying monkeys, of course.

Inside joke: Pictured during this doomsday scene is Lifeguard Station No. 5150. Since most of the station IDs are no more than two digits, I’m betting this was done in snarktastic reference to the police code that’s basically short for bugged-out basketcase kRaAzEe.

But just when all seems lost, Planetarium Lecturer Kelley Hazen steps in bearing a beautifully illuminated and illuminating hourglass to put a freezeframe to all the apocalyptic nonsense and go on with a visually stunning and intellectually compelling show that counters folly with fact and explores what time is all about.

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It Caught My Eye: Streetfiti Case No. 120507

4:16 pm in History, ICME by Will Campbell

Patrick Boss of Bosses (click it to biggify)

Last week I looked up in the sky at the super moon. This week, I looked down and found this undated though well-worn pleasant surprise from a once or perhaps would-be street king on an old piece of sidewalk during an early morning dog walk up near the top of Descanso south of Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake. All hail, Patrick.

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Can LA Get a Do-Over?

10:00 am in History, LA, News, Politics, Social issues by Chris Corning

Will Campbell's Manzanar Photo

Will Campbell's Manzanar Photo - click through for post

Sure, Angelenos are no strangers to the concept of a makeover. But when it comes to an egregious error on the part of elected officials—decades in the past—is it possible to get a do-over? County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas thinks that it might be possible, at least, for the LA County Board of Supervisors to try to facilitate some healing regarding one serious misstep taken by the board in 1942.

Specifically, when our country decided that certain broad swipes of our populace could not be trusted based solely on their ancestry, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted 70 years ago to pass a resolution urging the President of the US and Congress to proceed with internment as soon as possible. According to one of his aides, current LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas will introduce a motion to repeal that resolution at the 5 June 2012 meeting of the board.

We’ve blogged about the internment at blogging.la before, here and here. (And by “we” I mean Will Campbell!) It is certainly a dark page in the past of our nation, and one that we would like to think is mostly behind us. Alas, in the post-9/11 attitude toward Middle-Eastern Americans and the ongoing atmosphere of racial profiling and harassment that thrives under Joe Arpaio, perhaps that page hasn’t fully been turned just yet.

Still, steps such as this move by Ridley-Thomas—which on its face may appear not to change much of anything—can help to push the dialogue of greater racial tolerance and perhaps prevent further injustice as we progress as Angelenos, as Americans, as humans. In fact, this move will help to highlight the progress Los Angeles has made in overcoming institutional racism, as current Chief Executive Officer of LA County, William Fujioka, and the LA County Board’s Executive Officer, Sachi Hamai, are both Japanese Americans.

That, and everyone’s favorite Japanese-American actor and celebrity, George Takei, will also attend the board meeting and offer testimony in support of Ridley-Thomas’ motion. Goodness knows he’s familiar with the challenges of being a second-class citizen.

In the gallery below, view the board’s resolution as it was passed in January 1942.

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A Rocky Getaway in L.A.’s Backyard

4:41 pm in environment, History by Matt Mason

Red Rock Canyon

Tilted sandstone formation in Red Rock Canyon

Forget your troubles, come on get dizzy. That’s what I did last weekend on a hike from Topanga Canyon area through Red Rock Canyon to the top of Calabasas Peak. The hike was about 4.5 miles, pretty short as the crow flies, but there was a lot of climbing (up to 2,000+ feet) and zig-zagging, plus we took some rock scrambling side trips, so it was challenging. One highlight of the hike was the rocky terrain, consisting of numerous sandstone outcroppings. At times I thought I was in Zion National Park, not the Santa Monica Mountains just minutes from L.A. Many of these rocks are tilted at Titanic angles, and it’s mind-boggling to think that they were once under sea, and how it has taken them millions of years to get to this point. There were even seashell fossils in some of the rocks, as the picture after the jump indicates.

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A Disservice To LA Times Readers, History

9:45 am in History, LA, Media by Will Campbell

Screengrab from LA Times.com

Staffwriter Hector Becerra spends all of the front page article in today’s Los Angeles Times and plenty more after the jump building the implication that the Dodgers were the primary reason for the Chavez Ravine disgrace, including this patently disingenuous paragraph:

“But the removal of more than 1,000 mostly Mexican-American families from Chavez Ravine to make way for the stadium is a dark note in LA’s history.”

What a surprisingly reprehensible and negligent generalization that is.

I was relieved when Becerra eventually explained that the public housing debacle by the city’s leadership years before Los Angeles was even a gleam in Walter O’Malley’s eye was the true catalyst for the evictions. And he finally contradicts his previous fallacy by mentioning there were only a few families remaining — not “more than 1,000″ — in 1959.

But it is shameful and irresponsible that Becerra and his editors failed to reference those previous events higher up in the article and instead of qualification opted for false simplification in the form of an inaccurate chronological order to the dreadful sequence of events that destroyed the entire community, not just the handful of brave families who fought eviction to that bitter end.

I shall read any words appearing under Becerra’s byline now with a far more skeptical eye.

Update after the jump.

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Mapgasm: The Stars In 1937′s Hollywood Galaxy

1:46 pm in Art, Entertainment, History, LA, Maps, Movies, Vintage by Will Campbell

If I’m getting redundant in my topics — maps, cycling, birds, maps — file your complaint with the other contributors here who have far better things to do than post. In the meantime, I just keep plugging away in this lonely place — this time with another historic map from Big Map Blog — and  just in time for that local trade association’s annual function known as the Academy Awards this Sunday. If I were giving out the Oscars, Big Map Blog would get one for bringing all us little people out there in the dark this awesome and timely 1937 addition to its collection of cartrography: Hollywood Starland, at right (moderately embiggenable if clicked).

Sure the artist misspells Katharine Hepburn’s name, and strangely enough the then 14-year-old Hollywoodland sign isn’t anywhere to be found. But don’t let those oversights keep you from clicking on over and marveling at the full-size version of this otherwise meticulously glorious representation of a bygone era in celebrity worship so bitingly chronicled just a couple years later in Nathanael West’s “Day of the Locust.”

 

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Timelapse: Watts Happening Ride

7:59 am in Biking in LA, Crime, History, LA, People, Social issues, South Side, Transportation by Will Campbell

The 2012 edition of my Watts Happening Ride took place this past picture-perfect Saturday, and it was my complete pleasure to share the following landmark people, places and events I’ve discovered there with the 28 cyclists who joined me:

  1. The last residence of jazz great Jelly Roll Morton
  2. The childhood home of Nobel Prize Winner Ralph Bunche
  3. The location of the 1969 Black Panthers shootout
  4. The Hotel Dunbar, centerpiece of the Historic Central Avenue Jazz Corridor
  5. The location of the 1974 SLA shootout
  6. The actual fictional location of the Sanford and Son Salvage Yard
  7. The Watts Towers of Simon Rodia
  8. The location of the incident setting off the 1965 Watts Riots
  9. The home of Eula Love, killed by police in 1979 as a result of a past-due gas bill dispute
  10. The motel where legendary singer Sam Cooke was killed
  11. The flashpoint of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots
  12. The location of Wrigley Field, demolished in 1966.

Unfortunately, the above annotated timelapse video abruptly ends at the third-to-last location we visited, leaving me to discover that I need to get a bigger memory card if I want to capture the entire 33-mile, six-hour tour on camera the next time — and there will be a next time. I hope you’ll join me.

 

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Ever Shamed, Ever Shameful

12:01 pm in History, LA by Will Campbell

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt sentenced some 120,000 Japanese-Americans to prison for the duration of World War II. Today, on the 70th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, Los Angeles County is marking the occasion with its first Day of Remembrance, which in turn made me remember my visit to Manazanar 4.5 years ago that I wrote about on November 13, 2007, here at Blogging.la:

Coincidental to Jason Burns’ November 9 post in which he referenced Manzanar in response to the disconcerting news of LAPD plans to target map Muslim enclaves in the city, two days later (returning from Death Valley’s Eureka Dunes) my wife Susan and I paid a somber and sobering first visit to the infamous place (on Highway 395 a few miles south of the ironically named town of Independence), referred to all politely as an “internment camp” or a “war relocation center,” or “reception center,” but with eight guard towers erected around the barbed-wired perimeter staffed with military police manning machine guns trained on the 11,000 men, women and children kept here against their will (more than 90% of whom were from the Los Angeles area), I’m in the mood to call it what it was: a prison. One that should forever be remembered as a testament to the freedom-destroying power of fear and an abominable insult to the United States Constitution and the civil liberties it guarantees us as citizens of this country. Pardon my righteous indignation.

The rest of my recollection is after the jump.

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Maptastic: Los Angeles in 1891

12:32 pm in Art, History, LA, Vintage by Will Campbell

I have sung the praises of the Big Map Blog in the past, most recently in December when a 1932 map of Los Angeles was added to its extensive cartographical collection. And here I go again, because they just posted another jaw-dropper in the form of H.B. Elliott’s birds-eye viewpoint of our town when the population was only 65,000 back in 1891 — one that looks like the artist drew inspiration for it from an imagined vantage point aloft above what is now Elysian Park.

What makes this document so exquisite is not just the map itself, but the detailed representations of both exteriors and interiors of some of the commercial and civic landmarks of that time, most of which are long gone. Click the above image to biggify it. But better yet, got here on Big Map Blog and click the full size download link and get yourself the 157″ x 111″ version to marvel at available there for free.

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Blogging.LA Meets Atlas Obscura

5:49 pm in Entertainment, Events, History, LA bloggers by Matt Mason

Green leafy car

Some of the everyday "uniqueness" we find in the L.A. area

After my recent Hollyhock House tour, I met a friend from out of town at the Figueroa Hotel for a drink. At the bar by the pool, we met a woman named Rachel who said she was holding a meetup for the local Atlas Obscura chapter. My friend got all excited at the mention. I thought, what the hell is Atlas Obscura? Turns out, it’s a bit like blogging.la.

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The Watts Happening Ride Is What’s Happening February 18

10:48 am in Biking in LA, Crime, History, LA, Politics, Social issues, South Side, Transportation by Will Campbell

The first Watts Happening Ride I organized five years ago was a simple there-and-back to Watts Towers from the Cornfield downtown, spurred on by the lamentable fact that as a native angeleno I had spent my whole life to-date never having been to the true treasure that is the amazing, inspiring and enduring work of Simon Rodia.

In its various editions since (the last one taking place in 2010), the Watts Happening Ride’s destinations have grown well beyond the iconic towers to include a variety of landmarks involving people, places and events in and around South Los Angeles.

The 2012 incarnation of the Watts Happening Ride will be departing from Silver Lake on Saturday, February 18 at 9 a.m., and will include the addition of a couple locations I’ve recently found. So if you’re not heading out of town for the long weekend and have a hankering to get your bike-riding discovery on, I hope you’ll join me.

For the latest info and any updates, the ride’s Facebook page is here.

When: February 18, gathering at 8:30 for a 9 a.m. departure
Start/Finish: Silver Lake’s Happy Foot/Sad Foot sign (northwest corner of Sunset Boulevard & Benton Way)
Distance: 32.95 miles (route map)
Pace: Casual
Terrain: Flat
Weather: In the event of rain that morning, the ride will be canceled and rescheduled to a later date.
Approximate Time: 5-6 hours
Optional Partial Ride: If doing the full route isn’t feasible, consider joining the ride at approximately 9:30 a.m. downtown on Spring Street (anywhere between 2nd & 9th streets) for the roughly 9-mile portion to the Watts Towers. The 103rd Street Blue Line station is near to the towers and can be an alternative to get you back into downtown.
Things You’ll Need (in no particular order): A functioning bicycle; $7 for the half-hour optional tour of Watts Towers; snacks and water for along the way; money for a late lunch at King Taco.

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Touring Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House

1:49 pm in History by Matt Mason

Hollyhock HouseSmack dab in East Hollywood sits one of Frank Lloyd Wright‘s gems, the Hollyhock House. I was part of a private tour of the house recently, and was truly, er, floored.

Hollyhock House was built for oil heiress and single mom Aline Barnsdall just after World War I. The setting was a stunning hilltop olive grove surrounded by 36 acres, with 360-degree views of a then very picturesque, perhaps even quaint, Los Angeles. Barnsdall designed her homestead as a multi-structure arts complex, complete with theaters for both live performances and films. Today, that spirit remains, as the property is now the Barnsdall Art Park, housing the Los Angeles Municipal Art gallery, theater, and art center where numerous art and music classes are held.

More photos after the jump

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A Modest, Magnificent Exhibition Of Our City’s History

11:54 am in Art, Downtown, Entertainment, Events, History, LA by Will Campbell

You’re probably not like me and are able to cope with the scope of the massively collaborative and on-going Pacific Standard Time exhibitions that fall under the ambitious region-wide initiative’s banner. Me, not so much. With so many institutions involved, I suffer from something of a paralysis when trying to decide whether I should go to the Getty or the Hammer  or LACMA or wherever. Case in point: I literally became immobile when I just now went to the Pacific Standard Time website and a banner popped up that told me there are 42 events taking place right this moment of 10:28AM — and that may even include a Big Gulp Cup retrospective at my local 7-11.

A few weeks ago I did manage to brush my intimidation aside and pay a first-time visit to MOCA to see the cool exhibition of Weegee’s Hollywood period photographs, but — pardon the digression — then I wandered around the museum’s permanent exhibit and found this piece of crap stuck to the wall, which reinforced both my abject disdain for “contemporary art” and my urge to punish whoever curated it with an extended indian-burn session to the forearm of his or her choosing.

Detail from the 1938 Kirkman-Harriman map depicting Los Angeles County in 1860.

So instead of getting all wound up trying to eenie-meanie-miney-mo to which big box the next I’d go, instead I brought along my inner map geek and together we ventured yesterday to the first floor galleries of the Central Library downtown where I spent an extended segment of the afternoon marveling at the selection of kick-ass cartography displayed as part of  its “As The City Grew: Historical Maps of Los Angeles” exhibit.

The 34 maps arrayed go back to the mid-1800s and offer an awesome and up-close glimpse back into our city as it was and as it became. Unlike the aforementioned contemporary bullshit I encountered, some of the maps are true and intricate works of art, and I would highly recommend paying them a visit whether you just find yourself in the library’s vicinity or are in between far better-decided visits than mine to the myriad Pacific Standard Time venues.

WHERE: Los Angeles Public Library, Central Branch, 630 W. 5th St, 90071
WHEN: Through November 4, 2012
COST: Free

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