Friday, January 9, 2009

Los Angeles in 1891

There were 55,000 people living here then, according to the Los Angeles Times of December 4, 1891. Here are some quotes which surprised me:

  • [looking past City Hall from the hills]: "groves of gum trees and stretches of orchards away to the southwest are in Vernon, the beautiful horticultural suburb of Los Angeles." and "Vernon is a beautiful suburb, whose orchards and vineyards were fortunately not cut up into town lots during the boom. Much of the fruit consumed in Los Angeles comes from this section. There are no grand houses, but cosy cottage homes, half buried under great shade trees and surrounded by heavily bearing orchards of oranges, peaches, apricots, pears and other fruits, which, with berry patches and alfalfa fields, make the happy owner of five acres here much more independent than some owners of a fifty foot lot on Figueroa street or Grand avenue who lie awake o'nights wondering where they shall raise the money to pay off their mortgages." The Los Angeles Library has some wonderful pictures, including this one of the Fortier residence, Vernon, 1897.

  • [of Boyle Heights]: "the airy and health eastern residence section of Los Angeles. Ten years ago you would have seen a couple of farmhouses there on the treeless plain. Today it is dotted over with hundreds of beautiful residences and . . . graceful shade trees while a double track cable railroad traverses it. . . " This is the view from Boyle Heights, looking toward Los Angeles, in 1877.

  • "The Cahuenga range of mountains frames the picture to the northwest. Along the slopes of its foothills are dotted here and there a few houses, the precursors of thousands that will be built in this beautiful semi-tropic valley as soon as better means of communication are furnished and the large ranches are divided up."

  • "Pico House . . . ten years ago the leading hotel of the city. Perhaps you see . . . Don Pio Pico himself, the venerable nonagenarian ex-Governor, seated in front of the building."

  • "Adams street, for a couple of blocks west of Figueroa, is undoubtedly the most beautiful street in Los Angles . . . the lots are all large, as they should be in this city, running into acres instead of front feet. Large drooping pepper trees hang over the cement sidewalks. . . Large date and fan palms, grevillas, magnolias, orange and other graceful trees cast their shade upon park-like lawns of brilliant green; roses, jasmine, and heliotrope cover porches, trellises and carriage-houses; flaming geraniums and snow-white calla lillies form big hedges, and morning-glories wantonly climb to the very top of tall evergreen trees, hanging from the branches in graceful festoons, while lovely flowers of every hue grow in such lavish profusion . . . on a winter day." This is Figueroa and Adams in 1896.

  • Figueroa Street . . . and its northern extension, Pearl street, extend for nearly five miles . . . The street is shortly to be paved for its whole length with asphaltum, which will still further increase its attractiveness."

  • "The assessed value of all the city property is 845,958,704, there are 8744 public school children enrolled, the banks of the city and county hold $12,000,000 in deposits, and there are over fifty miles of cable railroad track . . . over 200 electric lights illuminate the city at night . . . there are over 1000 manufacturing establishments of all descriptions and over 100 carloads of produce are frequently shipped away in one day. . . "

Anyone got a time machine I could rent?


Frances said...

I have been following your blog for awhile now and really enjoy it. I love this post about early LA. This will sound self-aggrandizing, but I think you might enjoy my new book: Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California.

Hellman, my great great grandfather, arrived in LA in 1859 and went on to become one of the state's greatest bankers. He was involved in building LA's trolley, water, and gas lines, its first successful bank and USC. I have that picture of Boyle Heights on the cover of the book.

Anyway, I did a lot of research in early LA newspapers and I try to create a portrait of a dusty pueblo as it transforms into a city. I love history and I loved researching this book. Hellman was also Jewish and the book tells the story of the Jewish contribution to the settlement of the state.

Vix said...

Thank you! I looked up your book on Amazon ("Towers of Gold"--it comes right up) and love that the bottom half of the cover is the same drawing of LA-from-Boyle-Heights.

Congratulations on the book--I'll look for it locally too!

Above the City said...

Awesome. Thanks for all the amazing history. We are lucky out in the NorthEast LA to still have several open areas and hills....