Wednesday, July 9, 2014

See LA When It Was Wide-Open Space

1905 View of Hollywood From Laughlin Park (Los Feliz)
Los Angeles is the definition of a world megalopolis, a densely developed metropolitan area of over 4800 square miles.  Yet a century ago, what is now criss-crossed by boulevards and superhighways was covered with meadows, groves and ranches.  It's striking and a bit disconcerting to see how recently the streets of Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles were little more than cowpaths.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article: 
When LA Was Empty

Excerpt: "Over time, the growing city spilled into the surrounding landscape. Meanwhile, a devastating drought that began in 1862 and lasted through 1864 crippled the ranching economy, and more intensive agriculture retreated into the former grazing lands. Pastures became bean fields and orange groves -- a process that only accelerated with the arrival of new technologies like groundwater pumping, concrete pipes, and refrigerated train cars. Cooperative enterprises like the Anaheim Colony in present-day Orange County provided a model for making irrigated agriculture work. Providing a variety of microclimates and soil types, the Los Angeles Basin and its adjacent valleys became home to a diverse suite of agricultural uses. By the 1920s, Los Angeles County was ranked first in the nation in the value of its agricultural output.

Los Angeles kept growing. It did so in part by expanding outward from its historic core, rolling west toward the sea, but it also sprouted offshoots. First along the steam railroads, then the interurban lines of the Pacific Electric and finally the freeways, suburbs sprang up amid the countryside. Many of the most dramatic photos of an emptier Los Angeles show new settlements like Hollywood or Beverly Hills -- now familiar to much of the world through popular culture -- as rustic country towns. Eventually, the surrounding countryside disappeared as the suburbs and city merged into one metropolitan agglomeration.

The process reached a fevered pitch in the years immediately following World War II. From 1945 through 1957, subdividers carved 462,593 separate lots out of agricultural land in Los Angeles County. By the end of those thirteen years, nearly all of the San Fernando Valley had become urbanized, and the master-planned city of Lakewood had risen from the bean fields north of Long Beach -- an event D. J. Waldie chronicled in his classic memoir, 'Holy Land.'

Some communities resisted. Between 1955 and 1956, for example, three along the zig-zagged border between Los Angeles and Orange counties incorporated to fight encroaching urbanization: Dairy Valley (now Cerritos), Dairy City (now Cypress), and Dairyland (now La Palma). Within a decade, however, even those proud cow towns had adopted new names as real estate developers made dairy owners irresistible offers. Among some viewers, these photographs showing vast swaths of emptiness where urbanization reigns today may inspire nostalgia for a lost, Arcadian past. But they also provoke pertinent questions about Southern California's urban development and city dwellers' relationship with the natural environment. Does the open countryside pictured here, for example, represent a lost opportunity to create a comprehensive system of parks and open spaces? Have Southern Californians become less informed about food production since agricultural enterprises moved to far-off places?"
North Hollywood in 1909

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