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Rare And Historical Photos Of Los Angeles Before The Stars Came

OMG November 29, 2016 By Hugo

Los Angeles is now synonymous with all things celebrity, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a resident who isn't connected to the industry. But Los Angeles' past extends well beyond the beginnings of Hollywood, and as well as once being the property of both the Spanish and Mexicans, America's second city is also rich in great stories and photographs. 

Here are some examples. 

1. The Griffith Observatory, 1933 

With unobstructed views looking out onto the Los Angeles skyline, the Griffith Observatory, named after the industrialist Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, has been a favourite setting for many notable movies over the years including the sci-fi epic Terminator and the James Dean flick, Rebel Without a Cause.


But before its public opening in 1935, the observatory was under construction for around two years, with this photo, taken in 1933, thought to be the first taken. 

2. The Chinese Quarter, 1878

Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in America, and even in its early beginnings, the city attracted immigrants from across the world.


One such example of this was Arcadia Street, known now as Aliso Street. Taken in 1878, this photo by Isaiah West Taber shows an area of the city predominantly populated by Chinese workers who were known for running various illicit businesses, including brothels, gambling houses and even opium dens. Because of the vices in the area, many of the city's residents flocked to Aliso Street, despite its dangers.

3. The Downey Block, 1875

Between the mid-1870s and 1900, Los Angeles had grown from a city of 5,000 to one well over 100,000 inhabitants. It was a remarkable increase and dispells the myth that Los Angeles was a city built around the entertainment business.


Instead, it was oil that attracted most people to the area, and with the formation of the Souther Pacific Railroad line, Los Angeles, along with the nearby coastal holiday resort of Santa Monica, was fast becoming the next best thing to New York. And the early stages of Los Angeles' growing stature can be seen in this 1875 photo of The Downey Block at the corner of Main and Temple Street. As one of the city's very first commercial outlets, the building, which was taken down in 1904, included a dry goods store, an athletic club, a bank and liquor store. 

4. The Hollywood Freeway, 1897

Today, driving down the famous Hollywood Freeway is likely to offer no more than a congestion of cars and signs informing you of the nearest McDonald's, but in 1897, it provided a more scenic route.


What was then known as Cahuenga Pass, the photo, courtesy of USC Digital Library, captured the mountainous landscape that characterised much of Los Angeles before studio bosses arrived in the following decades.

5. Spectators Gather For The Rose Parade, 1923

Los Angeles' famous Rose Parade in Pasadena has been a tradition held in high esteem ever since the very first parade took place in 1890. This photo of one of the earlier shows highlights part of the festivities in the 1923 event which, even to this day, continues to include marching bands, equestrian units and various other elaborate displays.


Now televised, It is held on the first day of the New Year unless the 1st falls on a Sunday. When that occurs, it takes place on Monday the 2nd.

6. Iglesia Nuestra Señora Reina de Los Angeles (Plaza Church), 1870

The oldest photo in this collection also happens to be the oldest church in Los Angeles, having been built in 1822. Not only that, but it is also in continuing use and serves as a place of worship for people of the Catholic faith.


The structure's formation is believed to have started in 1784 when the land was still under Spanish rule and can be found on the corner of Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.

7. A Man Receives A Speeding Ticket While Steering An Ostrich Through Pico Boulevard, 1900

The ostrich was a popular mode of transportation in Los Angeles' earlier years, due mainly to the famous Cawston Ostrich Farm. Run and owned by Edwin Cawston, he became famed in Los Angeles for his ranch, which allowed visitors the opportunity to pose for photos alongside his 100-strong flock and buy an array of ostrich-related gifts, including feathered hats, boas and capes.


In addition to this, customers were encouraged to ride on the back of them or steer them through the centre of town with a cart, though judging by the photo above, customers didn't always play by the rules. 

8. A Los Angeles Barber Shop, 1900

Los Angeles is a place where looking good is many people's top priority, but instead of having loads of fancy blow dryers and shops designated solely for the facial hair of a person's pet gorilla, barber shops in Los Angeles were like most others in the country.


Just take this photo from 1900. Back then, men's haircuts were bog-standard affairs, but they often included the luxury of a shave.

9. The Southern Pacific Railroad Arriving in Los Angeles, 1887

The famous train journey established a Los Angeles crossing in 1876, and it was the increased links to the area that spawned mass levels of migration to Los Angeles and the wider California area.


In this photo, only 11 years after the route extended to the area, a train can be seen arriving into Santa Monica. Today, the train company that undergoes the 32,100 route-mile journey is known as the Union Pacific Railroad.

10. Sunset Blvd, 1900

It's astonishing to think that Sunset Boulevard, just over 100 years ago, was nothing more than an empty stretch of road leading to little in the way of entertainment. But not anymore.


Indeed, if you go down Sunset today, you're bombarded with advertisements and people with cameras, which is mindboggling in itself when you come to realise that its primary purpose until the late 1700s was that of a cattle trail.

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