Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Los Angeles, 1939

I just received my copy of "Los Angeles in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to The City Of Angels." This guidbook has recently been re-issued with an introduction by David Kipen, owner of Libros Schmibros, a used bookstore and free lending library in Boyle Heights. I heard Kipen reviewing this book on KPCC radio's The Madeleine Brand Show recently and I HAD to have it. Subsequently, my friend Christine invited me to her book club meeting at the end of the month where Kipen will be speaking about this very book!
This book is a WEALTH of information for people interested in the history of our beautiful City. Basically, the book chronicles everything available to the tourist and resident during the year 1939, along with a bit of history. There are chapters with photos and diagrams on architecture, making movies, art and education, industry and commerce, recreation, street scenes and trips out of Los Angeles....along the highway. There are listings for restaurants, hotels, roller rinks, beaches and more.

Architecture Photos

Each section of the book for various areas of the City contains a "tour" of sorts detailing the highlights of that area. When you're in the Wilshire and West sections of L.A., don't forget to visit Coulter's Department Store...."located on Wilshire Blvd. between Ridgeley Dr. and Hauser Blvd., a four-story commercial structure designed in 1938 by Stiles O. Clements and Irving L. Osgood, is one of the few large buildings of a very modern type in Los Angeles." Nearby, "renowned as the scene of motion-picture 'world premieres,' the Carthay Circle Theater (open only during performances) 6316 San Vicente Blvd., is a white concrete building trimmed in bright blue and dominated by a high tower ornamented with multi-colored tiles and equipped with searchlights. The theatre is something of a repository for Californiana."
Oh, how I wish both of those buildings were there all of their splendor!

1939 Los Angeles. NO Marina del Rey!

When I was a child, my parents held a few birthday parties for me at the Rollerdrome. I knew it was on Washington Blvd. in Culver City, but I wasn't sure of the exact location. Well, The "Guide" has the address, 11105 W. Washington Blvd. Sadly, the dome-shaped building that I remembered is gone. Thanks to Google Street View Maps, I can see that it is now a nondescript office building.
I was most interested in seeing the restaurant listings for the Beverly Hills area. That's where my mother's family lived and where we grew up. There are only two restaurants that were still there when I was a kid, Armstrong & Schroder, 9766 Wilshire Blvd. (later to become the western branch of Nibbler's) and Lawry's Inc., 150 No. La Cienega Blvd. (across the street from the current Lawry's, now the Stinking Rose Restaurant). Other places listed that I'd heard my folks talk about: Bit of Sweden, 9051 Sunset Blvd., Bublichki Russian Cafe, 8846 Sunset Blvd., (both in nearby WeHo) House of Murphy, 4th St. @ La Cienega (just outside BH), Perino's Roof, 9600 Wilshire Blvd. @ Saks Fifth Ave., and The Victor Hugo, 233 No. Beverly Dr.
I can't wait to read the rest of this book!
Another chapter that jumped out at me was the one on tours outside of Los Angeles. You should read the route to get to Palm Springs! Oy! It must have taken a full day to get to the desert before the freeway was built. Hey, wait a minute. I do remember traveling all the way down La Brea until it turned into Hawthorne Blvd. and continuing on blue highways to the desert when I was a tiny girl. I didn't pay too much attention to the route. I was usually asleep by the time we reached Palm Springs!

La Cienega Blvd. & Wilshire, Beverly Hills, 1930.
Photo by Herman Schultheis, courtesy of LA Public Library Archives

If you're interested in the history of Los Angeles, buy this book!

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At 5:14 PM PDT, Anonymous Richard Henderson said...

Thanks for putting me hip to this extraordinary book, as one more faboo tidbit of the sort that you dispense on a daily basis. I like living in Los Angeles for a great many reasons. The fact that you live and blog here is near the top of the list.

By the way, have you seen Thom Andersen's extraordinary film, Los Angeles Plays Itself as yet? Just saw it - for the fifth time! - at the Aero recently. If you haven't caught it as yet, keep an eye on the repertory schedules, as it'll never ever be on DVD.

At 5:17 PM PDT, Blogger Beth McDermott Oliver said...

This book sounds fantastic! I just put my order in with Amazon. Thanks!!

At 5:19 PM PDT, Anonymous Jo Anne said...

Looks like a great book. I would love to see one from 1960. I think I could totally relate and remember. When I was a kid my grandparents had a house on the ocean in Balboa (why did they sell it??) We used to go there on the weekends and there was no freeway. I love that last photo. Was the speed limit 20mph?

As always, thanks for sharing.

At 8:05 AM PDT, Blogger Ellen Bloom said...

Hey Richard! Thanks so much for your nice compliments! Yes, I have seen "L.A. Plays Itself"....twice. It's a wonderful movie.

Jo Anne. I don't think you'd find a WPA guide to L.A. from the 60's...the WPA was long gone by then, but I'll bet you could find a guidebook to L.A. from that era.

At 6:15 AM PDT, Blogger VP81955 said...

Having just learned of the book myself, I do plan to get it.

And while "Los Angeles Plays Itself" will likely never make it to DVD, it is available via YouTube in 12 segments. I have links to them at an entry in my blog, "Carole & Co.":

At 9:59 AM PDT, Anonymous George Vreeland Hill said...

The book looks like it is VERY interesting.
Living in L.A. and being a history buff, I will buy it.
I'm shocked I did not know of it before.

George Vreeland Hill


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