The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Spring Street revisited

Los Angeles Times file photo

When this photo was taken, about 1883, Spring Street took an oblique angle at 1st. We're looking north, possibly from the Nadeau Hotel at what is now the site of The Times Building. The curious angle is somewhat visible in the building on the left, labeled the Schumacher Block.

One of the most prominent details in this photo is the horse-drawn streetcar. Notice that there's only one track. How did the cars get around one another?


Here's how: There was a little "pullout" in the tracks so that one car could get by the other.  Notice that the street is unpaved. Also note that we have a vehicle not staying to the right.


Although there's no street lighting, we have utility poles with overhead wiring. Notice the filigree on the large cable at the top of the image.


More to the point, we find a chaotic jam of wagons outside the dry goods store. Notice that some vehicles are blocking others. I should also point out that the early editions of The Times are full of harrowing stories about runaway horses injuring themselves and their passengers.


And, of course, with horses as the main mode of transportation, there will be horse flop. The Times once noted that unpaved streets were actually preferable in some ways because manure mixed with the dirt and "disappeared" while it accumulated and became an annoyance on paved streets. Email me

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Comments (3)

'Horse flop".

Public transportation and nitrogen, all for the one price. Such a deal!


When Spring Street looked like the set of a 1960's T.V. Western. I half expect to see Lorne Greene or Dan Block somewhere in that picture.

"More to the point, we find a chaotic jam of wagons outside the dry goods store. Notice that some vehicles are blocking others."

Even in 1883, L.A. Population est. 20,000 (?), traffic congestion!

Did public transit cure the problem? Looking at the picture, it would appear not. Looks like the horse drawn streetcar is just sparing the feet of a few men who would rather ride than walk. I doubt the horse drawn streetcar went much faster than the walking speed of the average individual. The most useful purpose, I could imagine, was getting drunks back home.

Horse "flop" probably wasn't considered that much of a problem. Doesn't look like anybody cleaned up the stuff. The odor probably was bad but tolerable. Having smelled the stuff myself, I know of other odors far more offensive. I don't think the horse manure disappeared by mixing with the dirt of the road so much as drying up, turning to dust and blowing away. Yes, horse manure probably created an air pollution problem iin Los Angeles in 1883.

Regarding your comments about there being only one track, if you look closely (just behind the streetcar) you can see another track that curves out for passing.


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