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Los Angeles history

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June 15, 1938

June 15, 2008 | 10:11 am



A detail of the arch, as shown on San Pedro High School's website. For the full image, go here.
A cloverleaf interchange, as envisioned in 1938. Note the extensive landscaping on both sides of the freeway.

A map of proposed "elevated motorway" routes. One of many that have been prepared over the years.

his victory arch at San Pedro High School was salvaged from the Federal Building (1910-1937), which was at Main and Temple. I'm always thrilled to discover that any piece of old Los Angeles has survived, no matter how small. If you click on the photo below, it will appear full size and you can see similar entryways all along the right side of the building.   


At left, the prosecution's closing arguments in the trial of Police Capt. Earle Kynette follows the trail of civic corruption to Joe Shaw, the mayor's brother. With Kynette convicted, attention will turn to the Shaws and the recall movement will gain momentum.

Part 4 of Ed Ainsworth's series on Los Angeles traffic lays out an elaborate proposal for 420 miles of "elevated motorways."  As superficial as this story is, it contains key elements of what transformed Los Angeles transportation into what we contend with today:

"Street railways would gradually be eliminated and bus service substituted, both on surface streets and the elevated motorways."

"The elevated motorways would not run along above present streets. They would be cut through the middle of blocks. Preliminary surveys disclose that is is possible to run practically all of these through so-called blighted areas."

Would the motorways be an architectural eyesore?

"Definitely not. It is almost an axiom of modern civilization that man's highest achievements in industrial design are in themselves objects of symmetry and beauty."

Recall that there are some essential differences between what was proposed and what we have today: One of the original plans called for parking structures to be placed at intervals along the motorways. Also take a good look at the map of the network: It's massive.

So here we have a blueprint from 1938: Get rid of the streetcars, switch to buses that can use surface streets as well as elevated lanes and build a massive freeway system.

Most important, note the source of the proposal: The Auto Club of Southern California. Not a name one usually hears in discussions of what happened to the streetcars. But the Auto Club was a major player in the demise of the streetcar system.

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