Saturday, September 4, 2010

On Los Angeles' 229th Birthday, A Look Back Through Postcards

In the early 1990s, a younger, curious proto-Militant Angeleno used to look intently at the post card displays at the local Thrifty Drug & Discount Store (now, sadly, part of East Coast megaconglomerate Rite Aid). Usually the post cards are there for the interest of tourists to send home to loved ones, (usually to make them jealous). But this native local had a different reason for perusing them: During that time, the postcards, for the first time, depicted a new Los Angeles skyline, topped by the then-brand-new 73-story Library Tower smack dab in the middle. This was now a different-looking City than the one he knew as a kid.

Yes, postcards are unintentional historical markers. The Militant recently stumbled on A Tour of LA Through Vintage Postcards. The very simple HTML site shows scanned postcards of Los Angeles and its environs from the 1930s to the 1990s (though unfortunately none of the postcards are demarcated by year).

Most striking is that of Downtown Los Angeles. One picture (pictured right) shows a circa-1968 skyline, or lack thereof. The tallest building, which is under construction, is the 42-story 611 Place tower, then known as the Crocker Bank Tower, and later the AT&T Building. It was the tallest in the City until the ARCO Plaza twin towers were built in 1971. As you can also tell by the picture, smog was much worse back then and even back in 1968, the 101 Freeway was constantly jammed during evening rush hour.

But other aspects of Los Angeles haven't changed, or have hardly changed, like this postcard of the plaza at Union Station, or the Chinatown Central Plaza.

This view of MacArthur Park (listed in the site's "Westside LA" section, heh heh), is only slightly more verdant than the view we see today, albeit lacking the shimmering view of the modern skyline reflected in the lake.

And speaking of "Westside," apparently Westwood gets its own separate section on this site (perhaps the site was made by a proud Bruin alum). This 1930s-era view of Westwood Village resembles an early 20th-century World's Fair site.

You can spend the whole day looking at these photos, and when you're done, you can look at even more on this Old Los Angeles Postcards Flickr site. Like the saying goes, you don't know where you're going unless you know where you've been. An appropriate activity to do on our fine City's 229th birthday (in addition to a few previously mentioned...). Happy Birthday, Los Angeles!


Nick said...

Hey, MA--I collect postcards; here's a few Los Angeles ones from my collection:

Militant Angeleno said...

295bus: Thanks for the link! The Militant actually thinks he's seen it before! Those illustrated postcards from way back when are truly a lost art!