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75 Years Ago: Wilshire Boulevard Opened Through Westlake Park

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, December 07, 2009, at 10:35AM
Wilshire East of Figueroa California Historical Society / USC Digital Archives [digitallibrary.usc.edu]

This photo shows the blocks east of Figueroa that would become Wilshire once in was extended in 1931.



On December 7, 1934, a crowd of more than 2000 turned out to see the opening of a new causeway that carried Wilshire Boulevard across Westlake Park, creating what the L.A. Times called "one of the world's greatest thoroughfares, a wide boulevard linking the heart of Los Angeles with the palisades of Santa Monica."

$282,679 was spent to construct the dirt fill causeway that curves across the north edge of the lake at what is now MacArthur Park.

Much more was spent on the Downtown section of the street, which in 1931 was extended from Figueroa to Grand Avenue. $3.3 million was spent on condemnation to acquire the land needed.

Exactly what sort of span should cross the park was a source of much debate. Westlake Park's lake was filled in 1889, and the park quickly became one of the city's favorite recreation spots. Those opposed to the causeway design pointed out that it would require filling in a significant portion of the lake.

They tended to favor either a bridge across the park or a tunnel going underneath it, both of which would have been more expensive options due to the "boggy" nature of the land under the lake. Estimates were that bridge footings would be required to be sunk through 60 feet of mud before reaching solid ground.

Work on the boulevard's extension from Figueroa street was set to begin on May 22, 1933, but was halted for nearly a year due to a legal challenge claiming that the park land was dedicated to the city exclusively for park purposes. It finally got underway in May of 1934.

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