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A Drive Around Late 1940's Bunker Hill

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, September 07, 2011, at 08:01AM

Looking south on Flower Street, north of 3rd. In the background on the right side of the street is the Richfield Building.

It isn't often that the Downtowner of today gets a chance to wander the streets of their neighborhood as it stood sixty years ago, but a film uploaded to the Internet Archive this weekend offers exactly that.

The background process plate—film intended to be used behind actors in a car scene—offers an all-too-short, high-resolution view of Bunker Hill and today's Financial District in the late 1940's.

The sequence of shots starts on 2nd Street, above the mouth of the 2nd Street Tunnel. Twice it travels up 2nd, turning right on Grand Avenue and travelling down to 5th. There it takes a right, the turn offering a brief glimpse of Pershing Square and the Historic Core in the distance. From 5th, the picture takes a right on Flower Street, traveling again into old Bunker Hill before turning right onto 2nd Street and finishing.

Let's take a look at the stories of a few of the buildings seen along the way:

Frontenac Apartments (1:07)

This 140-unit apartment building was called one of the city's most modern in a 1909 story. It operated until 1962, when it was torn down as part of Bunker Hill redevelopment.

Zelda Apts (1:45)

Also built in 1909, the six-story Zelda only lasted until 1954, when it was torn down to make way for the 4th Street Viaduct and its connection to the 110 freeway.

Pacific Telephone (3:27)

Opened in 1947, Pacific Telephone and Telegraph's Grand Avenue switching facility was the terminus for the nation's first trans-U.S. coaxial cable. The $7.5-million cable was capable of carrying up to 2400 conversations.

In 1950, the 10-story building played another key role as engineers got a microwave link going between San Francisco and L.A., just in time to give local viewers access to Bay Area football games.

Along with a 1961 annex, the structure still serves as AT&T's central Los Angeles switching office.

Central Library (3:50)

The grounds of the 1926 Central Library look tranquil without the building's 1991 addition.

Richfield Building (4:30)

Dedicated in 1929, the black-and-gold Richfield Building was topped by a 125-foot tower that stretched it to 350 feet tall. While a beloved landmark, the building was torn down in 1968 to make way for the twin 52-story towers of Atlantic Richfield Plaza. The two buildings contained more than 20 times the usable space of the historic structure.

Noticed via this blog post on The Atlantic.


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