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Notes on the Geography of The Western United States: Los Angeles 1

We begin downtown, with a tour from 2002.

 

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The homeless bed down. It's disconcerting for visitors and maybe for residents, but taxi drivers show no mercy. "They get used to it," according to one who might have been a student of Dostoyevsky. Was there anyone under this blanket? Absolutely: a knee moved. At dusk, cardboard boxes are set up, even sewn together to form tubes.

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Close by, the Linda Lea Theater on Main Street used to show first-run international movies.

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"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

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How often do you see a diocesan headquarters permanently locked? It's the product of a double whammy: downtown depopulation and the Northridge earthquake of 1994.

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The cathedral bell tower. St. Vibiana's was built in 1876 and after the quake delisted as a city landmark. Although not evident in 2002, the cathedral had been purchased in 1999 for about $4.5 million by Tom Gilmore, and on 12 November 2005 it reopened as Vibiana Place, a performing-arts complex.

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Meanwhile, public buildings are transformed. This one was completed in 1960. In 2002, when this picture was taken, the Jersey Barriers or K-rails were a new but wretched addition.

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The former May Company department store was built on Broadway in 1906 as Hamburger's Department Store. It claimed to be the biggest department store west of Chicago.

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The department stores began leaving Broadway in the 1920s. This former Bullock's, from 1929, closed when the company headed west and moved into a spectacular store on Wilshire. The company survived until 1996, when it was absorbed in 1996 by Macy's.

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The only hint that this particular store was a Bullocks is in this alley, where on the bridge you can make out the Bullock's emblem, with its "supreme quality reigns" motto.

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Broadway's once impressive theater district made the same westward jump in the 1930s. It left a big hole, minimally filled by shops but by 2002 slated for apartments.

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The Arcade had been the first Broadway theater, opening for vaudeville in 1910: you can still make out the name of Alexander "Something for Everyone" Pantages.

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Competition came from the Palace Theater, opened in 1911 as an Orpheum Theater; it continued as such until 1926, when a new Orpheum opened down the street.

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The Tower Theater was built in 1927. Later that year, The Jazz Singer premiered here.

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Across the street, the Los Angeles Theater was modeled on San Francisco's now-demolished Fox. It opened in 1931 to Chaplin's City Lights. Albert Einstein was in the audience.

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The Roxi, built in 1932, was the last of its kind.

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City Hall, built in the 1920s, was for about 30 years the tallest building in the city.

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Its rotunda echoes the Taj Mahal, but all one of the building's exterior doors was locked in 2002, and that one was fitted with metal detectors and sign-in sheets.

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Germ of a new downtown: the Staples Center opened in October 1999 with a Bruce Springsteen concert; six months later, two million people had been inside.


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