LA as Subject

Collectively preserving, archiving and sharing the rich history and culture of Los Angeles

LA as Subject Blog

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From Worthless Land to Semi-Wild Paradise: The Origins of Elysian Park

Posted by Nathan Masters on Jun 27, 2013

Like many of the city's earliest recreational tracts, Los Angeles carved Elysian Park out of municipal lands that defied development. A Jewish cemetery and a rock-quarrying enterprise were among the few early, documented uses of the land, but the area's deep ravines and steep hills rendered the… Read more »

Topics: KCET

Incline L.A.: Angels Flight and Its Lost Sibling, Court Flight (Episode One)

Posted by Nathan Masters on May 30, 2013

Angels Flight: a downtown Los Angeles landmark. Its orange, beaux-arts archways and simple, Edwardian technology stand in contrast to the modern skyscrapers of the financial district. This cherished historical monument is a remnant of an earlier age. In the early decades of the twentieth century,… Read more »

Topics: KCET

KCET Video Series Debuts May 30

Posted by Nathan Masters on May 29, 2013

Photo of Angels Flight by William Reagh, courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

On Thursday, May 30, a new web video series showcasing L.A. as Subject member collections and the archivists, librarians, and experts who care for them debuts on

Through photographs, maps, films, and other resources from L.A. as Subject member collections, Incline L.A. tells the story… Read more »

Topics: KCETLA as Subject

When Lincoln Park Was Eastlake

Posted by Nathan Masters on May 23, 2013

Courtesy of the Werner Von Boltenstern Postcard Collection, Department of Archives and Special Collections, Loyola Marymount University Library.

Like many of Los Angeles' first public parks, Eastlake (now Lincoln) Park began as unwanted land: a fifty-acre site rejected by a railroad and given to the city for free. But like its crosstown rival, Westlake (now MacArthur) Park, Eastlake soon grew into one of the city's most popular outdoor… Read more »

Topics: KCET

Arch and Castle Rocks: Lost Landmarks of Pacific Coast Highway

Posted by Nathan Masters on May 2, 2013

Surfers. Palatial estates. Soul-crushing traffic. Pacific Coast Highway treats motorists to many iconic Southern California views and experiences. But two distinctively shaped rocks have been missing from the Pacific Palisades shoreline for decades, victims of the scenic highway's development.

Read more »

Topics: KCET

Majestic Mammoths: A Brief History of L.A.‘s Moreton Bay Fig Trees

Posted by Nathan Masters on Apr 11, 2013

Courtesy of the USC Libraries

It lacks the native charm of the sycamore or oak. It wants for the palm's exotic appearance. It doesn't have the pepper tree's romantic associations with California's mission past. It never enjoyed, unlike the eucalyptus, the passionate advocacy of a forester like Abbot Kinney. But the fig tree… Read more »

Topics: KCET

What’s Missing From the Earliest-Known Drawing of Los Angeles?

Posted by Nathan Masters on Mar 14, 2013

Courtesy of the USC Libraries.

Without the handwritten caption reading "Part of Los Angeles," it might be difficult to place the above drawing -- generally considered to be the oldest extant drawing of the city. The Los Angeles that William Rich Hutton saw when he first arrived on July 7, 1847, is virtually unrecognizable… Read more »

Topics: KCET

Who Took the First Photo of Los Angeles?

Posted by Nathan Masters on Mar 7, 2013

Courtesy of the Braun Research Library Collection, Autry National Center

Widely considered the earliest photograph of Los Angeles, the origin story of this image remains something of a mystery. Who took the photo, and when? Though the image and the historical record offer clues, they provide no definitive answers. What we do know is that some day in the late 1850s or… Read more »

Topics: KCET

When L.A. Was Empty: Wide-Open SoCal Landscapes

Posted by Nathan Masters on Feb 14, 2013

San Fernando Valley in 1930. Courtesy of the USC Libraries.

Early photographs of Los Angeles surprise for many reasons, but often what's most striking is how empty the city looks. Open countryside surrounds familiar landmarks. Busy intersections appear as dusty crossroads.

Southern California entered the photographic record at the cusp of a dramatic… Read more »

Topics: KCET

The L.A. That Might Have Been

Posted by Nathan Masters on Jan 31, 2013

Lloyd Wright's plan for the Los Angeles Civic Center. Courtesy of Eric Lloyd Wright.

A spiraling, 1,290-foot tower built of magnesium. A rapid-transit system with hundreds of miles of subways and elevated tracks. A comprehensive network of parks, beaches, and open spaces linked by greenbelts and parkways. These are just a few unrealized visions for Los Angeles featured in an… Read more »

Topics: KCET