Los Angeles in the 1900s

Angel’s Flight and Third Street
This bucolic scene was Los Angeles in the 1890s, Third Street looking west, past Hill Street. A church on the northeast corner is within walking distance of the residences. That’s the Crocker Mansion at the top of Bunker Hill, a landform that effectively cut off this part of the city from growth to the west.
[Image is from the University of Southern California archives. For a larger version, click here.]
This photo, made in the 1890s, shows the Third Street Tunnel before its completion and before the construction of Angels Flight. The palm tree is in front of the lot where the Conservative Life building will be erected. The Crocker mansion can barely be discerned in the haze.
[Image is from the University of Southern California archives.]
These early photos were both made around or after 1903, the year the Third Street tunnel was opened. Both appear to show one or both Angels Flight cable cars as open to the elements. If they were Olivet and Sinai, as the cars were named, they were later enclosed, as shown in the photo below. Note the simple arch in front of the tracks and the frame buildings with filigreed ornamentation.
In the lower photo above you can actually see the western end of the tunnel in the distance.
The lower photo shows how apartment buildings replaced the frame structures of earlier years. The Crocker Mansion is the fancy building at the top of Bunker Hill, and the viewing tower stands behind it to the right. There appear to be electric lights in the tunnel: In June 1903 a journalist had suggested coating the walls of the tunnel with radium to provide illumination.


The crowds on Third Street, particularly those gathered in the middle distance at Broadway, indicate a festive observance, perhaps the Fiesta de las Flores. One of the cable cars can be seen just above the word FLIGHT. Note the pedestrians on the steps who didn’t want to wait for the cable car or to pay a nickel for their ride. And there are plenty who walked through the Third Street tunnel from the west side of town.
The Crocker Mansion is almost completely hidden in this artificially colored shot from the early 1900s by a new apartment building that faces Clay Street. The Saint Helena Sanitarium, with a vegetarian restaurant, is on the northwest corner of Third and Hill. The gabled buildings at the left were later replaced by the Ferguson Building, shown below.
Ornamental street lights have been added.
[Image is from the Brent C. Dickerson site, A Visit to Old Los Angeles.]


The Crocker Mansion is gone in these shots from what appears to be the late teens, replaced by the Elks Lodge (the building bearing the sign BPOE, for Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; the same initials appear on the new archway entrance to Angels Flight). Saint Helena’s has been replaced by a rooming house, but the vegetarian restaurant remains.
The striped awnings mark the ground floor of the Conservative Life building, and the white-columned archway at the right appears to be the entrance to the YWCA.
The wooden houses on the southwest corner have been replaced by an office building.
[The top image is from the USC archives.]


American flags grace this shot from the 1920s. It would be nice to know what the sign over the tunnel had to say.

The ornamental street lamps and the viewing tower have vanished in this view, probably from the 1960s. Grime covers the retaining wall.
Olivet and Sinai bravely continue their up-and-down transit during their waning days at Third Street as Bunker Hill is transformed behind them. Angels Flight was moved a block farther south but is now out of action again as the result of its first fatal accident.
The Third Street tunnel (marked by the line of lights just above the automobile) now runs beneath a residential and commercial development.The photo was taken in February 2003. Ornamental street lights have returned.
More about Angels Flight (includng a film clip)
in this fine page by Dace Taube.

What would it be like to live in Los Angeles a hundred years ago?
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For a personal look at Los Angeles in the 1920s and 1930s, click for
He Usually Lived With a Female: The Life of a California Newspaperman

Los Angeles history