Vanowen and Laurel Canyon: 1931

Bossout_case_intersection_of_Vanowen_Street__Laurel_Canyon_Boulevard_Southern_California_1931_image_1 Bossout_case_intersection_of_Vanowen_Street__Laurel_Canyon_Boulevard_Southern_California_1931_image_5

From the archives of USC comes these fascinating (Dick Whittington Studio) photos of Vanowen and Laurel Canyon Blvds. in 1931.

What might have become of the vast and verdant emptiness had it been developed with a plan, or a vision, beyond that of buyer and seller and developer?

It would be an intersection harmonious, civilized, aesthetic and humane.

Instead, it is today a monstrous urban carbuncle of cheap, ignorant, lowdown, poisonous ugliness; billboards, traffic, crime, and junk food bake under hot skies and treeless hell.

This lost place wears a name tag provided by the billboard: ignorance.




1949 and 1953: Two Aerial Views Over Panorama City and the GM Plant.




From the USC Digital Archives comes these stunning aerial photos over Panorama City and the large General Motors Plant. The top on is from 1949. And then one taken four years later on January 13, 1953 showing the rapid growth of the area.

Some 15,000 new homes were built in 1953, and some 30,000 new structures added. The vast agricultural landscape was transformed into a suburban, single-family section of Los Angeles, peopled by young families with children.

The map shows that the streets, 61 years later, are still the same. The vast GM Plant closed in 1992 and is now occupied by “The Plant” shopping mall. Panorama City still teems with new arrivals.

Lankershim and Victory: 1930


83-years-ago, the San Fernando Valley was an all together different place than today.

Rural and urban, it was dotted with Spanish style gas stations, grocery stores, small houses; orange and walnut groves, neatly designed and well-kept businesses, with swept curbs and gracefully articulated architecture. Store signs were designed to fit into architecture and each letter and every proportion was sensitive to the greater architectural whole.

Photographer Dick Whittington worked this region back then, and his images are kept, for posterity, in the archives of USC.

Heartbreaking it is to see what has become of the corner of Lankershim and Victory today, a grotesque piling together of cheap plastic sprawl and indifferent commerce, junk food and junk culture. Even without looking, people know the location Lankershim and Victory is synonymous with ugly. Guns, crime, speeding, littering, illegal everything…that is what it is today.

What started out with great promise, California, is now ready for the apocalypse.

4419 Fulton Terrace

Huntington Archives




I have often passed this apartment at 4419 Fulton, north of Moorpark, and noticed its unique and graphic address sign.  While searching through the archives of photographer Maynard Parker (1900-1976) housed at the Huntington, I came across photos he made in 1963.

Masculine and modern, the squat and flattened lettering, ingeniously aligned with the low slung horizontality of the building, is as much architecture as the architecture itself.   Almost cartoonish and leading into pop-art, it leaves behind the decorative scrolling that marked 1950s apartments whose builders slapped their daughter’s names on building fronts (“Debby Ann”, “Stacy Lynn”) or borrowed from faraway places (Tahiti, Hawaii or Fiji).  The indoor entrance, private and serene, concrete slabs floating across water, marries Japan to Southern California.

If this building is not on a historic preservation list- it should be.

Title:Fulton Terrace Apartments. Exterior. Los Angeles, CA

Architects: Burlew and Liszt.


Parker, Maynard L., 1901-1976.

1963 May

Contributing Institution:Huntington Library, Photo Archive