Once a busy commercial district in the early 20th century, the central portion of Main Street deteriorated substantially after the Second World War as concentrated poverty spiked in the eastern areas of downtown. By the early 1970s, Main Street had faded into a bleak stretch of run-down bars and decrepit hotels, two of which are pictured in the top photograph. Meanwhile, Fifth Street had earned a notorious reputation as the most dangerous and squalid street at the heart of Skid Row.
After the neighborhood hit a nadir in the 1980s, a variety of non-profit organizations began to rehabilitate and manage the area’s flophouses. In 1989, the Pennsylvania Hotel (pictured at top behind the ‘Arcade’ sign), was refurbished and reopened as the Genesis Apartments thanks to a unique collaboration between a Pasadena church and Bel-Air synagogue. The adjacent hotel in the photograph’s center was at some point demolished for a surface parking lot.
The rehabilitation of housing units in Skid Row has continued at a steady pace, and is increasingly complemented by new construction. Between 2010 and 2012, the Genesis and its adjacent lot were replaced by a seven-story affordable housing complex known as the New Genesis Apartments. Main Street’s rebirth has accelerated in the last two decades, driven by apartment conversions throughout the Historic Core. Now under a growing tree canopy, the street has been further transformed by a slew of new businesses. Since 2010, the corner building has housed an Italian restaurant with a sidewalk terrace, while the long-troubled Regent Theatre (far left) is currently under renovation as a performance venue.
1. Morrison, Patt. “Main St.—a place of lost and troubled dreams.” Los Angeles Times. 17 Jun. 1974. B1.
2. Ramos, George. “The Pit.” Los Angeles Times. 20 Oct. 1986. Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1986-10-20/local/me-6551_1_los-angeles-skid-row-toughest-turf-pit.
3. Richardson, Eric. “Demolition begins at Genesis Hotel.” Blogdowntown. 2 Jul. 2010. http://blogdowntown.com/2010/07/5475-demolition-begins-at-genesis-hotel.
4. Rouse, Pamela. “Portofino Cucina Italiana opens at 5th and Main.” blogdowntown. 6 Sep. 2010. http://blogdowntown.com/2010/09/5637-portofino-cucina-italiana-opens-at-5th-and.
5. Stewart, Jill. “Skid Row hotel reborn in novel Los Angeles project.” Los Angeles Times. 3 May 1989. 1.
Original photo: Plukas, Victor R. “Main and 5th Streets – 00014126.” 1973. Los Angeles Public Library. http://photos.lapl.org/carlweb/jsp/FullRecord?databaseID=968&record=1&controlNumber=20972.