Los Angeles’ suburban expansion in the 1920s is best known for creating much of the city’s characteristic, low-rise form, defined by dense collections of single-family homes and small apartment buildings. At the same time however, the city’s westward growth led to the sudden creation of neighborhood business districts along many of its arterial roads. As the primary thoroughfare between Hollywood and the Wilshire District, Western Avenue was one of the first suburban roadways to experience rapid commercial development during that decade. Each of the buildings in the top photograph was completed between 1921 and 1927. Prior to that, the present block stood nearly entirely vacant.
The pace of new construction on Western Avenue slowed to a crawl during the Great Depression, and has never quite picked up since then. As a result, many blocks of the avenue have maintained their solid street walls, largely uninterrupted by surface parking. All but one of the buildings in the original photograph remain today, albeit often with missing or altered facade details (most obvious on the former Wilshire Theatre).
The avenue’s arguably most dramatic transformation, however, is seen on the buildings’ signage. During the late 20th century, Western Avenue became one of the most visible corridors of the central city’s burgeoning immigrant communities. The present section has primarily housed a variety of small Korean-American businesses since the 1970s.
The Wilshire (Embassy) Theatre [Cinema Treasures]
1. Insurance maps of Los Angeles, California, Volume 8. New York: Sanborn Map Company, 1921.
2. Morrison, Patt. “Western Avenue: East meets West where thoroughfare slices through Koreatown.” Los Angeles Times. 14. Jul. 1985. B1.
3. “Westward, ho, for business.” Los Angeles Times. 20 Jun. 1920. V1.
Original photo: Dick Whittington Studio. “Western Avenue from 3rd Street to 10th Street [West Olympic Boulevard], Los Angeles, CA, 1927 – DW-1927-10-22-74W~18.” Dick Whittington Photography Collection. USC Digital Library. USC Libraries Special Collections. http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15799coll170/id/30819/rec/67.