Looking north on Vermont Avenue from Fourth Street, 1931-2013

4thVermontN51931-2013

The top photograph shows a portion of central Vermont Avenue shortly after the road widening project that brought it to its present dimensions. The avenue had become one of Los Angeles’ most heavily trafficked streets by the early 1920s; following its designation as the city’s primary north-south artery in the Major Traffic Street Plan of 1924, plans were prepared to widen its central section from 80 to 100 feet. Between 1928 and 1929, Vermont Avenue was widened along three miles between San Marino Street and Hollywood Boulevard, requiring the condemnation of around 263 properties. Many decades later, most of the street remains largely automobile-oriented, characterized by fast traffic, long blocks, and a general lack of buildings built to the sidewalk.

The original photograph also provides a glimpse of the now-vanished Bimini Slough, a swampy outlet of the Sacatela Creek. Although much of the creek had been buried in storm drains during the mid-1920s, the 45-acre slough remained largely untouched, cutting a diagonal path from First Street and Madison Avenue to Sixth and Berendo Streets. Mostly owned by the Pacific Electric Land Company, the slough was filled between 1929 and 1931, in anticipation of a subsequent surge in residential construction.

Screen shot 2013-04-07 at 12.35.54 PMAerial view of the Bimini Slough in 1930. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times archives.

Contrary to expectations, much of the former slough remained undeveloped for several decades after its fill. The large plots at the southeast corner of Third Street and Vermont Avenue were replaced in the mid-1970s by a sprawling supermarket and pharmacy complex. Around the same time, the commercial building at the left of the top photograph was demolished and replaced by a suburban-style bank branch.

West side of Vermont Avenue at Fourth Street, c. 1920s-2011 [urban diachrony]
A panoramic view of Bimini Slough from a similar perspective [USC Digital Library]
An abridged history of Bimini Slough and its remnants [LA Creek Freak]
Uncovering L.A.’s Lost Streams [KCET]

Sources:
1. Cohan, Charles C. “Improvement plan outlined.” Los Angeles Times. 15 Sep. 1929. D3.
2. Davis, James L. “Bimini Slough fill speeded.” Los Angeles Times. 29 Dec. 1930. D1.
3. “Last Sacatela unit finished.” Los Angeles Times. 12 Aug. 1929. A9.
4. “Traffic relief plan to be voted on Nov. 4.” Los Angeles Times. 19 Oct. 1924. E1.
5. “Vermont Avenue all dressed up in celebration.” Los Angeles Times. 9 Nov. 1929. A5.
6. “Vermont awards filed.” Los Angeles Times. 22 Feb. 1927. A1.
7. Zone Information and Map Access System (ZIMAS). City of Los Angeles, Department of City Planning. http://zimas.lacity.org/.
Photo credits:
1. “Close-in vacant city acreage faces great structural development.” Los Angeles Times. 28 Dec. 1930. D1.
2. Dick Whittington Studio. “DW-1931-02-28-181~03 – Scenes near 4th Street & Vermont Avenue, violations of zoning, traffic, etc., Los Angeles, CA, 1931.” Dick Whittington Photography Collection. USC Digital Library. USC Libraries Special Collections. http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll170/id/17858.

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2 Responses to Looking north on Vermont Avenue from Fourth Street, 1931-2013

  1. Joe Linton says:

    I am curious about the long white building in the middle right of the upper photo… do you know if that’s the “El Patio Ballroom” – seems like it is – based on the second aerial down
    from this article: http://laecovillage.wordpress.com/2009/05/02/ride-the-streetcar-to-the-bimini-baths/

    • Brian Hsu says:

      It does appear to be the El Patio Ballroom, which was then known as the Rainbow Gardens. If you zoom in close enough on the original picture, you can see the name on its big rooftop sign.

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