This then and now comparison shows the south side of East First Street, Little Tokyo’s primary commercial corridor for the past century. Originally a residential section during Los Angeles’ early years, First Street developed rapidly into a business district during the 1890s, creating a solid street wall of one- and two-story commercial blocks. As shown in the top photograph, much of Little Tokyo retained its turn-of-the-century building stock into the mid-20th century.
Nonetheless, nearly all of the buildings in the top photograph have since disappeared. Shortly after the picture was taken, the building lots on the left edge of the view were realigned for the construction of the Koyasan Buddhist Temple, which sits behind the buildings facing First Street. The small white building in the present view was completed in 1938 next to the temple’s driveway. Its neighboring two-story building, sporting Old Gold advertisements in the original photo, was rebuilt in 1963 with a shorter height and minimalist façade.
During the 1970s and 1980s, much of Little Tokyo was rebuilt by a major influx of multinational investment. A large portion of the present block was demolished during the mid-1980s for the construction of the Hotel Tokyo, developed by a partnership of Japanese, Taiwanese, and American investors. Completed in 1987, the 11-story tower dominates much of the present day view, and is currently operated as the Miyako Hotel.
1. “$14.5-million hotel opens in heart of Little Tokyo.” Los Angeles Times. 26 Apr. 1987. 2.
2. Furlong, Tom. “Construction foreigners build new base in U.S.” Los Angeles Times. 28 Oct. 1986. 1.
3. Zone Information and Map Access System (ZIMAS). City of Los Angeles, Department of City Planning. http://zimas.lacity.org/.
Original photo: Burton Frasher. “Japanese Section Los Angeles” 1936. Frasher Foto Postcard Collection. Calisphere. Pomona Public Library. http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt3b69q246/?layout=metadata&brand=calisphere.