Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Dec. 8, 1947: View looking north from the top of Los Angeles City Hall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Humphreys / Los Angeles Times

Nov. 30, 2009: View of Los Angeles from Top of Los Angeles City Hall looking northwest toward Pasadena. The Post Office Terminal Annex is on the right.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

March 7, 2017: Photo on diaplay at the top of Los Angeles City Hall locating points of interest looking north.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

Nov. 30, 2009: The Post Office Terminal Annex is on the left next to Union Station. View from top of Los Angeles City Hall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

Nov. 30, 2009: The Hall of Justice is joined by the criminal courts building on left. Just beyond them is the silver and gray campus of the new L.A. Unified Arts High School. Dodger Stadium is visible in the hills at center in the background.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

March 7, 2017: View from Los Angeles City Hall looking North.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

Oct. 29, 1943: Nighttime cityscape seen from city hall tower looking northeast, during dim-out in Los Angeles, Calif. The dim-outs ended on Nov. 1, 1943.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Oct. 29, 1943: Nighttime cityscape seen from city hall tower looking north, during dim-out in Los Angeles, Calif. The dim-outs ended on Nov. 1, 1943.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Oct. 29, 1943: Nighttime cityscape seen from city hall tower looking northeast, during dim-out in Los Angeles, Calif. The dim-outs ended on Nov. 1, 1943.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Jan. 26, 1950: View looking North from the observation deck of Los Angeles City Hall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 24, 1950: View looking north from Los Angeles City Hall. The roof of Federal Building is on right. A portion of the Hall of Justice is visible on left.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 12, 1951: Looking north. The building in the foreground is the Hall of Justice. Chinatown is at right.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Associated Press

Jan. 12, 1951: This is an aerial view of Los Angeles from the top of City Hall looking northwest. At left foreground is the top of the Federal building. The large building at right foreground is the post office department's Terminal Annex. Beyond the hills, center foreground, is Pasadena.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Associated Press

Jan. 12, 1951: At the center is the Union Passenger Terminal. The large, white building at left of the railway terminal is Terminal Annex, the post office. Beyond the post office is the County General Hospital, center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Associated Press

June 3, 1956: There were a million landmarks to tell you that the camera was pointed north from the City Hall tower. In the foreground are the top of the Federal Building and the Hollywood-Santa Ana Freeway. Off to the right are the clump of trees that is the Plaza and beyond it the Post Office Terminal Annex. At the extreme left N Broadway heads toward the tree-covered hills of Elysian Park.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Jan. 24, 1950: View from top of Los Angeles City Hall on smogless day. In the distance, against the mountains, are parts of Glendale, Pasadena and Altadena. This photo was published in the Jan. 25, 1950 Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Nov. 30, 2009: The view West now includes the Department of Water and Power building, at left, the Music Center, county government buildings and the criminal courts building, at right.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

March 7, 2017: Photo on diaplay at the top of Los Angeles City Hall locating points of interest looking West.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

March 7, 2017: View from Los Angeles City Hall looking West.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

Oct. 29, 1943: Nighttime cityscape seen from city hall tower looking west, during dim-out in Los Angeles, Calif.. The night dim-outs ended on Nov. 1, 1943.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Jan. 26, 1950: View of Los Angeles looking West from the top of City Hall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 26, 1950: View looking West from top of Los Angeles City Hall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 12, 1951: Looking West toward Hollywood from the top of Los Angeles City Hall. The four-level interchange, with the new Hollywood Freeway leading away from it, can be seen. The large building in the background at left center is Queen of Angels Hospital. The Hollywood sign is on the hill at center background.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Associated Press

June 6, 1956: West. That's the way you were looking in the photo from the City Hall tower. That's the roof of the Hall of Records in the foreground. Over at the left is the Law Building and steel structure for the new County Courthouse. Beyond Temple St. at the right it the four-level interchange of the freeways and, way at the left, Beverly Blvd. goes over Belmont Hill. Hollywood and the Hollywood Hills are out there in the haze somewhere.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Los Angeles Times staff photographer Larry Sharkey took these two panoramas from the observation deck of Los Angeles City Hall of the Civic Center. The top image was taken in November 1969. The bottom one in May 1960. Sharkey assembled each panorama using three black and white prints.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Larry Sharkey / Los Angeles Times

Nov. 18, 1953: View looking West from observation deck of Los Angeles City Hall. Scans from original negatives used to make a two-photo panorama published in the Nov. 19, 1953, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Nov. 30 2009: Skyscrapers on Bunker Hill dominate the view. The cluster of mid-rise buildings stretching across the middle of the photo is the Angelus Plaza senior citizens housing complex. The salmon-colored building is part of the Colburn School.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

March 7, 2017: Photo on display at the top of Los Angeles City Hall locating points of interest looking South.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

Nov. 30, 2009: View looking southwest from top of Los Angeles City Hall. The latest edition to this scene is the new Los Angeles Police Department headquarters, left.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

March 7, 2017: View from Los Angeles City Hall looking South.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 12 1951: This photo shows downtown Los Angeles, looking southwest from top of City Hall. Building in the center foreground is the Los Angeles Times, with Los Angeles Mirror Building directly behind it . The building with the large mast on it is the Richfield Building.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ellis R. Bosworth / Associated Press

Jan. 12 1951: The structure with the spire is the Richfield Building, and just to the right of it is steelwork for the new Statler Hotel, now the Wilshire Grand. This is a view of downtown Los Angeles from the top of City Hall looking just slighly south of west.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Associated Press

June 5, 1956: The photo, looking south by west from the City Hall tower, is a panorama of the downtown business district. And, of course, it wasn't expected to baffle anybody. Too many prominent landmarks, including the Times and Mirror Buildings in center foreground.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Nov. 8, 1979; Clear skys and clouds over Bunker Hill folllowing a rain storm. Photo taken from top of Los Angeles City Hall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bruce Cox / Los Angeles Times

Nov. 30, 2009: View of Los Angeles from Top of Los Angeles City Hall looking southeast toward the old industrial district.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

March 7, 2017: Photo on diaplay at the top of Los Angeles City Hall locating points of interest looking East.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

March 7, 2017: View from Los Angeles City Hall looking East.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 26, 1950: View looking East from the observation deck of Los Angeles City Hall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 26, 1950: VIew looking East from top of Los Angeles City Hall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 26, 1950: View looking East from the observation deck at Los Angeles City Hall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 12, 1951: Part of the Los Angeles industrial district as seen from the top of City Hall looking toward the southeast. Bridges span the Los Angeles river in the background.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ellis R. Bosworth / Associated Press

June 4, 1956: That's the view from the City Hall tower. In the foreground the top of the new Police Administration Building. At lower right the intersection of 1st and San Pedro Sts. Slanting across the photo just above center the Los Angeles River. Three bridges are visible--1st St., 4th St. and 6th St.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

More galleries on Framework

return to gallery

Views from the top of Los Angeles City Hall

reFramed: In conversation with Phil Stern

“reFramed” is a feature showcasing fine art photography and vision-forward photojournalism. It is curated by Los Angeles Times staff photographer Barbara Davidson. Follow...   View Post»

   

Views from the top of Los Angeles City Hall

Pictures in the News | October 14, 2013

Monday's Pictures in the News begins in Saudi Arabia, where Muslim pilgrims pray on a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy, near the holy city of Mecca. It is here, in Mount...   View Post»

   

Views from the top of Los Angeles City Hall

Life Magazine photographer Bill Eppridge | 1938-2013

Life magazine photographer Bill Eppridge was on assignment taking pictures of wild horses in the Montana mountains in 1968 when he got word that Robert F. Kennedy had announced...   View Post»

   

Views from the top of Los Angeles City Hall

North Korea's Kim Jong Il dead at 69

The funeral was held for North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the mercurial strongman who styled himself as a "Dear Leader" while ruling over an impoverished police state, who died...   View Post»

Views from the top of Los Angeles City Hall

Back on Jan. 3, 2010, the Los Angeles Times published a special two page Then and Now story.  In 2009, I had located a 1951 series of  images taken by Associated Press photographer Ellis R. Bosworth from the top of Los Angeles City Hall. I went up the City Hall observation deck and matched the images. That project helped launch the From the Archives blog six months later.

Once I dived into the Los Angeles Times photo archives, I found many additional images taken from the observation deck of City Hall. Here they are in one big photo gallery. I’ve added current images including the City Hall signs identifying points of interest.

For the original L.A. Then and Now story on Jan. 3, 2010, staff writer Cara Mia DiMassa, wrote:

In a city famous for its panoramic views, the one from the top of Los Angeles City Hall offers something more than shimmering city lights, jagged mountain ranges and the distant glimmer of the Pacific Ocean.

From the landmark tower, Los Angeles’ history unfolds below: the pueblo that the city founders created, the grid of streets that first carried trolleys and horses and eventually cars, the imposing stone low-rise towers of L.A.’s prewar period, followed by freeways, parking lots and several generations of skyscrapers reaching ever higher.

“Los Angeles is instant architecture in an instant townscape,” Reyner Banham wrote in his 1971 book “Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies.”

But from atop City Hall, L.A.’s architecture looks anything but instant. Look closely and the layers show. There are the 100-year-old bank buildings on Main Street remade as lofts. There’s the spartan parking structure on Bunker Hill that was supposed to be removed by now for a now-stalled mega-development.

Both sets of photographs on this page were taken from the observation deck at City Hall, more than 350 feet above the ground, a vantage point that on a clear day offers up a skyscape from Santa Catalina Island to the San Gabriel Mountains.

When the first set was shot in January 1951, City Hall was California’s tallest building, a literal and figurative symbol of the power of the metropolis’ downtown. By law, no building could be built to overshadow the structure.

What surrounded it was a city in transition: The Hollywood Freeway had opened in December 1950, cutting through a swath of the area, and many beaux-arts and Victorian structures had already been razed for parking lots.

Both of those developments portended the coming domination of the car — and the corresponding boom of suburbia that would mark downtown’s rapid decline.

The old Bunker Hill, a neighborhood of residential hotels and run-down Victorian apartment buildings, is visible in the photos.

But within a decade, most of it would be leveled to make way for skyscrapers and the Music Center.

“The city that had been was still there,” said writer D.J. Waldie of downtown L.A. circa 1951. “It all sort of went into mothballs at the beginning of the 1950s.”

In 1964, the city lifted the ban on buildings taller than the 28-story City Hall. An array of skyscrapers followed, creating the skyline visible from the observation deck in 2009.

Most of those buildings were constructed during the boom years of the mid-1970s through the early ’90s.

But take the elevator to the top of City Hall today, and there are signs of new development in downtown as well.

There are the sharp angles of the new Los Angeles Police Department headquarters, which opened just across the street in 2009; a new train line that stretches to the Eastside. And the downtown skyline keeps growing, this time to the south with a cluster of new condo and hotel towers rising near Staples Center.

Some of the more profound changes are harder to see. Those skyscrapers at one time housed the headquarters of major corporations. But the corporate logos for Arco, First Interstate, Security Pacific and other companies no long crown these towers, a sign of the corporate exodus from L.A.

From the top of City Hall, it’s hard to tell that 40,000 people now live downtown, a dramatic demographic shift that is more easily detected on the streets of the city center.

“It is not the land of Oz,” Waldie cautioned. “It’s not the Emerald City.”

But it’s not an instant city either.

2 Comments

  1. August 11, 2017, 1:40 am

    Nice photo! Los Angeles is a great and very picturesque city. Love it!

  2. August 25, 2017, 9:35 am

    LA has a certain feel about it that makes it unique.

    By: Jim Sanders

Add a comment or a question.

If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate. Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.

Required

Required, will not be published