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Arts and Entertainment

Time Travel With These Interactive Then-And-Now Views of L.A. Landmarks

The site of what is now the Los Angeles Times Building, circa 1910. (Photo by the California Historical Society, courtesy of your friends at RENTCafé)
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It's a momentous week in history for our dear Los Angeles, California.

On a Tuesday in 1781—235 years ago, as of Sunday—El Pueblo de La Reina de los Ángeles was founded by its 44 original pobladores under the direction of Felipe de Neve, Governor of the Californias. Sixty-nine years and five days later on September 9, 1850, California officially entered the union as the 31st state. And the rest, as they say, is history.

But what does it mean to see Los Angeles? To really see the city, in the context of its boosterism-heavy history? Can any single observer separate their physical surroundings from what a critic once described as "the most mediated town in America, nearly unviewable save through the fictive scrim of its mythologizers"? This is, after all, the sold-into-being city, endlessly filmed and ever swaddled in its dueling fables of sunshine and noir. We would argue that Los Angeles the place and Los Angeles the dream are near inextricable, with all boundaries softly smudged under the same tender haze that hides away the horizon on a smoggy day.

But even if we can't fully winnow out the dream from any wayward history, we can still admire the city's metamorphosis from past to present. So, on the occasion of our city and state's joint anniversaries, here are eight views of past and present-day downtown Los Angeles. Go ahead and scroll between then and now, today and the town as seen a century ago. We give you permission to absolve yourself of objectivity and instead anoint every view with the Los Angeles you were promised, steeped in your own flimsy memories.

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And because everything is for pre-packaged sale, especially on this hallowed Tinsel Town ground, we must give credit where credit is due, in this case to nationwide apartment search site RENTCafé, who produced these visualizations as promotional images. Beautifully fitting, isn't it?

Los Angeles Times Building: View from Spring and 1st Street

A 2015 (right) view of the Gordon B. Kaufmann-designed Art Deco Los Angeles Times Building is juxtaposed with a 1910 image of Hotel Nadeau, the site's previous occupant.

Walter P. Building: View from Broadway and 6th Street

Views of the 1909 Beaux Arts Walter P. Building from 1909 and 2015.

5th Street and State Normal School: View from Olive and 5th Street

The four-story Victorian-style State Normal School opened in 1882 (seen in the center in the past photo, which was taken in 1910) and was demolished in 1922 to accommodate for the straightening of 5th Street. Central Library now occupies part of the location where the State Normal School once stood, though the 52-story 1991 Gas Company Tower across the street dominates the present-day photo. The Biltmore Hotel is also visible on the left-hand side of the current photo, which was taken in 2015.

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Los Angeles Public Library: View from Flower and 5th Street

Speaking of Central Library, here's a view of the landmark from 1971, juxtaposed with the same building in its current day surroundings.

Los Angeles Herald Examiner’s Office: View from Broadway and 5th Street

Though far more famous for its "new" Julia Morgan-designed building on the corner of Broadway and 11th Street ("new" circa 1914), the offices of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner (then just the Los Angeles Examiner) were originally located on the corner of Broadway and 5th, as seen in the 1908 photo on the left. The building was converted into lofts in the 1920s.

Angel’s Flight: View from Hill and 3rd Street

Los Angeles' currently closed but ever-beloved Angels' Flight funicular, which once delivered residents up and down from the top of then-tony Bunker Hill (R.I.P beautiful lost Victorian homes of Bunker Hill), was actually moved to its current location across from Grand Central Market in 1996, after having been housed in storage for some 27 years. The original Angels' Flight was located at Hill and 3rd, as seen in the 1907 photo on the left. It was demolished in 1969, along with much of historical Bunker Hill.

Warner Bros. Theatre: View from Hill and 7th Street

The nine-story Beaux Arts building is seen on the left in the second of its four functional incarnations (and the last of its theatrical uses) in a photo from 1942. The theater opened in 1920, closed in the 1970s, and briefly housed a Christian church before being converted into the Downtown Jewelery Exchange in the late '80s.

Plaza Fire House: View on N Los Angeles Street

The Old Plaza Fire House, as seen in an 1887 photo, was completed in 1884 and remained in business as a fire station until 1897. It was converted into a fire-fighting museum in 1960.

Related: Celebrate Los Angeles' 235th Birthday With This Interactive Timeline

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