Rediscovering Downtown L.A.'s Lost Neighborhood of Bunker Hill

USC Libraries

Rediscovering Downtown L.A.'s Lost Neighborhood of Bunker Hill

Among the charms of the monthly Downtown Art Walk is strolling through a rare historic L.A. neighborhood spared from the bulldozer. At this month's Art Walk, a new exhibition of photography from the George Mann Archives allows participants to discover a neighborhood to which fate and development have not been as kind: Bunker Hill.

Today's Bunker Hill -- an amalgam of commercial high rises, arts venues, other mega-projects -- is a product of a 1950s redevelopment scheme that cleared the historic neighborhood of all its structures, reconfigured its streets, and altered its topography. Some streets, like Clay Street and Bunker Hill Avenue, no longer exist. Others, like Olive Street, now rest several stories below where they once were. Except for the Angels Flight funicular and the odd leftover retaining wall, few physical traces of the original neighborhood remain.

But while the physicality of Bunker Hill has been erased, the city's architectural memories survive in libraries, official archives, and private collections. That record continues to inform scholarship about urban redevelopment and, through web-based historical research projects like On Bunker Hill, a public understanding of what the city lost when redevelopment claimed the hilltop community.

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