From the USC Digital Archives comes these stunning aerial photos over Panorama City and the large General Motors Plant. The top on is from 1949. And then one taken four years later on January 13, 1953 showing the rapid growth of the area.
Some 15,000 new homes were built in 1953, and some 30,000 new structures added. The vast agricultural landscape was transformed into a suburban, single-family section of Los Angeles, peopled by young families with children.
The map shows that the streets, 61 years later, are still the same. The vast GM Plant closed in 1992 and is now occupied by “The Plant” shopping mall. Panorama City still teems with new arrivals.
83-years-ago, the San Fernando Valley was an all together different place than today.
Rural and urban, it was dotted with Spanish style gas stations, grocery stores, small houses; orange and walnut groves, neatly designed and well-kept businesses, with swept curbs and gracefully articulated architecture. Store signs were designed to fit into architecture and each letter and every proportion was sensitive to the greater architectural whole.
Photographer Dick Whittington worked this region back then, and his images are kept, for posterity, in the archives of USC.
Heartbreaking it is to see what has become of the corner of Lankershim and Victory today, a grotesque piling together of cheap plastic sprawl and indifferent commerce, junk food and junk culture. Even without looking, people know the location Lankershim and Victory is synonymous with ugly. Guns, crime, speeding, littering, illegal everything…that is what it is today.
What started out with great promise, California, is now ready for the apocalypse.
I have often passed this apartment at 4419 Fulton, north of Moorpark, and noticed its unique and graphic address sign. While searching through the archives of photographer Maynard Parker (1900-1976) housed at the Huntington, I came across photos he made in 1963.
Masculine and modern, the squat and flattened lettering, ingeniously aligned with the low slung horizontality of the building, is as much architecture as the architecture itself. Almost cartoonish and leading into pop-art, it leaves behind the decorative scrolling that marked 1950s apartments whose builders slapped their daughter’s names on building fronts (“Debby Ann”, “Stacy Lynn”) or borrowed from faraway places (Tahiti, Hawaii or Fiji). The indoor entrance, private and serene, concrete slabs floating across water, marries Japan to Southern California.
If this building is not on a historic preservation list- it should be.
Title:Fulton Terrace Apartments. Exterior. Los Angeles, CA
“Photograph of a huge pepper tree, Lankershim Boulevard and Victory Boulevard, Van Nuys, July 1928. A man in a suit stands at right looking up at the short, wide tree. The tree reaches over the dusty, weed-spotted yard at center where a pile of wood sits at left and a covered automobile sits parked at right. Several buildings stand along the street that extends down the far left into the background. Houses stand under electrical poles and trees in the right background.”- USC Digital Archives
Huge pepper tree, Lankershim Boulevard and Victory Boulevard, Van Nuys, July 1928
Here is a great old photograph of Van Nuys Blvd at Friar St. in 1950.
In 1950, there was still diagonal parking along the boulevard, an arrangement that helped to create a sense of enclosure and neighborliness. Some of the signs along the street were Whelan Drugs, Van Nuys Stationery Store and Bill Kemp Sportswear for Men. On the left side of the photo: a See’s Candies and other small retailers whose facades have been modernized behind flat slabs.
This bustling scene was already on the way out as regional shopping centers, such as Valley Plaza (1951), made their way into the San Fernando Valley and lured customers with lots of parking and giant stores.
While the massive migration of illegal immigration has certainly changed Van Nuys, the post-war decisions of Los Angeles, her government, her people and her power brokers, to widen streets and remove streetcars, to build freeways not trains, and to develop every last square inch of orange grove and meadow, these are the true killers that robbed us of our historic inheritance.
Life was more civilized back then and we can only look back in awe.
This photograph is offered for sale at DECOR ART GALLERIES 12149 Ventura Blvd. Studio City, CA 91604 (818) 755-0755