A Pacific Electric “Hollywood” Streetcar travels down placid and empty Chandler Boulevard sometime in the 1940s. This mode of transport was removed in the early 1950s as the private car took over Los Angeles.
(Alan Weeks Collection)
Photographer Robert T McVay captured a fan trip with Pacific Electric no. 1036 on March 23, 1947, at this stop at Barham Boulevard at the Hollywood Freeway. Pacific Electric no. 662 seems to be on regular service and is just passing through the scene.
Robert T. McVay Photo, Norm Suydam Collection
Courtesy of the Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society
Among the many changes Van Nuys has undergone in the last 60 years, two stand out in this old photograph.
Diagonal curb parking and the Pacific Electric Rail helped ground the street and divide it into manageable, smaller, more walkable and more friendly parts.
In 1954, the street was widened, and the streetcar eliminated. North Hollywood’s Valley Plaza (1951) helped hasten the decline of the small business shopping street, and thus, the decline of Van Nuys Boulevard as a clean, pleasant, prosperous destination.
The late 1950s saw the demolition of many blocks of old Van Nuys to make way for the civic center, a misguided urban renewal project that put the LAPD hundreds of feet behind Van Nuys Boulevard and created a dead zone behind the Valley Municipal Center. A new library in this moonscape replaced the older, more elegant one on Sylvan which still stands today.
And cobra necked anti-crime streetlights disfigure Van Nuys Boulevard and give it an air of a malingering, dated, 1960s speedway.
The old Los Angeles, the city of streetcars, steel signs, orange trucks, red cars, brick buildings, men in hats, ladies in skirts and high heels; the city of overhead wires, decorative lampposts, cops and conductors, kids on bikes, corner drugstores, ice cream parlors, neighborhood movie theaters; they are all alive and bustling and visible on the pages of the Pacific Electric Railway Society.
The dismantling and destruction of public transportation and the elevation of the automobile to the status of a deity has destroyed the richness and civility that once characterized the City of Angels.
Go visit the page, make a contribution, and gain some understanding of what we lost and what we might try to rebuild as we again go back to trains.
In the words of the organization:
“It is a non-profit association dedicated to the preservation of the memory of the Pacific Electric Railway. The goals of the PERyHS are: to preserve and maintain historical documents, visual images, oral histories, and historical studies; to make these materials available to the general public via publications (monographs), presentations and displays to non-profit groups and organizations and to assist other non-profit organizations in their efforts to preserve the legacy of the Pacific Electric Railway.”