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A Visual History of Los Angeles

Birth of a City

October 06, 2005

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The 44 hearty settlers who founded the city were the first of many seeking new frontiers in Los Angeles. As the 225th anniversary of the city's founding approaches less than a year from now, the series that starts today will periodically look back at some key points and people in L.A. history.

1500 - Tongva Indian nation (Pop.: 300-500)

1542 - Spain claims land: Explorer Juan Cabrillo sails into the Bay of San Pedro and claims the area for the Spanish crown.

1781 - Founding of pueblo: Gov. Felipe de Neve recruits 44 pobladores, or settlers, who create a pueblo in a Tongva Indian area. Within five years, land grants lead to a few ranchos and a cattle industry. (City pop: 44)

1835 - City of Los Angeles: Elevated from a pueblo to a city, Los Angeles is designated the capital of Alta California, Mexico's northernmost region. Breakup of the missions expands the rancho system. By 1836, the population would grow to 2,228 and later would drop.

1850 -- Statehood: California becomes a state two years after the U.S. annexes Alta California. L.A.'s cattle business booms. Crime is rampant. (City pop: 1,610)

1930 -- Revival: A Mexican market-place opens as a tourist attraction on Olvera Street, to revive the rundown historic core. (City pop: 1,238,048)

2005 -- City pop. Est.: 3.95 million


A closer look at L.A.'s historical core through time

When a racially and ethnically diverse group from Mexico founded Los Angeles near the banks of the Porciuncula River, now the Los Angeles River, they built a town center that is still developing.


Gov. Neve used a typical Spanish colonial format to plan the Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles. Floods forced the plaza's move to higher ground in 1792, relocated in 1825 to present site.

After California becomes a state, Lt. E.O.C. Ord oversees a survey for the city's first map. Calle Principal becomes Main Street. The plaza is

fenced in.

The Merced Theatre and the Pico House hotel are added. A fountain replaces the reservoir. Downtown will move, leaving the plaza in decline. Most of Chinatown will be displaced by Union Station in 1933-1938.



Mexican-American Cultural Center

Fundraising is underway for the $71 million Plaza de Cultura y Artes community complex and memorial garden on county-owned land that includes the Vickrey-Brunswig and Plaza House buildings.

Pico House

Hotel built by Pio Pico, the area's last Mexican governor, on the Carrillo Adobe site he bought from Jose Antonio Carrillo, his brother-in-law.

Avila Adobe

The 1818 in-town house of the Rancho La Cienega owners was long billed as the city's oldest house. Heavily damaged by the 1971 Sylmar quake, it was rebuilt and opened as a museum in 1977.

Chinese American Museum

The museum is located in the original Chinatown, much of which was displaced by Union Station construction in the 1930s.

Olvera Street: Named after Agustin Olvera, L.A. County's first judge (1877)

Pelanconi House: Oldest brick house (now La Golondrina Cafe), 1855

Sepulveda House: Eastlake Victorian 1887

Biscailuz Bldg. (now Mexican Cultural Institute) 1926

Firehouse: City's first 1884

Garnier Bldg.: A vital Chinese center 1890


Sources: El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument; Los Angeles A to Z; El Pueblo, The Historic Heart of Los Angeles; U.S. Census Bureau; Chinese American Museum. Graphics reporting by Cheryl Brownstein-Santiago

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