Every time I go around exploring Downtown LA, I learn a little bit more about the history of the city and its people. That happened on a much larger scale this past Saturday thanks to an extra credit field trip designed by my cultural geography professor. Along with fifteen other folks from my class, we spent almost seven hours walking all over Downtown and taking in the diversity that has helped to shape Los Angeles into what it is today.
The first stop was Union Station, the last great American rail station. No, really. If you google “what is the last of the great american rail stations,” Union Station pops up. Opened in May of 1939, the station originally housed the Santa Fe, Los Angeles and Salt Lake (Union Pacific), and Southern Pacific railroad companies. Today, there are various Amtrak, Metrolink, and Metro Rail lines that can take you all over the place.
Union Station’s look is a mix of moderne, art deco, and Spanish colonial, with the Spanish design really coming out in the tiled roof and the arches in the building’s exterior. Indoor, everything seems really glamorous and ornate, with wide spaces, marble and travertine floors, and corked walls that were installed to prevent echo. It really is reminiscent of old Hollywood.
There is a really interesting bit of history related to Asian-Americans that I am sure many of the people who walk the grounds rushing from one location to the next don’t notice. Outside, near the the fountain is a line marking the original border of Chinatown in 1887. Yes, Chinatown used to be where Union Station now stands, before its residents were given eviction notes and 45 days to move out so that the station could be built. Chinatown is now a few blocks away, but it makes you think about what may be some of the costs to development. Evicting certain communities, especially those that are in a lower socioeconomic bracket, for construction is still a practice that occurs today all over the world.
Anyway, this was only the start to this adventure. There’s quite a bit more from this field trip to talk about, so look forward to parts 2 (El Pueblo de Los Angeles, Olvera Street), 3 (Bradbury Building, Bridget Mason Memorial), 4 (Grand Central Market, Angels Flight), and 5 (Cathedral of Our Lady of Los Angeles, Chinatown).
DTLA Tour Series:
Part 1 – Union Station
Part 2 – El Pueblo de Los Angeles
Part 3 – Bradbury Building
Part 4 – Grand Central Market and Angels Flight
Part 5 – Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and Chinatown