Bunker Hill Park

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Available Inspiration.

The key to creating a unique experience, a uniquely Los Angeles experience, at the park is to recognize that it is a unique place already. Its features have been removed but the history remains and explains so much about Los Angeles and Downtown.

At one time the dual bore tunnel portal under the hill at First and Hill Streets virtually symbolized the city and its very advanced public transportation system. Some familiar silent film sequences were filmed from the top of the tunnel taking advantage of the perspective.

Ansel Adams took a series of memorable images from the end of Court Street, at the top of Court Flight high above Broadway between First and Temple. The images show City Hall just beyond the old Hall of Records and Courthouse.

In the middle of what is now the Music Center plaza used to be the residential intersection of Court and North Bunker Hill Street. Small houses built in the 1880's probably. One corner held a small apartment building. The sort of place John Fante might have lived.

This history is all within the boundaries of the project. Each of these could generate an authentically Los Angeles experience with honest roots at its actual location.

Imagine a Court Flight recreation topping off at the Ansel Adams Memorial View Platform 85 feet in the air where visitors could compare the current city with the one Adams shot from the same spot in 1940.

Photo links to Los Angeles Public Library online photo collection.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Court Street .

There was a place, a street which lead along the crest of a hill. The street was lined with fine homes which overlooked the old parts of downtown. At the end of the street was a small parking lot and an apartment building which had stories running down the hill to Broadway down below. A small funny funicular ran up and down the hill next to the apartments. It was called Court Flight and from its top one could look out at city hall which, still, rose above your head beyond the buildings in the intervening block. If you looked left you would see where Broadway ran into a tunnel under another part of the hill just beyond the Hall of Justice. To your right were the enormous retaining walls built by Beaudry a generation before in the first round of hill removal.

Court Street now runs like a ghost high above the park and property we are contemplating. It represents a terrible mistake in city planning. A real place, grown from infancy in response to its situation was erased in favor of a fantasy of efficiency and worldliness.

The hill was razed, completely removed. A neighborhood became a cypher and downtown entered into a dark ages which it is only now emerging from. I don't mean to suggest cause and effect, only that removing the hill was symptomatic of a lack of faith in downtown. We have come to disagree in the meantime.