Birds-Eye View of Los Angeles

Based on the finding aid, this monochrome map was collected by George Washington Hazard and Verne Dyson. It features the Downtown area of Los Angeles between 1880 and 1910. This map is off-scale and lacks direction and distance symbols. Also, only some streets are named on the map. Thus, the map was not created for the general public to navigate but for display purpose or one’s private use.

Birds-Eye View of Los Angeles, Hazard-Dyson Los Angeles photograph album (Collection 94/171). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

A map is a tool not just for navigation, but also for telling a story. More importantly, it conveys how the creator views and represents the world as well as the culture and people. Then, what story of the neighborhoods or communities does the “Birds-Eye View Map” document and retain across space and time?

This map depicts the Central Los Angeles region in a birds-eye view angle. Referring to Google Maps, some of the locations marked on the map still exist today. For instance, the Los Angeles River, “San Pedro St.”, “Court House St.” (now Court St.), “Third St.”, and “Fourth St.” Accordingly, the neighborhoods featured on the map would be Downtown and Echo Park. Within the birds-eye view projection, Downtown becomes the central focus of the map. Each neighborhood within the region has distinct architectural styles in drawing. Interestingly, the buildings in the Downtown area are more diverse and detailed comparing to those in other neighborhoods. These opinionated visual elements suggest that the dominant city culture of the 1900s Los Angeles was located around Downtown.

The map is captioned: “Birds-Eye View of Los Angeles.” Considering the map’s main focus of the Downtown area, how did Downtown represent Los Angeles during the 19th century? Also, what population (i.e. racial groups) was residing in Central Los Angeles at that time? Since the racial category of “Mexican” was only counted around 1930 (Hise 553; Los Angeles Almanac), it is difficult to trace back the racial demographic data in the late 1800s. The earliest racial demographic data of the Downtown area is recorded in 1960 on Social Explorer. Based on the U.S. Census data presented on Social Explorer, the Hispanic community has gradually moved to the surrounding neighborhoods of Downtown from 1960 to 2017.

Another similar change is that the Downtown area is getting more racially diverse today (data from US Census presented on Statistical Atlas). However, the reasons that caused the demographic change from the 19th century still remain unclear in the research.

Additional Information: Hise briefly mentioned California’s first redevelopment project that was “initiated to bring affluent Angelenos ‘downtown’” in the late 20th century (554). The Community Redevelopment Agency removed the “long-term, primarily, Latino residents from Chavez Ravine” in 1959.

According to Don Parson, the redevelopment of Bunker Hill and Chavez Ravine contributes to the construction of a modern Los Angeles (335). In this case, the modernization strategy is to remove the marginal low-income residents of color (Parson 336). Does the main focus of the Birds-Eye Los Angeles Map associate with the redevelopment project of the Downtown area? When the Latino population was deemed as a challenge to the “modernization” of Los Angeles, again, which neighborhoods or even which community gets to represent Los Angeles?

Works cited:

Hise, Greg. “Border City: Race and Social Distance in Los Angeles.” American Quarterly, vol. 56, no. 3, 2004, pp. 545–58. JSTOR.

“Historical Census Racial/Ethnic Numbers in Los Angeles County 1850 to 1980.” Los Angeles Almanac. © 1998–2017 Given Place Media, publishing as Los Angeles Almanac. Retrieved April 25, 2019.

Parson, Don. “‘This Modern Marve’: Bunker Hill, Chavez Ravine, and the Politics of Modernism in Los Angeles.” Southern California Quarterly, vol. 75, no. 3/4, 1993, pp. 333–50. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/41171684.

“Race and Ethnicity in Downtown, Los Angeles, California.” Statistical Atlas. Retrieved April 25, 2019. https://statisticalatlas.com/neighborhood/California/LosAngeles/

Downtown/Race-andEthnicity “Total Population, 1960 & 2017.” Map. Social Explorer. Social Explorer, n.d. April 25 2019.
(based on data from U.S. Census Bureau)