Geography

Another great old map from Glen Creason of LAPL

wonder-city-map.jpg

Generally speaking, in my opinion there is way too much nostalgia and wallowing in Los Angeles history and lore by media and blogs here. It's easy to do if you don't care too much about digging deep or getting it right, and can distract from exploring more actually difficult under-reported stories, like politics or race relations or poverty. A pleasurable exception for me are the regular features for Los Angeles Magazine's website by Glen Creason, the curator of maps in the history department at the Central Library downtown. He has come up with another fun one: a 1932 map of the “Wonder City of America,” otherwise known as Los Angeles, by accomplished German-born cartographer K.M. Leuschner, who taught for a while at the Otis Art Institute and finished his career as an art teacher in the Los Angeles city schools.

"The Wonder City map might be his greatest legacy," writes Creason.

What makes the Wonder City map unique is the exhaustive assortment of details depicted in the metropolitan area—rubber factories, speedways, oil refineries, movie studios, religious institutions, restaurants, countless golf courses, and more. You can find old favorites like Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Hollywood Bowl, the Brown Derby Café, and the Philharmonic Auditorium. The Olympic Stadium (now the Memorial Coliseum) appears near the center of the map, but though this was the monumental year in which L.A. hosted the Games of the Tenth Olympiad, Leuschner does not dwell on the sporting venues....


The most intoxicating appeal of this map, though, is the mystery around places like the exclusive “Deauville Beach Club” and it’s neighbor, the “Crystal Pier Nude Sun Bath.” Some spots just beg for explanation, like the “Electric Fountain” at Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards in Beverly Hills. “Harry O’Day’s Monte Carlo Café,” the “Rollerdrome” in Culver City, and the “Yogoda-Sat Sanga, Hindu-American Temple” (which was founded by Paramahansa Yogananda) all bring their share of intrigue to the map. Rare listings of a couple Central Avenue hot spots also turn up, like “Topsy’s Night Club” and “Sebastian’s New Cotton Club.” The “Johanna Smith Pleasure Ship”—one of the gambling ships that operated outside the city’s three-mile no-gambling limit—even gets a mention.

I also like that the 20th Century Fox studios in what is now known as Century City was then referred to as the "Fox Studios at Westwood Hills." The VA property between Westwood and Brentwood was still known then as the "Soldiers Home," and adjoining it was a destination botanical garden of some sort. The town of Edendale is still on the map, as are the Grand Central Airport in Glendale and the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire. In those days, the Hollywood Reservoir was still known as the Mulholland Dam, the name not yet stricken in the aftermath of the St. Francis Dam collapse that killed hundreds and ruined the reputation of LA's famed water engineer and dam builder William Mulholland.


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