Hollywood versus the freeway that carries its name

cahuenga_valley_parkway_postcard.jpgThe early Cahuenga Pass Freeway, before the Hollywood Freeway.

Building the freeways through postwar Los Angeles was a hugely disruptive process that bludgeoned through long-standing neighborhoods, cleaved communities with a huge obstruction and forced thousands of Angelenos out of their homes. There has never been anything like it happen to the city since. Perhaps none of the first freeways were as painful to build as the Hollywood Freeway, which began life as the Cahuenga Pass Parkway, a divided expressway into the pass linking Hollywood with the San Fernando Valley. On the KCET website, Lost LA historian Nathan Masters has collected old photos of the carnage from the collections of the USC library (his employer) and the Los Angeles Public Library and retold the story of what the Hollywood Freeway wrought.

Excerpt of Hollywood Versus the Freeway.

As early as 1940, the Hollywood Anti-Parkway League denounced the Cahuenga Pass Parkway, then under construction, as “un-American.” Later, as planners moved to extend the parkway toward downtown, opposition became even louder. Movie stars worried about their Whitley Heights homes. Merchants fretted about a sweeping concrete viaduct over Franklin Avenue. The Hollywood Bowl Association feared noise pollution. Some critics suggested that the city build a rapid transit line instead. Most supported the general idea of a freeway but disagreed with its routing.

Ultimately, the state relented to local opposition and struck compromises with the mostly white, middle-class, and politically powerful Hollywood community. Construction claimed several historic structures, including Charlie Chaplin's and Rudolph Valentino’s former homes in Whitley Heights, but the state planted extensive landscaping near the Hollywood Bowl to dampen traffic noise, and highway engineers bent the freeway around local landmarks like the First Presbyterian Church, the Hollywood Tower apartments, and KTTV’s newly constructed television studio.

The more ethnically diverse and working-class communities southwest of Hollywood – as in Boyle Heights and East Lost Angeles, where seven superhighways were built over local objections – were not as lucky. There, the freeway took a more direct route. It bisected Echo Park, severing the recreational lake from its adjacent playgrounds. It carved a canyon through downtown, obliterating historic Fort Moore Hill and its 1873 high school building. And where it met the Arroyo Seco Parkway rose the Four-Level Interchange, a colossal structure that displaced some 4,000 people.

Go check it out. Nathan selected a great photographic record and this map of an pre-freeway 1939 plan for parkways to take some of LA's already horrible traffic off neighborhood streets and boulevards.


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