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Then and Now

This archival downtown vista (above), circa 1890, is across from old Belmont High. The house indicated by the arrow also appears in the photo below. The oil well in the foreground of the modern picture is an active pumper. The distant hill blanketed by oil derricks (above) is filled with homes and businesses now. The dip between the near and distant hills is Glendale Boulevard. The Belmont complex site (not pictured) is the next distant hill to the right.

Historical photo courtesy of Seaver Center; present-day Belmont photo by Slobodan Dimitrov

Mention of this photo in cover story.

Above: Belmont Learning Complex site, circa 1890: The exact location is the intersection of 1st Street and Edgeware Road looking north. Edgeware is the rutted dirt path heading up the hillside; 1st Street is the road it feeds into, that runs parallel to the bottom of the frame. This view shows one of the two portions of the Belmont site where the most oil drilling occurred. The future location of the main Belmont complex school buildings is one to two blocks to the right of the cow. Virtually none of the wells pictured here are listed in records of the state Division of Oil and Gas, which didn't form until 1915. But that's not unusual, as indicated by other archival photos of the 800-acre Los Angeles City Oil Field. Note: Just over the crest of this hill is Plasencia Elementary School, and neither the oil field nor the derricks stop at the top of the hill.

Below: A view of the same hill from the corner of 1st and Edgeware today. A portion of Edgeware has been obliterated by Belmont-related construction. The peaked-roof house just right of center is on Edgeware, which still reaches the crest of the hill from the other side. The Belmont school buildings are not visible because they are to the right of the scene pictured.

Historical photo courtesy of Seaver Center; present-day photo by Slobodan Dimitrov

Above: A view of 1st Street in Los Angeles, circa 1890. Our sleuths could not nail down the exact location.

Photo courtesy of Seaver Center

Mention of this photo in cover story.

This photo, circa 1890, is identified as the Sunset Park area. Sunset Park was later renamed LaFayette Park, which today abuts Wilshire Boulevard near MacArthur Park. The following is an example of how the citizenry dealt with a messy part of the L.A. City Oil Field in the 19th Century. Los Angeles was singularly lacking in parks until Father's administration as mayor. He was a strong believer in shady green spots as breathing places for the people. Westlake Park was merely an unsightly ravine, ugly with alkali cones. It was waste land, part of the old pueblo land grant. When surrounding land was auctioned off by the city at 50 cents an acre, just after the Civil War, nobody would have given 25 cents an acre for the ravine property. With his park superintendent, Louis le Grande, Father evolved the plan of filling the ravine with water, thus creating a lake and concealing the alkali cones. Good top soil, six to eight inches deep, was carted in and spread over the alkali land. Shrubbery, grass and flowers were planted. The park was named Westlake for the obvious reason that it was in the west part of town and that it possessed a lake. -- Boyle Workman in "The City That Grew" (1935)

(Note: The author's father, William Workman served as mayor of Los Angeles. According to a historian, the alkali cones were formed by petroleum deposits near the surface. Westlake Park later became MacArthur Park.)

Photo courtesy of the California History Section, California State Library

Union Avenue, within the L.A. City Oil Field, circa 1890. It's not clear exactly where this photo was taken. But according to records of the Division of Oil and Gas, Union Avenue Elementary School has 17 abandoned oil wells under its buildings and blacktop.

Photo courtesy of the California History Section, California State Library

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