Posts by sethrobertbabb

Plaza University trolley car of the Los Angeles Railway Company, showing two conductors posed in front, ca.1900-1910. Photo: Public Domain

Plaza University trolley car of the Los Angeles Railway Company, showing two conductors posed in front, ca.1900-1910. Photo: Public Domain

Photo by Seth Babb

Photo by Seth Babb

This week we’re taking a detour from the works of Ralph Cornell for a quick post about some unearthed light rail tracks I’ve long admired. A few years ago, while Vermont Avenue was being re-paved, I came upon the tracks of a long gone rail line that once ran across Vermont Ave until the late 1950s. It wasn’t anything grandiose or marked historical, but it’s appearance speaks to the many layers still there underneath every city.

Cities change over time, and identifying these layers is important to help us see the failures of the past. But these remnants also help to lay out future possibilities by providing an understanding of the present and the requirements of a city as it evolves. The Vermont rails and the counties wide system are now defunct pieces of Los Angeles history, but as Bruce Springsteen once wrote, “But maybe everything that dies someday comes back,” – an idea reflecting the possibility that our city’s past can be reborn as something relevant today.

Junction at Main Street, Spring Street, and 9th Street, Los Angeles, ca.1917. Photo: Public Domain

Junction at Main Street, Spring Street, and 9th Street, Los Angeles, ca.1917. Photo: Public Domain

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Photos by Seth Babb

A continuation of trips to the landscapes of Ralph Cornell takes us to Rancho Los Cerritos in Long Beach. Rancho Los Cerritos is already an interesting site due to its deep historical significance in Southern California; the changes that Rancho Los Cerritos has gone through are representative of the development of the region as a whole. What seems like a somewhat typical older Southern California residential landscape contains layers of history and subtle design, a surprisingly distinguishing site representing the work of Cornell throughout Southern California that illustrates his ability to elevate the landscape into an experience worthy of a historic site.

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All photos: Seth Babb

Installed in 1935, the Power of Water was originally installed as a working fountain (possibly in Lafayette Park). The woman at the top basin represents water, with different people at the base representing the toil and turmoil in the search for the elemental resource. But in time, the basins were eventually filled in with soil and planted, eventually falling into disrepair.

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The Power of Water no longer functions as a fountain, but it’s still a beautiful example of the Art Deco style that exemplifies the beauty of many WPA projects. Overall, the fountain is still in surprisingly good shape given its age and marginal location. The statue may be old, but its timely message still resonates today as Angelenos are still preoccupied with the search for water.

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