Los Angeles – Southern California photos: pre-1900s

Posted on Posted in pre-1900

Los Angeles. Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1857, by Kuchel & Dresel, in the Clerk’s Office of the U.S. District Court for Northern District of Cal.


Early Los Angeles dtla

Los Angeles as it appeared in Vol. 5 of the quarto edition of the Pacific Railroad Reports in 1855.


Los Angeles City Hall and Jail 1860

The Los Angeles City Hall and Jail, circa 1860. Located directly across the street from today’s City Hall.

On January 20, 1868, former two-time Los Angeles mayor Damien Marchessault, who was serving as the Water Seer of Los Angeles at the time, committed suicide by shooting himself with a pistol in his mouth inside one of the adobe council chambers around 7:00 AM.

He left the following note to his wife:

My Dear Mary: – By my drinking to excess, and gambling also, I have involved myself to the amount of about three thousand dollars which I have borrowed from time to time from friends and acquaintances. Under the promise to return the same the following day, which I have often failed to do. To such and extend have I gone in this way that I am now ashamed to meet my fellow man on the street; besides that, I have deeply wronged you as a husband, by spending my money instead of maintaining you as it become a husband to do. Though you have near complained of my miserable conduct, you nevertheless have suffered too much. I therefore, to save you from farther disgrace and trouble, being that I cannot maintain you respectably, I shall end this state of thing this very morning. Of course, in all this, there is no blame-attached, contrary you have asked me to permit you to earn money honestly by teaching and I refused. You have always been true to me.

If I write these few lines, it is to set you a night before this wicked world, to keep slander from blaming you in way manner whatever. Now, my dear beloved, I hope that you will pardon me, and also Mr. Sainsevain [his business partner who, along with Marchessault, had installed faulty wooden sewer pipes under Los Angeles, which had caused many sinkholes, additional business debt and political enemies]. It is time to part, God bless you, and may you be happy yet, your husband Damien Marchesseault.

Marchessault has a plaque in his honor at the El Pueblo De Los Angeles.


Plaza Church 1870

The Los Angeles Plaza Church, circa 1870. The famous church is sometimes called the Church of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels. But its official name is the La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles.  Its address is 535 N Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.



Lafayette Hotel - Los Angeles (Bizarre Los Angeles)The intersection of Los Angeles Street, Arcadia Street and Aliso Street. (USC Libraries – California Historical Society Collection).



Los Angeles



Sonora Town Broadway Street Los Angeles 1871

Sonora Town in 1871. Photo taken from on top of Fort Hill. The main street below was Buena Vista back then. Today it is N. Broadway Street.


A view of the Plaza with the Los Angeles Plaza Church in the background, circa 1870s.


Pacific Hotel 1880

The Pacific Hotel, circa 1880. What I find most interesting is the name of its proprietor, W.N. Monroe, and its close proximity to the railroad. The name is most likely William Norton Monroe, a Southern Pacific railroad executive, and one-time Los Angeles city councilman, who founded Monrovia, California, in 1886.


Los Angeles Herald

A newspaper advertisement found in the Los Angeles Herald, July 7, 1880.


An Exterminator Exterminated

LOS ANGELES TIMES – (December 29, 1881) A Mexican, O. Seliger, got drunk and started in to clean out all the priests in the city, day before yesterday, in front of the Plaza Chruch. A large crowd congregated to witness the extermination, but an officer put an end to the battle and yanked the poor fellow. He was tried yesterday in the criminal court, and got twenty days in the city jail for his little sport.


The only “O. Seliger” I could find in Los Angeles in the 1880s and 1890s was Oswald E. Seliger, and he wasn’t a Mexican. He was Prussian. He was also a former Infantryman turned music teacher.



Pico House 1880sA view of the Pico House and the El Pueblo de Los Angeles (also known as Sonora Town and the Plaza) in the 1880s.

Purchase your Fine Art America Print, Coffee Mug, T-Shirt, etc. of this image by pressing here!



Victorian home Los Angeles 1880s

A Victorian home in Los Angeles, circa 1880s.


This is supposed to be the original South Park Elementary School near the corner of Manchester and Avalon in Los Angeles sometime in the 1880s. Around this time, I was told that it was called the Green Meadows School.

This is supposed to be the original South Park Elementary School near the corner of Manchester and Avalon in Los Angeles sometime in the 1880s. Around this time, I was told that it was called the Green Meadows School.


Temple Block
The Temple Block in downtown Los Angeles, circa 1880s.


Temple Block Main Street

The same view, c.1882. On the right is Bright’s Cheap Store.


Olive Street dtla 1880s

Olive Street in the 1880s, looking south between 4th and 5th Streets. In the middle of the photo is 6th Street Park, which would later become Central Park before becoming Pershing Square. (LAPL 00044324)


Second Street

Second Street, east of Spring Street, in 1886. The old courthouse is to the right. (LAPL 00046374)


Los Angeles Times Building 1886The original Los Angeles Times building at the corner of First and Broadway Streets shortly after its construction in 1886.


890s Los Angeles California Garden City Foto Bicycle Horse & Buggy Beard Photo

A photo (possibly from the late 1880s or 1890s) taken in either Los Angeles or Pasadena.


Southern California Surveyors

Southern California surveyors, c. 1889.

Photographer: Carleton Watkins.


Spring Street Los Angeles 1888

Looking north on Spring Street from First Street, c. 1890.


The home of Mary E. Taft, the first building constructed on the corner of Fifth and Hill Street before it became a financial district. Photo was believed to have been taken in 1890. (USC Digital Archive) Bizarre Los Angele

The home of Mary E. Taft, the first building constructed on the corner of Fifth and Hill Street before it became a financial district. Photo was believed to have been taken in 1890. (USC Digital Archive)


Columbus Day Spring and Second 1892

Columbus Day Parade held on October 26, 1892. Photo taken at the Spring and Second Street intersection.


Bike Race 1893 Agricultural Park

In 1893, teams ready themselves for a 25-mile bicycle race at Agricultural Park, aka Exposition Park.

Photographer: Charles Betts Waite / LAPL 00054220)


Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles, facing south between Broadway and Spring streets, circa 1894.


Broadway Spring 1894

A second view.

Pico Western Los Angeles Times Bicycle Club Run 1895

In 1895, the Los Angeles Times sponsored a Bicycle Club Run. In this photo, bicyclists are peddling west along Pico Blvd. near Western Ave. (USC Library)


Pico and Alvarado

The Mark C. Jones tract, now the corner of Alvarado and Pico Blvd. Photo was taken in 1895. (LAPL 00033988)


Madame Begon's store at the northwest corner of Ord and North Broadway, circa 1895. (Huntington Library)

Madame Begon’s store at the northwest corner of Ord and North Broadway, circa 1895. (Huntington Library)

Madame Begon may have been Marie Begon, a well-to-do property owner, who had passed away in 1894. Her death caused quite a mystery back then. According to the Los Angeles Times dated September 5, 1896:

“Mrs. Begon was a miser during her lifetime, and was surprised by Jeanne Gentit and her brother [Begon’s direct heirs] coming into the room and discovering a chair full of gold in front of her (Jeanne’s grandmother;) Mrs. Begon now informed the young people that there was $16,000 in the golden heap. At a little later time, the aged Frenchwoman died, but the money could not be found, and its whereabouts is a mystery to this day.”

The Los Angeles Herald later reported that relatives had ripped up Begon’s mattress looking for the hidden money, but only found $42.



Photo taken circa 1895. Notice the bakery sign next door?


dapper gentlemen dtla 1890s

A league of dapper gentlemen pose for a photo in downtown Los Angeles, in the 1890s. The group likely participated in a parade.

Photographer: Sampson H. Butterfield


Altadena 1895

In 1895, Altadena was a giant poppy field with flowers so colorful that sailors could see them from the coast. Some sailors even claimed that the poppy fields helped them navigate.

Photo taken around the area where Woodbury Road intersects with Lake Avenue. (LAPL: 00048787)


Broadway 1890

Broadway Street in the 1890s.


La Fiesta de Los Angeles Parade 1896. Bizarre Los Angeles

On April 25, 1896, the Merry Maskers participated in the La Fiesta de Los Angeles Parade by honoring the arrival of the La Fiesta Queen.

Approximately 30 men dressed as Pierrot clowns made their way along the parade route (near what is now Pershing Square). The clowns yelled, blew whistles, and occasionally entered participating stores. The clowns then grabbed packages on trays that were set aside as “Her Majesty’s Plunder.”

As part of the parade, a man dressed as Mephisto (also called His Satanic Majesty) presided over the “Pen,” or cage. Mephisto, dressed in a red costume, stood on a platform and bowed to the female spectators. Many of these females threw flowers at him, and Mephisto who would toss these flowers into the cage.

Occasionally, Mephisto called for his imps to grab a parade bystander and place him/her inside the pen. The imps then hung a placard around the bystander’s neck, listing a bogus criminal offence. If a bystander was unwilling to enter the cage, the “Imps” used a sawdust stuffed dummy instead.

During the actual parade, the Merry Maskers trailed the Mephisto cage.

Photo taken at the intersection of 5th and Hill Streets, facing east from Hill. The man lifting his mask appears to be businessman John G. Francis, president of the 1896 La Fiesta de Los Angeles parade. He was also the leader of the Merry Maskers.

Photo: USC


Washington Ave bicycle path 1896

Looking west at Washington Boulevard and 3rd Avenue in 1896. (LAPL 00068460)


Sixth Street Park Los Angeles 1888Sixth-street Park, now Pershing Square, in 1888. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is in the background.

History of Pershing Square

Back in the 1850s, settlers camped on an undeveloped parcel of land near Los Angeles’s original Spanish plaza. As Los Angeles grew, city officials in 1866 designated five acres of the former campground into a park. Because it bordered St. Vincent’s college at the time, Angelenos briefly called it St. Vincent’s Park.  Its name changed to Sixth-street Park in 1876, after the park had been significantly landscaped. In 1918, the park officially became Pershing Square.


Fourth and Spring Streets Los Angeles 1898

Looking east on Fourth Street in 1898. The Van Nuys Hotel [center], built in 1896, is at the corner of Fourth and Main. You might recognize it today as the Hotel Barclay.

Found this nifty little old film to go along with the picture:


Avenue of the palms early Los Angeles 1898

“Avenue of Palms,” circa 1898. It was also known as General Longstreet’s Palms. The location was near Adams and Figueroa.


La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles


The church in 1899.  Photographer: William Henry Jackson.




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