History of Los Angeles

History of Los Angeles

In 1765 King Carlos III of Spain sent José de Gálvez to New Spain with orders to organize the settlement of Alta California. Inspector General Gálvez recruited Gaspar de Portolà and Junipero Serra in what became known as the "Sacred Expedition". It was decided that three ships, the San Carlos, the San Antonio, and the San José, should sail to San Diego Bay. It was also agreed to send two parties to make an overland journey from the Baja to Alta California.

The first ship, the San Carlos, sailed from La Paz on 10th January, 1769. The other two ships left on 15th February. The first overland party, led by Fernando Rivera y Moncada, left from the Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá on 24th March. With him was Father Juan Crespi, who had been given the task of recording details of the trip. The expedition led by Portolà, which included Father Serra, set off on 15th May.

Moncada reached San Diego in May. He built a camp and waited for the others to arrive. The San Antonio, reached its destination in fifty-four days. The San Carlos took twice that time and the San José was lost with all aboard. The second overland party arrived on 1st July. Out of a total of two hundred and nineteen men who left Baja California, just over a hundred survived the journey. Some of these were to die while the San Antonio sailed back to La Paz for supplies and reinforcements.

Gaspar de Portolà and his expedition, consisting of Father Juan Crespi, and sixty-three soldiers and a hundred mules loaded down with provisions, headed north on 14th July, 1769. They reached the site of present day Los Angeles on 2nd August. Two years later, Father Junipero Serra sent two priests to establish a community on the banks of the Santa Ana River. The local Shoshonean tribe were very hostile and the project was abandoned.

In 1777 Antonio María de Bucareli transferred Fernando Rivera Moncada to Loreto in California as lieutenant governor. He was replaced by Felipe de Neve as governor of Monterey. At Neve’s request, Teodoro de Croix, Captain General of the Interior Provinces ordered Rivera, to recruit soldiers and settlers for the founding of Los Angeles. In 1781 they established El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles de Porciuncula (the town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula).

Los Angeles eventually became the capital of the Spanish colonial province of Alta California but in 1846 was captured by United States forces during the Mexican War. The arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1876 and the discovery of oil in the 1890s stimulated economic growth in the area. The development of the motion-picture industry in the early 20th century also helped the city to expand rapidly.

During the Second World War Los Angeles became involved in producing war supplies and munitions. This created a great deal of migration to the area. In the 1970s and 1980s Los Angeles experienced dramatic growth through immigration. This included a very large Hispanic population. Other immigrants came from China, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines. By 1990 Los Angeles had a population of 3,485,398, making it the second largest city in the United States.

The centre of Hollywood is vulgar and characterless, and only a little less sordid than the centre of Los Angeles. Here I was shown the worst part, which is really incredibly awful. Bad patches can be found in any big city, but none of the same extent as this, even if of the same depravity.


Gardena is incorporated as a city. The U.S. Census records 1,238,048 people in the City of Los Angeles and 2,208,492 people for all Los Angeles County. Snow blankets Los Angeles. The Greek Theater opens in Griffith Park. Olvera Street opens to the public after a successful rebuilding and renovation campaign led by Mrs. Christine Sterling. The street is named after Augustin Olvera, Los Angeles’ first county judge. Mines Field (present-day Los Angeles International Airport, LAX) is dedicated and opens as the airport for Los Angeles. Major airline traffic, however, continues operating at United Airport in Burbank (present-day Hollywood Burbank Airport) and Grand Central Airport in Glendale. Los Angeles voters agree to spend $12 million in bonds to buy out most of the town properties in Big Pine and Bishop in the Owens Valley, thus ending the Owens Valley water wars. Pilot Laura Ingalls lands in Glendale to become the first woman to fly solo across the United States.

Postcard showing Olvera Street, Los Angeles, circa 1930-1945. Courtesy of the Tichnor Brothers collection at Boston Public Library & Wikimedia Commons.

The Los Angeles city flag is adopted by ordinance. Aggressive mass round-ups and "repatriations" (deportations) of 12,600 Mexican residents in Los Angeles County begin at La Placita in Olvera Street. Los Angeles County deputies and Federal officers spread out throughout East Los Angeles to stop and detain persons and call people out to surrender to authorities. Although most deportees are immigrants earlier recruited to work in the U.S. or refugees from the Mexican Revolution some decades before, a number are actually American citizens.


Mexican deportees at Central Station in Los Angeles bound for Mexico, 1932. Courtesy of the Herald-Examiner Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.

The Tenth Olympic Games opens in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was enlarged to seat 105,000 spectators. Construction of the Colorado River Aqueduct begins. Amelia Earhart Putnam takes off from Los Angeles to make the first solo nonstop transcontinental flight across the United States by a woman. Her flight ends in Newark, New Jersey.


Opening ceremonies of the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Courtesy of the Organizing Committee of the Games of the Xth Olympiad & Library of Congress.

The Los Angeles Sentinel, an African American newspaper, is first published. The 6.4-magnitude Long Beach Earthquake leaves 120 people dead and $50 million in damage. The Mineral Wells Canyon fire claims the lives of 36 men fighting the fire. Los Angeles County General Hospital opens. The Spring Street Newsboys' Gym opened and later become known as the Main Street Gym. This facility became the premier training ground for Los Angeles boxers until the owner's death in the 1970s.


Earthquake damage in Long Beach from the 1933 Earthquake. Contributed by the Griffin Family, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Oklahoma dustbowl refugees in San Fernando, 1935. Photo by Dorothea Lange, courtesy of the Farm Security Administration & Office of War Information & Library of Congress.

Floodwaters in the La Crescenta Valley and Montrose Territory take at least 45 lives. The Los Angeles Police Department begins using radio equipment. The Santa Anita Park Race Track opens. Writer and social activist Upton Sinclair begins his unsuccessful run for the governor’s seat. The tactics used by his opposition marks this campaign as California’s first "dirty" political campaign. The Farmers Market opens. Construction on Parker Dam begins. The Pico Drive-In Theater opens at Pico and Westwood Boulevards. It is the first drive-in theater in California and the fourth in the nation.


Fairfax Farmer's Market produce display. Los Angeles Almanac Photo.

Griffith Observatory is completed under a bequest left by Colonel Griffith J. Griffith in 1919. By invitation of the Mexican government, Amelia Earhart Putnam takes off from Los Angeles to become the first person to fly solo from Los Angeles to Mexico City. The Douglas Aircraft Company rolls out the first DC-3 aircraft.


Present-day Griffith Observatory, constructed from 1933-1935. Photo by David Bransby, Office of War Information, courtesy of Library of Congress.

Los Angeles sends 130 city police officers to the California-Nevada state line in an attempt to stem the flow of unemployed Los Angeles-bound hitchhikers. Electricity from Boulder Dam reaches Los Angeles.


Transients directed away from Los Angeles County by police. Photo by Dorothea Lange, courtesy of the Farm Security Administration & Office of War Information & Library of Congress.

The home of Clifford Clinton, a crusading reformer and Los Angeles cafeteria owner, is bombed in an attempt to halt his inquiries into corruption in City Hall and police department. The City of Los Angeles purchases Mines Field to be its official municipal airfield. Nevertheless, major airline traffic continues operating from the airports in Burbank (Union Air Terminal or present-day Hollywood Burbank Airport) and Glendale (Grand Central Airport). At the height of a statewide rabies epidemic, Los Angeles County establishes a Pound Department, created in direct response to 1,700 rabies cases reported in the county during the year. AFter struggling to succeed in film backlot jobs in Hollywood and running a movie theater in Glendora, Dick and Mac McDonald open an octogonal-shaped food stand in Monrovia named the "Airdrome." They would move the structure three years later 40 miles to San Bernardino and launch their first version of a "McDonald's" eatery.


Concrete Channel of the Los Angeles River. Courtesy of the Historic American Engineering Record & Library of Congress.

Palos Verdes Estates is incorporated as a city. Union Station opens. Upton Sinclair runs for governor on the EPIC (End Poverty in California) platform. The media turns against him, leading to his defeat. Nathanael West publishes his novel Day of the Locust, a pessimistic look at Los Angeles. Raymond Chandler publishes the first of his detective novels set in Los Angeles, The Big Sleep.


Rail passengers at Union Station, 1944. Courtesy of the Historic American Buildings Survey & Library of Congress.

The U.S. Census records 1,504,277 people in the City of Los Angeles and 2,785,643 people for all Los Angeles County. A six-mile stretch of the Arroyo Seco Parkway (Pasadena Freeway) is opened, becoming the first freeway in the western United States. Mexican Americans become the largest ethnic minority group in Los Angeles. Los Angeles becomes the largest commercial fishing port in the nation. The Sepulveda Flood Basin and Dam is completed.


Arroyo Seco Parkway (Pasadena Freeway 110), 1940. Courtesy of the California Department of Transportation.

The Los Angeles River overflows and causes floods. The Colorado River Aqueduct is completed and would become the single largest source of water for the Los Angeles area. A Los Angeles City ordinance changes the name of Mines Field to Los Angeles Airport. Hansen Dam is completed.


California Aqueduct. Photo by Jet Lowe & Historic American Engineering Survery, courtesy of Library of Congress.

Producing P38 fighter aircraft in a Burbank aircraft plant, 1942. Photo by David Bransby, Office of War Information, courtesy of Library of Congress.

The Los Angeles River overflows and causes floods. President Franklin Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066 requiring the movement of over 100,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps. There they remain until January 20, 1945. In the early morning hours of February 25th, U.S. Army anti-aircraft guns fire nearly 1,500 rounds into the skies over Los Angeles at "enemy aircraft." Evidence of the appearance of any such aircraft is never found. Japanese American employees of the Los Angeles Police Department are removed from their jobs and sent to the internment camps. A Mexican American youth, Jose Diaz, is found murdered in a deep swimming hole named Sleepy Lagoon. Police declare war on Mexican American gangs by arresting hundreds of Mexican American youths. Seventeen of the youths are convicted of the murder on scant evidence. The Appellate Court later reverses the convictions and the original trial judge and prosecutor are severely reprimanded. A federal program brings Mexican agricultural laborers - braceros - into Los Angeles to make up for labor shortages.


Japanese American women and children being removed from Los Angeles Harbor, 1942. Photo by U.S. War Relocation Authority, courtesy of Library of Congress.

The Los Angeles River overflows and causes floods. Several days of one-sided rioting erupts as hundreds of military men descend upon East Los Angeles to assault Mexican Americans dressed in "Zoot suits". Police respond by arresting the Mexican American victims. The rioting ends when military commanders confine their personnel to base. The Los Angeles City government, in an unapologetic mood, proceeds to outlaw the wearing of "zoot suits." Los Angeles experiences its first smog attack (July 26).

The Los Angeles River overflows and causes floods. Harry Chandler, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, dies. His son Norman assumes control of the publishing empire. The San Bernardino Freeway (10) opens.


An eight-month strike by a major film studio workers union polarizes the Hollywood community. Strike tensions lead to a violent riot at Warner Brothers Studio gates in Burbank. Preacher Aimee Semple McPherson dies from a sleeping pill overdose.


Aerial view of Los Angeles City Hall looking south, 1945. Courtesy of Airscapes, War Department & the National Archives.


History of Los Angeles - History

Opening Ceremony for the 1984 Summer Olympics at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum | Photo: IOC

1984 - Los Angeles becomes the only U.S. city to host the Summer Olympic Games twice.
1984 - Los Angeles becomes the first city in America with two telephone area codes, as the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys are designated as 818.
1984 - A new international terminal opens at LAX, named for Mayor Tom Bradley. Today, some 30 airlines operate out of this terminal.

1984 - The Mazda Miata is designed in Los Angeles. In addition to Mazda, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo and the "Big Three" U.S. automobile manufacturers all have design centers in LA.
1984 - The San Diego Clippers move to LA.

1986 - Running on Olympic fever, the first City of Los Angeles Marathon takes place. It is the largest first-time marathon, at nearly 11,000 people.

1987 - Pope John Paul II visits Los Angeles. His activities include meeting with communications industry leaders and celebrating two outdoor masses.

1987 - James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia is published, the first of his series of Los Angeles novels, which also includes L.A. Confidential.

Kirk Gibson circles the bases after his legendary home run&nbsp| Photo: Los Angeles Dodgers

1988 - Dodgers outfielder Kirk Gibson hits his legendary World Series home run, widely considered the greatest sports moment in L.A. history.
1988 - The Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum opens.

1990 - Nelson Mandela visits Los Angeles as part of a historic 12-day, 8-city tour of the U.S. Mandela stays at the Millennium Biltmore and addresses a crowd of 70,000 at the Coliseum: "We could not have left the United States without visiting the city which daily nourished the dreams of millions of people the world over."
1990 - US Bank Tower opens. At 73 stories, it would be the tallest building on the West Coast for nearly three decades.
1990 - The Hammer Museum opens in Westwood.

1990 - When the Metro Blue Line connects Downtown to Long Beach, light-rail for commuters returns to the Los Angeles area.

1991 - Lakers star Magic Johnson retires, announcing that he is HIV-positive, giving HIV/AIDS a new platform and making it clear that this disease can affect anyone.

1991 - The 310 area code comes into use for western, southern and eastern Los Angeles.

1992 - Esa-Pekka Salonen takes the baton as conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

1992 - Opening of the Japanese-American National Museum in Little Tokyo, the only museum in the United States telling the story of Japanese Americans.

1992 - Jay Leno takes over as host of The Tonight Show. "Jaywalking" begins.

1993 - The Museum of Tolerance opens in West LA. Although focused on the Nazi Holocaust, it also examines general issues of tolerance and racism.

Steve McQueen's 1956 Jaguar XKSS at the Petersen Automotive Museum | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

1994 - The Petersen Automotive Museum, one of the world's largest automotive museums, opens on Museum Row at the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire. The museum now spans 100,000 square feet of exhibits, 25 galleries, and over 300 vehicles in its collection.

1994 - The eyes of the world are focused on L.A. as football great O.J. Simpson is arrested for the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman, following a spectacular slow-speed car chase. “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” soon enters the American lexicon.

1994 - The FIFA World Cup is held at venues throughout the United States. Brazil beat Italy 3-2 on penalties in the final match at Rose Bowl Stadium.

Statue of Liberty exhibit at Skirball Cultural Center | Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

1996 - The Skirball Cultural Center opens in Brentwood as a museum of Jewish history and culture.
1996 - The first Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is held. Today more than 150,000 attend the weekend event, making it the largest festival of its kind in the country.
1996 - LA Galaxy begins play as one of eight charter members of Major League Soccer.
1996 - The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) is founded in Long Beach and serves the greater Los Angeles area. MOLAA is the only museum in the United States dedicated to modern and contemporary Latin American and Latino art.

Views of the Central Garden and Pacific Ocean at the Getty Center | Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

1997 - Perched on a hilltop above Brentwood, Getty Center opens with views of the entire Los Angeles Basin. Pritzker Prize-winning architect Richard Meier designed the buildings with a façade of travertine marble - the Central Garden by Robert Irwin draws equal praise.

1998 - Hey man, The Big Lebowski is released and Jeff Bridges' The Dude becomes a pop culture icon.
1998 - The area surrounding the Downtown LA core is given the area code 323.

STAPLES Center | Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

1999 - STAPLES Center opens, the new home for pro basketball and hockey teams and the beginning of a renaissance in Downtown Los Angeles.

1999 - The United States beats China in the FIFA Women's World Cup Final at Rose Bowl Stadium. Brandi Chastain celebrating her winning penalty kick has since become an iconic image of women’s athletics in the U.S. Twenty years to the day, Chastain was immortalized with a bronze statue that was unveiled outside Rose Bowl Stadium on July 10, 2019.


2000 - A section of East Hollywood is designated as America’s first and only Thai Town. So many ethnic Thais live in Los Angeles (roughly 80,000), that the city is sometimes referred to as Thailand’s 77th province.

Hollywood &amp Highland | Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

2001 - The Kodak Theatre opens as the new venue for the Academy Awards ceremony (it was renamed the Dolby Theatre in 2012). Hollywood & Highland, a retail and entertainment center that also has an eye toward Hollywood history, opens next door.
2001 - Amoeba Music opens on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Occupying an entire city block, the massive store features the biggest, broadest, and most diverse collection of music and movies ever housed under one roof.

2002 - The 11-story Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels opens in Downtown LA, replacing St. Vibiana’s as the main center of worship for the archdiocese. The contemporary design by a Spanish Pritzker Prize-winning architect, José Rafael Moneo, has virtually no right angles and a plaza that evokes Old World cathedrals.

2003 - Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Los Angeles-based Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry and the home of the acclaimed Los Angeles Philharmonic, opens in Downtown LA and instantly becomes an iconic architectural emblem for the city.
2003 - Home Depot Center opens in Carson. Now known as Dignity Health Sports Park, the multi-use sports complex is located on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills and features a soccer stadium (home pitch of the LA Galaxy), tennis stadium, track and field facility, and a world-class velodrome, the VELO Sports Center.

2005 - Antonio Villaraigosa becomes mayor of Los Angeles, the city’s first mayor of Hispanic descent since 1872. After his election, Newsweek features him on the cover with the headline “Latino Power.”

Outer Peristyle Garden at the Getty Villa | Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

2006 - Following years of renovations, the Getty Museum in Pacific Palisades reopens as the Getty Villa, housing the foundation’s significant collection of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities.

2006 - The Griffith Observatory reopens after extensive renovations, including the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater, named for the actor who played Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek series.

2006 - City population is 3,976,071. Los Angeles County population is 10,245,572 - it's by far the nation’s largest county.

Microsoft Plaza at night | Photo: L.A. LIVE

2008 - L.A. LIVE opens in Downtown LA.
2008 - The GRAMMY Museum opens to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Grammy Awards. The museum educates visitors about the history and cultural significance of American music through exciting exhibitions, innovative programming, and cutting-edge interactives.
2008 - The Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM), one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the world, opens at LACMA.

2009 - Madame Tussauds opens in Hollywood and the Annenberg Space for Photography opens in Century City.

2010 - Angels Flight reopens, connecting the historic and financial districts of Bunker Hill.
2010 - The first CicLAvia takes place. Inspired by Bogotá’s weekly ciclovía, CicLAvia temporarily closes streets to car traffic and opens them for Angelenos to use as a public park. More than 1.6 million people have experienced CicLAvia, making it the biggest open streets event in the U.S.

2011 - In Downtown LA, La Plaza de Cultura y Artes opens across from the Olvera Street marketplace, and Dinosaur Hall opens at the Natural History Museum.
2011 - The Los Angeles Philharmonic extends music director Gustavo Dudamel's contract through the end of the 2018-2019 season, the orchestra's 100-year anniversary.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center | Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

2012 - Transformers: The Ride-3D launches at Universal Studios Hollywood, and the Space Shuttle Endeavour goes on public display at the California Science Center.

2012 - Battleship IOWA celebrates its grand opening as a floating museum. The "Battleship of Presidents" is permanently docked at Berth 87 at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro.

2012 - The Los Angeles Kings win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

2013 - Eric Garcetti becomes L.A.'s first elected Jewish mayor and its youngest in more than a century.

2013 - Several of L.A.'s cultural landmarks celebrate milestone anniversaries: Walt Disney Concert Hall (10th), Fowler Museum (50th), Hollywood Sign (90th), Natural History Museum (100th).

Yayoi Kusama, "Longing for Eternity," 2017 [detail]. Photo by Maris Hutchinson/EPW Studio. Image © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai Victoria Miro, London/Venice Yayoi Kusama Inc.

2014 - Hotel openings include The Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles and LINE Hotel in Koreatown.
2014 - Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem opens at Universal Studios Hollywood.
2014 - Cultural milestones include the Music Center's 50th anniversary and the opening of The Broad contemporary art museum in Downtown LA.

2015 - Fast & Furious - Supercharged and The Simpsons Ride open at Universal Studios Hollywood.
2015 - Los Angeles hosts the Special Olympics World Games, the largest sports and humanitarian event in the world in 2015.

Skyslide at OUE Skyspace | Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

2016 - The Rams return to Los Angeles after a 22-year hiatus.
2016 - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens at Universal Studios Hollywood, OUE Skyspace opens at the US Bank Tower, and the Metro Expo Line connects Downtown LA and the Santa Monica Pier.

Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama greets supporters at a rally at the Rancho Cienega Sports Complex in Los Angeles&nbsp| Photo: Barack Obama,&nbspFlickr

2017 - The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approves the motion to rename 3.5 miles of Rodeo Road at the Rancho Cienega Sports Complex in South L.A. as Obama Boulevard.

2017 - Grand Central Market celebrates its centennial and Angels Flight reopens.
2017 - The Marciano Foundation, backed by Guess Jeans brothers Maurice and Paul Marciano, opens a free contemporary art museum in Koreatown.

Gustavo Dudamel conducts the LA Phil | Photo: Hollywood Bowl, Facebook

2018 - The Los Angeles Philharmonic celebrates its centennial season.

2018 - Banc of California Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Football Club, opens at Exposition Park.
2018 - Bradley Cooper's remake of A Star is Born features the showstopper "Shallow," the duet with Lady Gaga and Cooper that wins the Oscar for Best Original Song.
2018 - The Venice Pride Lifeguard Tower is dedicated to Bill Rosendahl, the first openly gay man elected to the L.A. City Council.

Water drop at Jurassic World - The Ride | Photo:&nbspUniversal Studios Hollywood

2019 - Jurassic World: The Ride opens at Universal Studios Hollywood.
2019 - UCLA, Musso & Frank Grill and The Huntington Library celebrate their centennials.

2019 - The Los Angeles LGBT Center celebrates "50 Years of Queer," the Petersen Automotive Museum celebrates its 25th anniversary, and STAPLES Center celebrates its 20th anniversary.
2019 - Quentin Tarantino's "love letter to LA," Once Upon a Time in Hollywood opens to critical acclaim. It would later land 10 Oscar nominations spanning nearly every major category including Best Picture, Best Director and nods for leads Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt.


History of LGBTQ Los Angeles

The LGBTQ history of Greater Los Angeles touches upon the many racial, gender, religious, sexual, and socioeconomic identities and communities that contribute to the diversity of the region.

To date, current literature on queer history and, more specifically, the queer history of Los Angeles, is sporadic and largely incomplete. (Read how and why we use the term “queer.”)

Conventional scholarship did not begin to treat the history of LGBTQ individuals as a legitimate field of study until the 1970s, when critical thought around topics such as gender and sexual identity began to emerge.

Early attempts to document LGBTQ history did not focus on communities, but rather on the experiences of well-known and well-respected historical figures such as Walt Whitman, Frida Kahlo, and Alexander the Great.

From the 1820s through the 1970s, LGBTQ life in Los Angeles was largely underground and functioned along the lines of a subculture.

For decades, non-heteronormative behavior in Los Angeles was either illegal or cause for investigation. Bars and private residences served as primary social spaces for queer individuals to gather and meet one another, though police harassment was common in public establishments.

For many LGBTQ individuals in the region, the entertainment industry provided a safe and open work environment. The same social mores that gave performers the freedom to be themselves were often extended to those who worked behind the scenes.

During and immediately following World War II, the LGBTQ population in Los Angeles dramatically increased, much as it did in other major cities like Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, and San Francisco.

The postwar era witnessed the rise of new LGBTQ civil rights organizations, social spaces, and cultural institutions as perceptions of sexual and gender identity evolved.

Beginning in the 1970s with the onset of the gay liberation movement, the nature of queer public spaces began to change drastically.

Many LGBTQ bars reached their peak popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, often meeting full capacity nightly. The 1990s saw a resurgence of interest in queer literature, and, as a result, queer bookstores grew more common in major cities across the country.

By the early 2000s, LGBTQ communities began experiencing unprecedented levels of acceptance and positive visibility within mainstream heteronormative society. This resulted in a large decrease in patronage to LGBTQ establishments that were once essential fixtures in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Over the last several years, many establishments that once catered exclusively to queer individuals have changed hands or closed their doors. Yet there are anomalies to this pattern.

Neighborhoods such as Downtown Los Angeles, where residential populations have grown and attracted a younger demographic, have actually seen a rise in the establishment of new LGBTQ bars and nightclubs.

LGBTQ Terminology

Please see our Explanation of LGBTQ Terms to learn more about the terminology used on this microsite.

For More Information

For a more detailed history of LGBTQ places in Los Angeles, including recommendations for further reading, please see the City of Los Angeles’ LGBT Historic Context Statement.


Notable Riots

Racial and socio-economic tension in Los Angeles has culminated in riots on many different occasions. As early as the 1800s, racial tension between ethnic groups resulted in violence. More recently, the Watts Riots and LA Riots illustrated the powder-keg result of racial and socio-economic tensions. Los Angeles has also experienced in support or protest of various current events.

    A short summary of the racially motivated riot in Los Angeles early history, killing nearly twenty Chinese immigrants. Examines the Zoot Suit Riots, its portrayal in the media, and international political ramifications. An overview of the Watts Riots and its aftermath. A historical look at the Watts riots including audio and video footage. An article detailing the violence and crime of the LA Riots. Provides a time of line of events and factors leading up to the LA riots. This academic examination of the music culture in the late sixties touches upon the significance of the Sunset Strip Riots. Describes the rioting and looting that occurred near the Staples Center following a Lakers Championship victory. Details the citywide protest in response the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.

History of Los Angeles

The human history of Los Angeles begins with Native Americans, as with every other place in the United States, and the traditions of the region's various tribes still play a role&mdashnot the least of which are the only true casinos in the state. The principal tribe in the region was the Gabrielinos-Tongva, today known as the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians. There were as many as 5,000 living in the LA Basin from Santa Barbara to San Clemente and on the coastal islands when Los Angeles history was forever altered by the arrival of the Spaniards in the eighteenth century.

One of the legacies of the Spaniards' arrival in LA history is the San Fernando Rey Espana, the 17th of the 21 Spanish missions that were founded in California in the late 1700s and which stretch from San Diego to San Rafael north of San Francisco. It is the only Spanish mission in the metropolitan area, and is located in the San Fernando Valley about ten miles northwest of the Burbank Airport. One of the little known facts About Los Angeles is the existence of the mission's cemetery, which is the final resting place for a number of famous Angelenos such as Bob Hope, Ed Begley, Jane Wyatt, and Chuck Connors. The mission itself is one of the city's museums and has a church with a typically ornate gilded altar, as well as fascinating period furniture and artifacts of the era.

The history of Los Angeles as we know it begins with the founding of the settlement in 1781 by the 44 Los Angeles Pobladores (townspeople). The official listing of the adults in this group consisted of: one Peninsular, Spaniard born in Spain one Criollo, Spaniard born in New Spain one Mestizo, mixed Spanish and native American two Negros, black of full African ancestry eight Mulattos, mixed Spanish and black and nine Indios, Native Americans. It wasn't until well into the twentieth century that California historian William Mason "rediscovered" this original ethnic richness that popular LA history had largely glossed over. For many years, Mason was curator of the respected Natural History Museum, and during his career he dispelled many other popular myths about the ethnic minorities (who were the majority when Los Angeles was founded) that make up the melting pot of Los Angeles and the Golden State.

Los Angeles Map

By 1821 (the year that Mexico became independent from Spain), Los Angeles was the largest self-sustaining farming community in southern California and was still part of Mexico. Los Angeles history took another turn during the 1846 Mexican American War. American forces, under General Kearny and his guide Kit Carson, entered Los Angeles and the 1847 Treaty of Cahuenga ceded California to the United States. After the discovery of gold in northern California in 1848, Los Angeles became known as "Queen of the Cow Counties" for supplying most of the beef and other food to the miners.

Los Angeles history saw a major boom in growth and industry from 1870 to 1913, and in the process became more and more dominated by its white citizens who exploited and decimated the Native American population and then did the same to emigrating Chinese. The transcontinental railroad came in 1876, and this saw the rise of industrial barons and magnates whose names appear on landmarks throughout the city today. Colis Huntington was president of the Southern Pacific Railroad, and his nephew's Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens (near Pasadena and Burbank) is today one of the city's finest museums and most popular attractions. Edward Doheny discovered oil in the city in 1892, and his name graces one of the most beautiful of the area's beaches, the stately Victorian Doheny Mansion between downtown Los Angeles and Culver City, Doheny Plaza is one of the most prestigious addresses in West Hollywood, and Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills is one of the most prestigious business addresses. The engineer William Mulholland shaped much of modern day Los Angeles through the building of the dams and aqueducts that brought waters from the Colorado River to this mostly arid landscape. LA history and the natural resources of all of the American Southwest are still changing because of these engineering projects. One of the most famously scenic stretches of road in the city will be found on the miles of Mulholland Drive.

The history of Los Angeles was also changed by the arrival of the film industry pioneers in the early 1900s. Culver City, where Sony Pictures is still located, was the first center of cinema. The huge studios and back lots quickly outgrew this congested urban area, and the production companies moved on to Century City, then to Hollywood, and on to Burbank and Universal City. All these places now provide the attractions that draw millions of visitors every year, from movie studio tours and TV tapings to the Hollywood Wax Museum and famous Sunset Boulevard.

A hidden gem of Los Angeles history can be found at the Adamson House, beautifully situated on the ocean in Malibu. The house was built in 1930 for the Adamson Rindge family (the Rindge's were from Cambridge, Massachusetts where they left their mark on Boston history). It is a lovely Spanish Revival home lavishly decorated with ceramic tiles from the Malibu Potteries company the family owned, and is furnished with most of the original family furnishings, It once was the center of the vast ranch during the time when a stagecoach ride from Malibu to Santa Monica took the better part of a day. There is an excellent museum with fascinating artifacts of the area Indians and the old ranch lifestyle, and the expansive grounds and gardens are magnificent. You can take guided tours of the house interior, and the grounds are open throughout most of the year.


The early days of Skid Row

It was Christmastime in Los Angeles in 1902. The Los Angeles Times sent a reporter out to the saloon-lined intersection of First Street and Los Angeles Street, epicenter of Victorian LA’s Skid Row. “It was the toughest night of the year on the ‘Hobo Corner,’” the reporter wrote. “The tenderloin was literally swarming with tramps. Most of them were beastly drunk and the rest were sorry they weren’t. They were filthy dirty some of them fairly squirmed with tenants—their steady company as it were.”

Such was the patronizing and cruel language that was used to describe the population that arrived in Los Angeles with the coming of the railroads.

In 1876, Los Angeles became the end of the line of the transcontinental railroad. According to historian Glen Creason, the railroads were constructed east of LA’s historic core. That year, the main Southern Pacific Rail Yard and passenger terminus, known as River Station (now the site of the Los Angeles State Historic Park), opened. In 1888, it was joined by the Arcade Station at Fourth and Alameda.

Thousands of men, many displaced veterans of the Civil War, began to “ride the rails,” stowing away in empty boxcars and jumping trains. They tended to congregate around or nearby the rail yards in cheap hotels, saloons, and brothels that sprung up to serve them. In 1889, it was reported that 18 people had been arrested at the Southern Pacific Yard in one morning and would be forced to work on the chain gang, ironically building roads for the city. LA leaders knew what to blame: the increased mobility offered by the railroads.

Southern Pacific steam engine No. 1364 at Arcade Station. Los Angeles Public Library photo collection

“Those who have looked into the question, claim that the railroads are largely responsible for the annual hobo curse of Los Angeles,” the LA Times intoned. Angelenos also blamed their own glorious weather and abundance, always eager to boost the city even when they were complaining. As one observer wrote in 1889:

Southern California is getting to be something of a Mecca for the genus tramp of colder localities. There is something very tempting to those gentry in a climate where the sun furnishes about as much fuel as is needed for comfortable warmth, and where great orange orchards are convenient to ease their hunger.

But it was not just Southern California that was faced with this new influx of visitors. All across the country a new slang emerged to describe this emerging facet of American life. The “hobo,” according to one rail rider, was the “creation of the railroads,” a seeker who lived to travel and see new faces. The “fly bum” was a city dweller, who lived in cheap hotels and was kept alive by handouts from religious and charitable organizations. Then there was the “dynamiter,” who made his meager living as a journeyman laborer. These men found ample work in the agricultural fields and vineyards that surrounded Los Angeles.

By the 1880s, the place many of these men often congregated was dubbed the “Hobo Corner,” and the neighborhood surrounding it. On the edge of “Hell’s Half Acre,” the corner was a stone’s throw away from the Plaza, and only a little over a mile from the Southern Pacific Yard.

The men who congregated here lived and drank at single room occupancy hotels like the Lowe’s on Los Angeles Street and at bars like the notorious Original Mug Saloon on Main Street, which one visitor described as little more than a “great, bare room, with a bar along one side.”

By the turn of the century, First and Los Angeles was legendary. “With the exception of the Barbary Coast in San Francisco, this is one of the toughest hang-outs in the West,” one reporter wrote.

People lined up for Christmas dinner in front of the Volunteers of America's mission post No. 1 on Skid Row on December 25, 1950. Los Angeles Public Library photo collection

On Christmas Day in 1901, it was reported that dozens of men had been arrested for drunkenness by the end of the holiday. “All day long the corner was so crowded with toughs and bums that one had to fairly elbow one’s way through, and you could feel your watch creep up close to you for protection. In the morning they were reasonably sober, but all of a sudden they all seemed to get drunk at once.”

Regulars on the corner became fodder for a particularly gross kind of man-on-the-street moralizing journalism. Stories were written about one-armed Jack Ryan, an alcoholic bully who was known to terrorize his fellow corner dwellers. There was Parson Williams, the “hobo preacher,” who occasionally spent time on the chain gang, and a man named Kelly, who was arrested for a “vag” (vagrancy) after it was noticed that he was always drunk, even though he never had a job or any money.

Overseeing it all was policeman Jack Lennen, the “monarch of Hobo Corner.” “When Jack waves his billy, the corner quells,” one reported noted. “When he marches down the dark alleys with firm tread, the hobos shudder. Lennen is a quaint sort of chap, but one of the shrewdest officers on the force.”

But the toughest policeman on the force could not fix the alcohol abuse, mental illness, and violence that gripped the corner. Men were often carted away to the city jail and then released back into the neighborhood. Besides throwing people in jail and occasionally forcing people out of town, the city did nothing. Neither did most community and social leaders. “Don’t help this class,” one columnist wrote. “It is a crime against the community to do it.”

The people who populated the corner were often dehumanized to an astonishing degree. The LA Times referred to them as the “scum of the gutters,” “dirty crows,” and “two-legged hogs.” The lack of empathy and government assistance meant that religious and charitable organizations were left to provide food, shelter, and solace.

A panoramic view of Downtown Los Angeles in 1907. USC Digital Collections

The Union Rescue Mission, Midnight Mission, and Salvation Army were all originally located near the “Hobo Corner.” (The Union Rescue Mission’s second location at First and Main was demolished to make way for our current City Hall.) The mission’s colorful wagon, pulled by two horses and carrying “musicians, hymn singers, and new converts,” was a familiar sight on the corner. At a basement boarding house run by “God’s Regular Army” at 105 North Los Angeles Street, many homeless found a place to sleep.

The lodging house was quickly “condemned as an unmitigated nuisance by the wholesale merchants who do business in the neighborhood,” the LA Times wrote. “They say it is headquarters for an army of hobos and bummers, who infest the neighborhood during business hours.”

By 1902, it was evident that something had to be done. “The hobos are also killing that particular part of Los Angeles in which they have settled like a blight,” the LA Times reported. “The police would have an easier time down in the tenderloin if the city would put in a few more electric lights. There is seldom any cussedness going on where there is plenty of illumination. Los Angeles Street is as dark as a pocket.”

Matters were made worse when the Pacific Electric opened a new rail terminus in 1902, which dropped commuters into the heart of the tenderloin, a kind of catchall name for the high-crime area of Los Angeles, including Hell’s Half Acre and the Hobo Corner area. According to the LA Times:

No sooner does a hobo “hit town” than he makes a beeline for the corner of First and Los Angeles Streets. All day long and all night long this corner is one milling herd of them. It is bad now but worse during the winter hobo season. Half the people who take the Pasadena, Monrovia, Alhambra cars board them at the corner of First and Main. Women have to stand there, often for 15 minutes at a time, hearing vile language, shrinking from drunken men who come staggering along have to stand in the midst of the sodden river that swirls sluggishly out of the tenderloin. Business has been driven away from that corner and from that part of town because of these loafers. Half the arrests made by the police are the drunks on these two corners. The police patrol has almost worn a path between the station and the Hobo Corner.

And so it was, that the railway that helped give birth to the “Hobo Corner,” also helped lead to its downfall. By 1906, street lights had been installed, and a campaign to get transients off the street was initiated. By the 1920s, the transient community had fully moved farther east, nearer the Arcade Depot and into the area known now as Skid Row. Today, “Hobo Corner” is a sterile corporate intersection, home to the DoubleTree by Hilton and the Department of Transportation.

And what became of the folks who called the “Hobo Corner” home? While many probably ended their lives in the skid rows of LA or some other town, not all existed forever in gray misery. In 1907, it was reported that several “Hobo Corner” denizens—including a lunch wagon cook named Old Al, a gambler named Tex, and a “loafer” named “Pizon Pete”—had made a killing in the boom-town mining camps of Eastern California and Nevada.


Silverlake: Silverlake was once two communities Edendale and Ivanhoe. These communities became one neighborhood is 1907 after the city of Los Angeles built the Silverlake Reservoir named after Commissioner Herman Silver who developed the project. Silverlake became a popular community in the 1930s after Walt Disney built his first film studio Hyperion. The area flourished in the Mid-Century as families moved in to be close to DTLA’s manufacturing hub. In the 1970s, after Los Angeles’ manufacturing hub moved, the neighborhood became a hotspot for the gay community which created a thriving arts culture. By the 1990s, Silverlake offered a hip neighborhood, affordable housing, and close proximity to both DTLA and Hollywood and became one of the most popular neighborhoods for young professionals, artists, and new families.

Echo Park: Echo Park is named for the park around Echo Lake, once a drinking water reservoir. The neighborhood traces its roots back to 1892. Made up of a diverse variety of smaller communities, Echo Park is a popular neighborhood for middle and working-class families. In the 1920s, Echo Park became a popular filming location for silent comedy movies and blacklisted filmmakers. During this time, the community was nicknamed “Red Hill” because many political activists lived in the neighborhood. After WWII, Echo Park became a popular neighborhood for immigrants who brought a variety of diverse culture to the area. By the 1990s, the thriving culture and variety of historic architecture began attracting residents looking to live in a unique community. Today, Echo Park is one of the most popular communities in DTLA because of the cultural diversity.

Los Feliz: Los Feliz was established in the 1830s after Jose Vicente Feliz received a land grant to build a ranch. In 1882, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith purchased half of the property and developed the first community. Griffith then bequeathed the land to Los Angeles after his passing in 1919. In the 1920s Los Feliz became a hub for the newly created movie industry. In fact, Mickey Mouse was “born” in Los Feliz. Just far enough from the city to develop into a cozy suburb, Los Feliz has thrived as a home for middle and working class families, as well as some of the most famous Hollywood actors. Today the community is the perfect neighborhood for people who want easy access to the city but also want to feel they are in the suburbs.

If you’d like to learn more about these historic Eastside Los Angeles neighborhoods, talk to the real estate experts at Aspire. We live and work in these communities and can help provide you with the background you need. Call us today to learn more!

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