In the popular imagination, California — and, in particular, Los Angeles — has always been a world apart. The reactions that the City of Angels inspires in those who don’t live there range from envy and loathing — The weather’s perfect! It’s a cesspool of shallow strivers! — to a sort of manufactured, uniquely American longing for a paradise at the end of the road. There’s a reason, after all, that Route 66 is the country’s most famous highway: it runs all the way to L.A. But the iconic image of Los Angeles as a sleek, modern, forward-looking place obscures the city’s real history. The gorgeous photograph above, for instance, of Simon’s drive-in, at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in the late 1930s, perfectly captures an idea of L.A. that’s both at odds with and far less engrossing than the forces that shaped the place.
Los Angeles: Early Days
More than a dozen really interesting photos of early LA, including the La Brea Tar Pits and the California Incline.