Historic Core


Cool Timeline

Southern California’s First Railroad
santa fe railroad history by historic core

The Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad was Southern California’s first railroad. Its 21-mile line from San Pedro Bay to Los Angeles was built from 1868 to 1869 and began operations on October 26, 1869.

11 Mexican Families Settle By The River
1781 LA History by Historic Core

In 1781 11 Mexican families, totaling 44 settlers, led by Felipe de Neve the Governor of Spanish California, settled by the river. Neve names the settlement El Pueblo Sobre el Rio de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula. The 11 families were of European, African, and Native American backgrounds and they traveled from northern Mexico to help establish a farming village.

Mexico Declares Independence From Spain
LA History by Historic Core

In 1821, Mexico won the war against Spain for its independence, and part of the reward was the entire state of California.

By 1827, Los Angeles became a popular rival of Monterey to become the capital of Baja and Alta California.

La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles
first catholic church of los angeles

On August 18th, 1814 Father Luis Gíl y Taboada placed the cornerstone of a new Franciscan church amidst the ruins of the original asistencia.

The completed structure was dedicated on December 8th, 1822. This becomes the first Catholic church of Los Angeles.

Pio Pico Becomes Governor of Alta California
pio pico la history by historic core

In 1844 he was chosen as a leader of the California Assembly.

In 1845, he was again appointed governor, succeeding Manuel Micheltorena. Pico made Los Angeles the province’s capital.

In the year leading up to the Mexican–American War, Governor Pico was outspoken in favor of California’s becoming a British Protectorate rather than a U.S. territory.

In 1846, when U.S. troops occupied Los Angeles and San Diego during the Mexican–American War, Pico fled to Baja California, Mexico, to argue before the Mexican Congress for sending troops to defend Alta California. Pico did not return to Los Angeles until after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and he reluctantly accepted the transfer of sovereignty.

In 1868, he constructed the three-story, 33-room hotel, Pico House, which was then most lavish hotel south of San Francisco and LA’s first three-story building.

Siege of Los Angeles
Battle of Los Angeles by Historic Core

On June 18, 1846, a small group of Yankees raised the California Bear Flag and declared independence from Mexico in the Bear Flag Revolt in Northern California. United States troops then took control of the presidios at Monterey and San Francisco and proclaimed the invading “conquest” complete. In Southern California, the Mexican citizens repelled American troops for five months.

The small Mexican forces of Los Angeles fled at the approach of US troops, and on August 13, 1846, the American flag was raised over the city. Despite having opposed the Mexican invasion, the American occupation caused the remaining mixed populations to unite against the invading Americans.

Los Angeles was not retaken until Commodore Stockton again captured the city on January 10, 1847, after the battles at the Siege of Los Angeles, Battle of Dominguez Rancho, Battle of San Pasqual, Battle of Rio San Gabriel and the Battle of La Mesa.

The California Gold Rush Floods State with Settlers
Gold rush history by Historic Core

On January 24, 1848, gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California.

News traveled quickly and by 1849 gold brought approximately 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad.

Mexico Formerly Cedes California to the U.S.
Mexico Formerly Cedes California to the U.S.

On February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed between the U.S. and Mexico.

The treaty called for the United States to pay $15 million USD to Mexico and to pay off the claims of American citizens against Mexico up to $5 million USD. It gave the United States the Rio Grande as a boundary for Texas. It also gave the U.S. ownership of California, and a large area comprising roughly half of New Mexico, most of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah and Colorado.

Mexicans in those annexed areas had the choice of relocating to within Mexico’s new boundaries or receiving American citizenship with full civil rights.

Los Angeles Becomes A Municipality and California Becomes 30th U.S. State
Los Angeles Becomes A Municipality and California Becomes 30th U.S. State

In 1848, the gold discovered in Coloma first brought thousands of miners from Sonora in northern Mexico on the way to the goldfields. So many of them settled in the area north of the Plaza that it came to be known as Sonoratown. The U.S. army swarmed in.

In 1848, California’s new military governor Bennett C. Riley ruled that land could not be sold that was not on a city map.

In 1849, Lieutenant Edward Ord surveyed Los Angeles to confirm and extend the streets of the city. His survey put the city into the real-estate business, creating its first real-estate boom and filling its treasury.

On April 4, 1850, Los Angeles was incorporated as a U.S. city. Five months later, California was admitted into the Union.

St. Vincent’s College Opens as Los Angeles’ First College
st vincents college la history by Historic Core

In 1865, Los Angeles’ first college was a private Catholic school called St. Vincent’s College, which served for both primary and secondary educations since there wasn’t a high school until 1873.

St. Vincent’s hosted classes at the Lugo Adobe house on the east side of the Plaza while a new building was being finished. The home was donated by Don Vicente Lugo, and it was one of few two-story adobes around. It used to be located on a lot across from Alameda Street between the Plaza and Union Station, (near Olvera Street).

After two years, the college and school moved into a new, brick building several blocks south by the lower plaza, Pershing Square.

Later, the brick building was replaced with a larger one made of stone that had a central tower with a dome located on the block of Broadway and Hill on 6th and 7th streets.

The 7th street property is now called St. Vincent’s Place.


Los Angeles Town Square is Established
la town square history by historic core

In 1866 the city set aside 15 blocks for a city square. The ordinance, passed by the City Council and signed by Mayor Cristobal Aguilar, declared the tract “a public square or plaza for the use and benefit of the citizens in common of [Los Angeles].”

Block 15 remained a treeless town commons, known as Los Angeles Town Square because the ordinance had no funds for greenery or landscaping.

Livestock continued to graze on the land, and teamsters violated warning signs by driving their wagons through the public square.

LA’s First Chinatown
LA’s First Chinatown

In the 1860s, the Chinese population in Los Angeles was small but growing. This was thanks to the Southern Pacific Railroad hiring them for incredibly low paying railroad labor.

They settled in Olvera, specifically in a dirt alley known as Calle de Los Negros. It was one of the most dangerous places in America, at the time. Calle de Los Negros occupied a fairly small stretch of land 50 feet in width by 500 feet in length.

In March of 1855, The Los Angeles Star recorded 5 homicides in a 24 hour period.

In 1871, a tragedy descended on the Chinese people living there. A mob made up of 500 white Angelenos (one-tenth of the population at the time) marched into Chinatown to retaliate to the death of a white Rancher. That rancher died because he got caught in the crossfire of a Chinese gang war.

The angry mob asked no questions of gang relations and murdered 19 Chinese men and boys. This event came to be known as the Chinese Massacre.

In 1877, Calle de los Negros was renamed to Los Angeles Street.

The Chinese residents didn’t really have anywhere to go and by 1880, their population had grown from 234 to 1169. So they moved eastward of Los Angeles Street (Calle de Los Negros) to Alameda. They would later be moved again to make room for Union Station.

Biddy Mason Opens LA’s First Black Church
Biddy Mason Opens LA’s First Black Church

Biddy Mason (August 15, 1818 – January 15, 1891) was an African-American nurse and a Californian real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist.

After a turbulent time as a slave in the south, Mason got her freedom and moved to LA. She worked as a nurse and midwife, delivering hundreds of babies during her career. Using her knowledge of herbal remedies, she risked her life to care for those affected by the smallpox epidemic in Los Angeles.

Saving carefully, she was one of the first African American women to own land in Los Angeles. As a businesswoman, she amassed a relatively large fortune of nearly $300,000, which she shared generously with charities.

Mason also fed and sheltered the poor, and visited prisoners. She was instrumental in founding a traveler’s aid center, and a school and daycare center for black children, open to any child who had nowhere else to go. Because of her kind and giving spirit, many called her “Auntie Mason” or “Grandma Mason.

In 1872, along with her son-in-law Charles Owens, Biddy Mason was a founding member of First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles, marking it the city’s first black church.

The organizing meetings were held in her home on Spring Street.  She donated the land on which the church was built.


Los Angeles Debuts First Street Car
la street car 1874 historic core

On Sept. 22, 1873, public transit debuted in Los Angeles when Charles Dupuy opened his Pioneer Omnibus Street Line. The line’s horse-drawn vehicles, which resembled miniature railroad cars on large, wooden wheels, followed a regular schedule and a fixed route — a first in Los Angeles.

For nearly two years the Pioneer line’s buses moved riders between the historic Plaza located by today’s Olvera Street and Washington Gardens, a popular beer garden, and fairground located far south of the central city at Washington and Main.

But muddy streets pocked with holes plagued the line, which closed in 1875.

Cathedral of St. Vibiana
Cathedral of St. Vibiana

Los Angeles’ first cathedral, Cathedral of St. Vibiana, opens at Main St and 2nd St after five years of construction. When built, the cathedral can comfortably hold one-tenth of the city’s residents. …

The Los Angeles Times debuts as the Los Angeles Daily Times.
The Los Angeles Times debuts as the Los Angeles Daily Times.

The Times was first published on December 4, 1881, as the Los Angeles Daily Times under the direction of Nathan Cole Jr. and Thomas Gardiner. However, they were unable to keep up with the financial demands of printing a newspaper.

In July 1882, Harrison Gray Otis moved from Santa Barbara to become the paper’s editor. Despite turning the paper into a conservative one, Otis made the Times a financial success.

Otis constantly insulted local unions, and they retaliated. Two union leaders, James, and Joseph McNamara, led a group of railroad union workers in the bombing of the Times headquarters on October 1, 1910, killing twenty-one people.

Santa Fe Railway Links LA To The East Coast
Santa Fe Railway Links LA To The East Coast

In 1885, the Santa Fe Railway gave Los Angeles its own direct line to the Eastern U.S. The line was in direct competition with the Southern Pacific.

Santa Fe’s entry into Southern California brought forth an economic growth, but it also ignited a ticket fare rate war with the Southern Pacific. It also led to Los Angeles’ well-documented real estate “Boom of the Eighties.”

The first electric streetcars debut in the Historic Core
The first electric streetcars debut in the Historic Core

In 1887, the first electric streetcar appeared on a stretch of Pico Street to Downtown’s new booming Historic Core.

A historian for the website usp100la writes: “By 1911, Southern Pacific consolidated the entire electric interurban streetcar network of Los Angeles and operated it as the Pacific Electric Railway Company, whose cars were known as ‘Red Cars. Around the same time, the Los Angeles Railway operated a local system of streetcars in central Los Angeles, known as the Yellow Cars.”

However, the efficiency of the streetcars enabled people to move out of Downtown Los Angeles and on to the suburbs.

Los Angeles Population Hits 50,000
Los Angeles Population Hits 50,000

Thanks to the newfound mobility of streetcars and railroads the population in Los Angeles exploded during the 1880s and 1890s. The central business district (CBD) grew along Main and Spring streets towards Second Street and beyond.

This area would later come to be known as the Historic Core.

The Bradbury Building
Bradbury Building Historic Core History

Lewis Bradbury was a gold-mining tycoon who made a fortune in Sinaloa, Mexico in the 1890s. In 1892, he became a real estate developer with his sites set on Downtown LA.

He began planning to construct his dream- a five-story building that would be located on Broadway and Third Street. Bradbury hired a local architect, Sumner Hunt, but Bradbury was ultimately displeased at Hunt’s “inadequate” design. One of Hunt’s draftsmen, George Wyman, did better in Bradbury’s eyes and he was hired to do the design.

The designs weren’t inherently different so this issue has raised some controversy about who should be considered to be the architect of the building.

The building opened in 1893 and was completed in 1894, but Bradbury didn’t get to see it because he died in 1892. It cost him a total cost of $500,000, which was about three times the original budget of $175,000.

In 1971, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places and in 1977 was designated a National Historic Landmark. It is one of only four office buildings in Los Angeles to be so honored. It was also designated a landmark by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission and is the city’s oldest landmarked building.

The Van Nuys Building
The Van Nuys Building

The Van Nuys Building (now Barclay Hotel) opens at Main St & 4th St as one of the finest hotels in Los Angeles. It becomes the first hotel to provide telephone and electric service to every room.

Los Angeles Town Square is established; it will later be renamed Pershing Square.
Angel’s Flight
Angel’s Flight

Angels Flight, a 315 foot funicular linking the Historic Core to Bunker Hill, opens. Built by Colonel J.W. Eddy, lawyer, engineer and friend of President Abraham Lincoln, Angels Flight is said to be?

The Banco Popular Building
The Banco Popular Building

The Banco Popular Building is opened by Hermann W. Hellman, a merchant and banker who emigrated to Los Angeles from Bavaria. The 8-story building is designed in the Beaux Arts style.

The Huntington Building
The Huntington Building

The Huntington Building opens & serves as offices and depot for the Pacific Electric Railway line. At the time of completion it is the largest office building in Los Angeles.

The Farmers and Merchants Bank Building opens.
The Farmers and Merchants Bank Building opens.

Designed in the Classical Revival style by Morgan and Walls, the Bank is the first incorporated bank in Los Angeles.

The Hamburgers / May Company Department Store is erected.
The Hamburgers / May Company Department Store is erected.

The enormous Beaux Arts structure covers nearly half the block, and is for many years the largest department store on the Pacific Coast.

Alexandria Hotel
Alexandria Hotel

Constructed at the then almost unheard of cost of $2 million, the Alexandria Hotel opens as LA’s most elegant hotel, featuring a beautiful banquet hall with a stained glass ceiling.

The Palace
The Palace

The Palace opens as the third home of the Orpheum vaudeville circuit in Los Angeles. It is one of the oldest theatres in Los Angeles and the oldest remaining original Orpheum theatre in the U.S.

The Rosslyn Hotel

The Rosslyn Hotel is built for the staggering sum of one million dollars (hence the signage, Million Dollar Hotel). The annex is constructed across the street nine years later.

The National Theatre
The National Theatre

The National Theatre opens on Main St. with 600 seats and is the largest Main St. theatre. It is renamed The Regent, and becomes one of two survivors of Main St.’s early entertainment heritage.

Rialto Theatre
Rialto Theatre

Quinn’s Rialto Theatre opens as one of the first theatres to have stadium style seating and features the longest neon marquee in the Broadway National Register Historic Theatre District.

Grand Central Market
Grand Central Market

Grand Central Market opens in what was originally the Ville de Paris Department Store. The building, originally built with a Hill St annex, is designed by John Parkinson.

Loew’s State Theatre
Loew’s State Theatre

Loew’s State Theatre, designed by Charles Weeks and William Day, opens offering both film and vaudeville. Judy Garland performs as part of the Gumm Sisters in 1929.