You may be familiar with this wall; let’s say you’ve gone to Angels Flight and on your stroll back to the car parked beneath Pershing Square—you passed by, glanced over and wondered hey, is that, something?
To understand our wall, we have to go way back, to Old Hill Street. It was once quite residential—
Hill Street grew increasingly commercial. During the uptick of building that occurred after the fallout from the financial crashes of 1893 and ’96, but before the next downturn of 1907, there was a good bit of construction. Note in the comparison between the 1894 and 1906 Sanborn maps, how the area has much of its yellow (wooden) street frontage removed, and replaced by pink (brick) structures.
And note, for our purposes, the STONE WALL 20′ that come 1906 (I believe the wall was built ca. 1903) runs from 343 South Hill, to the north. That stone wall still exists, here:
So: you say, Nathan, there were once buildings lining Hill Street, north of Fourth? Really? What did they look like?
So the block went on minding its own business, surviving through the decades—heck, few if any people knew that stone retaining wall lurked behind…until the structures were demolished via the Community Redevelopment Agency’s bulldozer policy, leaving and revealing the wall once hidden behind 329-343 South Hill St. If you really wanted to crawl behind there, you’d see this:
Here for example is the void left by the removal of the Steere Block, leaving A. C. Martin’s Dunn-Albright-Ames all on its lonesome:
And soon all the structures were at the bottom of a landfill, leaving only our wall:
My pressing need to write about/share photos of this wall stems, of course, from the wall’s fate: imminent destruction. Of course, that corner of Fourth and Hill has long been the proposed site of…something.
Then, when the California Plaza project got underway, there were plans for three matching towers, with one on the Fourth and Hill property:
Thus, at some point in the near future, expect a vast number of demolition crews with earth movers to begin tearing up the parcel, and, in time, it will look (presumably) something like this:
Thereafter, this remaining remnant of Edwardian-era Hill Street will be gone. Of course, we still still have our beloved Angels Flight clattering adjacent, but, that notwithstanding…I for one will be sad to see this piece of vintage Bunker Hill erased.
9 thoughts on “The Great Wall of Bunker Hill”
This posting on the VingtageLA subreddit should be of interest.
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Ah! The Angels Flight pillars. Those are the *original* front pillars of the lower entrance of Angels Flight. When they were restoring the Flight in the mid-90s they realized the columns at the entrance weren’t going to be strong enough, so they made a cast of them. The two columns at the bottom entrance of AF today are copies! These are the originals.
Nice to have the mystery solved, thanks!
It was Robert Frost who said, “Something there is that does not love a wall.” But who can deny that this wall is the most loveable of walls? It has quietly, and for much of its life anonymously, done its duty holding up the flank of Bunker Hill. Thank you, Nathan, for giving it the recognition it deserves before we lose it.
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Thank you for the love letter to the underappreciated and hard working retaining wall. While the real estate booster websites trumpet the supposed start of work on the Angels Landing project that would require its destruction, we’re skeptical that the site will actually be redeveloped.
Developer Victor MacFarlane is closely tied to indicted former councilmember Jose Huizar and his dissolved non-profit Pershing Square Renew, and in what appears to be a bait and switch, the project has shrunk significantly since Huizar selected it as the winning scheme. The project is years late to break ground, and the developers have yet to even purchase the site from the CRA successor agency.
We’re tracking the situation on the Restore Pershing Square blog, and remain hopeful that Angels Knoll (not Landing!) might yet become the public garden space and monument to old Bunker Hill retaining wall technology that Angelenos want it to be. https://restorepershingsquare.blogspot.com/2018/12/after-fbi-raids-big-questions-for-jose.html
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Wishing and hoping they leave this treasure trove alone!
Do you know if they ever relocated the fig tree?
That was a question I put to some semi-higher-ups at Angelus Plaza years ago; they looked at me like I was crazy (they’re probably correct). I need to go back to Angelus and really press them and make them look through their records. The tree was moved (or, was to be moved by, depending on what happened) under the aegis of landscape architects Emmet L. Wemple & Associates, and they went out of business in 1995. They did some important stuff—the Getty Villa and Center, and the Annenberg compound at Rancho Mirage—so I like to think their archives are somewhere. However, I just realized I haven’t contacted Valley Crest Tree Co., who did the actual physical moving, and they’re still in business in Calabasas. Tomorrow’s work!
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Oh I’m glad Valley Crest is still around. I’m curious to hear what they say. I was at Angels Knoll last week and tried to look for it, but there are several trees there now that look full and green so I wasn’t sure which one the Fig tree is. I know it’s on the NW part of the hill. There is this beautiful majestic Palm Tree on the SW corner on the Dirt Patch sitting above the Athena Parking and it would be amazing if that would be relocated too (wishful thinking I know) because the parking attendant told me that the area (2nd and Hill) is going to be developed. My heart felt like it got ripped out at that moment hearing that. The Palm Tree (Mexican Fan Palm) is extremely tall so I’m wondering if it is old.