Looking Ahead Before WW I

Mounting concerns with population growth, traffic congestion and a housing shortage triggered a restless 1913 generation into predicting all sorts of fun things for Los Angeles in the year 1938.

Wishful thinking, perhaps, but also prophetic.

Solutions to the problems that occupied the minds of Southlanders of that era were dealt with whimsically in a January, 1913, edition of the Los Angeles Daily Times, and may still have some merit today.

One artist’s rendering showed how developers might solve the housing situation by the year 1938.


In jest, it was predicted that within a 25-year span, aerial apartments would be suspended all over the city by means of autonomous devices. They would also secure aerial garages for individual gyroplanes that by then everyone would own in far greater numbers than automobiles.

A Pneumatic Railroad Co. and Aerial Union Depot were suggested as the perfect solution for zipping people up to their aerial hotel or office destinations--in a matter of seconds.

All of this lighthearted speculation has come precariously close to reality, but not within the anticipated time frame.

In a more serious vein, the city planners of the day were dealing with alternative modes of transportation and designing their own versions of the Metro Rail. Such concepts as the monorail system and bullet trains were commonly bandied about and one advanced plan “for the relief of overcrowded streets” suggested that commuters could tunnel through skyscrapers, in streamlined bullet trains, via a network of multi-level speedways.


Whether all of the above leaves us with a comforting sense of continuity or simply the notion that our forefathers’ visions outdistanced our own, is a mute question.

After several decades our cities still face similar problems, untenable solutions and unresolved dreams. So what else is new? Hind Site will be a continuing column, looking at changing values in Southern California real estate.