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L.A. Redux The City Then and Now

When the city of Los Angeles was incorporated on April 4, 1850, it had a population of 1,160, an area of 28 square miles and not a single public building.

City and county offices were in a one-story adobe structure on Spring Street in 1853, just across from where the present City Hall was opened in 1928.

By 1867, the county and the courts moved out to the second story of a building on the site now occupied by City Hall.

City Hall was moved in 1884 to a two-story brick building at 213 W. 2nd St., where the Los Angeles Times building now stands. Overlooked in this building were an office and housing quarters for the mayor, which had to be rented on the north side of 1st Street between Los Angeles and San Pedro streets, the site now of the Parker Center parking lot.

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Four years later, a $300,000 bond measure was approved by the voters to build a new City Hall, next door to the city’s first synagogue, Temple B’nai B’rith. The red sandstone and tile structure was on the east side of Broadway--then called Fort Street--between 2nd and 3rd streets. It was designed by one of the leading architects of the day, John Hanlon. The elaborate building also housed offices for 14 of the city’s 38 mayors. It opened in 1889 and was used for about 40 years, then was sold at auction piece by piece.

During the building’s existence, Terminal Island was opened as a beach resort; oil was discovered within city boundaries; the last of the horse-drawn streetcars gave way to the electric railway; the 3rd Street tunnel was bored through Bunker Hill; about 10,000 telephones were installed; sewage was first discharged into the ocean; the San Pedro harbor and the Los Angeles aqueduct were built, and the population of the city reached 1 million, including 49,000 real estate agents.

City officials eventually decided to rename semi-residential Fort Street because the area’s many German citizens had trouble with the pronunciation--it would come out “Fourth Street,” causing confusion with another street by that name. By 1910, all sections of the street were dedicated under the name Broadway.

That same year, the City Council spent $500,000 for a frontage lot on Spring Street, part of the site on which the fourth and current City Hall now stands.

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