Flickr/zabowski

15 years in the making, the most complete resource on L.A.'s historic built environment has just launched.

People love to say that Los Angeles lacks history, or at least that its history tends to be invisible. And it's true that from a tourist's eye-view, strolling Hollywood Boulevard or the Santa Monica Pier, there might not be a ton of buildings that look like they pre-date 1960. But that doesn't mean the city's all Googie and Geoff Palmer. You just have to look a little harder to find the old stuff.

Today, that task got a lot easier. Almost 15 years in the making, HistoricPlacesLA is the first online database specifically designed to "inventory, map, and help protect the City of Los Angeles' significant historic resources," according to a press release trumpeting its launch.

HistoricPlacesLA

That's "significant" in both senses. By my rough count, the database includes more than 20,000 entries, spanning the city's most architecturally, historically, and socially valuable buildings, districts, bridges, parks, gardens, and streets.

Each listing is plotted onto a map of city limits, and can be explored in detail. Most include images, and all are obsessively historicized. The light-up crepe on top of a French cafe by my childhood home, for example, is an "Excellent example of post-World War II neon signage in Sherman Oaks." (And here I thought a crepe was just a crepe.)

A joint project of the city of Los Angeles and the Getty Conservation Institute, the resource is meant for anyone with an interest: policymakers, property owners, developers, tourists, students, L.A. history buffs, and plain ol' architecture nerds. HPLA is still growing, too—the citywide survey that's generating the data is only 75 percent complete.

Hidden Los Angeles: A Victorian-era home and the old ticketing hall at Union Station. (Flickr/tkksummers and Flickr/estebanandjulie)
"This system unlocks Los Angeles' rich cultural history and puts it in the palm of anyone's hand," Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. "HistoricPlacesLA will enrich and enlighten visitors and Angelenos alike and will encourage people to truly explore our streets and be conscious of the history around us."

About the Author

Laura Bliss
Laura Bliss

Laura Bliss is a staff writer at CityLab.

Most Popular

  1. Homeless individuals inside a shelter in Vienna in 2010
    Equity

    How Vienna Solved Homelessness

    What lessons could Seattle draw from their success?

  2. Two New York City subway cars derailed on the A line in Harlem Tuesday, another reminder of the MTA's many problems.
    Transportation

    Overcrowding Is Not the New York Subway's Problem

    Yes, the trains are packed. But don’t blame the victims of the city’s transit meltdown.

  3. Members of a tenants' organization in East Harlem gather outside the office of landlord developer Dawnay, Day Group, as lawyers attempt to serve the company with court papers on behalf of tenants, during a press conference in New York. The tenant's group, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, filed suit against Dawnay, Day Group, the London-based investment corporation "for harassing tenants by falsely and illegally charging fees in attempts to push immigrant families from their homes and gentrify the neighborhood," said Chaumtoli Huq, an attorney for the tenants.
    Equity

    Toward Being a Better Gentrifier

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to be a neighbor during a time of rapid community change.

  4. Life

    Why a City Block Can Be One of the Loneliest Places on Earth

    Feelings of isolation are common in cities. Let’s take a look at how the built environment plays into that.

  5. Panoramic view of Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl.
    Photos

    How a Slum Became a City

    Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl was developed on top of the swampy remains of Lake Texoco by dubious subdividers after World War II. Thanks to some of its earliest residents, “Neza” has become a thriving hub of culture and commerce with running water and paved roads just outside Mexico’s capital.