Category Archives: Los Angeles

Los Angeles in 1912

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 9.22.59 AMI came across the coolest film clip ever yesterday when I was making the rounds on Facebook – this one from my friends at SoCal Historic Architecture. Head over and follow them if you are a fan of LA history. The clip in question features a few views around Los Angeles in 1912. Quite clearly, some things have not changed a bit: traffic is still terrible, pedestrians still wander out into the middle of the street, and bicyclists still disregard all rules of the road to their own peril.  But some things have changed. For example, we no longer have an alligator farm, and as far as I know, ostriches are in short supply – at least within the city limits. As far a public transportation – the 1912 version was first-rate…today we are slowly reclaiming some of that nascent efficiency.

At any rate, I am certain my Angeleno friends will enjoy this film clip as will anyone who has an interest in early-twentieth century urban history.

With compliments,


Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 7.27.31 AMHi all – I would just like to share a few words with my Los Angeles neighbors – and really anyone with a soft spot for LA mid-century architecture.

There seems to be a rising outpouring of sentimentalism and displeasure over the impending razing of the Chase Bank situated on the corner of Crescent Heights and Sunset Blvd…to be replaced by one of the dreaded shop/live/work superstructures that are popping up all over town.

I’ll admit, the unique 1960 structure with its distinctive angular roof is pretty easy on the eyes – and I suppose it will be sad to see it go. But without lamenting the building’s passing or celebrating its demise – I would just like to point out that the construction of the bank in 1959-60 displaced another historical Hollywood landmark of great significance – one that everyone seems to have forgotten.

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The Garden of Allah, once a private residence built in 1913 and later owned by silent film star Alla Nazimova, was converted into a hotel in the 1920s. Famous residents included F. Scott Fitzgerald. This beautiful example of early-twentieth century Southern California architecture came down in 1959…but not before one last Hollywood bash to send it off. Up went the Lytton Savings and Loan (now Chase Bank), and not incidentally – a hideous eye sore of a strip mall.

So, if we are going to shed sentimental tears as the bank passes over to the other side, then let us likewise raise a glass to the Garden of Allah.

With compliments,


LA Story

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 3.30.38 PMGreetings all – today I have been doing a good deal of reading about my most favorite city and adopted hometown, Los Angeles. This  metropolis, the City of Angeles, emerged, grew, and prospered in the most unlikely of ways. As part of my web-course series, I am in the beginning stages of organizing themes and a narrative that will tackle the history of this great city for a world of viewers…and perhaps offer something instructive for the thousands who move here each month. These few words, penned by writer Morris Markey in 1932, struck me as good a starting place as any:

As I wandered about Los Angeles, looking for the basic meaning of the place, the fundamental source of its wealth and its economic identity, I found myself quite at sea. The Chamber of Commerce people told me about the concentration of fruit, the shipping, the Western branch factories put up by concerns in the East. But none of these things seemed the cause of a city. They seemed rather the effect, rising from an inexplicable accumulation of people – just as the immense dealings in second-hand automobiles and the great turnover of real estate were an effect. It struck me as an odd thing that here, alone of all the cities in America, there was no plausible answer to the question, “Why did a town spring up here and why has it grown so big?”

Big indeed…and incessantly, inexorably  growing. Traffic alone will attest to that. As it were, I have made a three-picture study of LA traffic on Instagram today…just for the visual recognition that the issue seems to have been with us for some time now. At any rate, I believe there is an answer to the riddle of Los Angeles, and I am thus putting together the skeletal framework for the web-course City of Angeles: A History of Los Angeles as I finish production of my American Civil War course. The flesh is on deck…and those of you who are part of the crew will get the first crack at it.

With compliments,


PS – if you want to get a head start, here are a couple of books worth reading.

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The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles, 1850-1930 by Robert M. Fogelson





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Southern California: An Island on the Land by Carey McWilliams

A Keith Harris History PSA – Watch Out for Pedestrians!

IMG_3404Greetings all!

Those of you who are connected with me on my personal Facebook page already know that a couple of days ago my wife, Coni and I were hit by a car while in a crosswalk in Hollywood. Coni broke her arm in two places and I sprained my wrist. We were both pretty banged up but otherwise, thankfully, came out of the whole incident relatively okay. Suffice it to say, things could have been a lot worse. And let me say for the record, Coni is a hardcore badass. She got hit way worse than me and laughed through (most of) the ordeal. I would like to express my gratitude to my neighbors for looking after us while the paramedics were on the way, LAFD station 27, the RNs, attending, and orthopedist at Cedars Sinai, the LAPD investigating officer, and the Uber lady who drove us home. You rule.

And let me take a moment to remind you all to please pay attention when behind the wheel. Don’t text, don’t fiddle around, and for the love of Jiminy Cricket, be mindful of pedestrians. Take it easy driving out there folks – the lives you save could be ours 🙂

With compliments,


Clune’s Auditorium, Los Angeles

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 7.17.49 PMNearly 100 years ago, D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation opened to great fanfare at William “Billy” Clune’s Auditorium on the north/east corner of 5th and Olive Street in downtown Los Angeles – across from Pershing Square. Pictured above, the auditorium boasted 2,500 seats. Before it’s reign as a premier movie house in the teens and twenties, the building had served pious Angelenos as a church. In the 1930s, it became home to the LA Philharmonic and LA Symphony. When planned renovations fell through the in 1980s, the structure was demolished to make way for an office building, which, by the way, also failed. Today the corner is a parking lot.

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I took this image on 1/8/15 from Pershing Square, directly across from the site of the once grand Clune’s Auditorium.


With compliments,