I live in the land of tours, tourists, and all things touristy. Hollywood, California: home to many, many spots of historical and cultural significance – especially if you are interested in the movie biz. There is an entire industry here built around the idea that people will exchange their hard-earned vacation dollars to have an expert (usually someone who arrived in the southland approximately two weeks before) show them around town. Do you want to know where Brad Pitt lives? Just walk down Hollywood Blvd and you will be approached by someone who, in some gaudy van, will take you there…and many other places of note – Pink’s Hot Dogs (where nobody famous ever eats…ever), the iconic Hollywood sign, or super swanky Rodeo Drive.
Perhaps this is just wishful thinking…but Los Angeles has a pretty rich Civil War era history – so why not a Civil War themed tour? I know, probably not. How would such a tour compete with a potential (never gonna happen) Paris Hilton sighting? But still, there are plenty of places one could visit to add visual depth to an exciting 19th century story. Downtown LA’s plaza near Olvera Street was once the site of heated secessionist activities. Federal soldiers had to be dispatched to calm the would be rebels and perhaps even force them into submission. Their quarters – Drum Barracks – still exist in Wilmington – just outside of Long Beach. This site served as the Federal headquarters for Southern California and the Arizona territory from 1861 to 1871.
If plazas and old buildings don’t grab your attention – maybe a classic Civil War themed film tour would do the trick. Gone With the Wind was filmed down the road from Hollywood in Culver City (David O. Selznick colored the California dirt red to look like Georgia). Culver Studios, formerly Selznick studios, stands to this day – the entry path from the main studio gate is in fact the very same walkway to the Butler’s Atlanta mansion. And there’s more. The Birth of a Nation was shot in a number of locations around town: Whittier, San Bernardino, Burbank, and elsewhere in the San Fernando Valley (where D. W. Griffith made no effort whatsoever to reproduce a South Carolina or Virginia landscape). Hmmm – well, at least I would like to see these spots.
My entrepreneurial spirit says if you see a need for something then you ought to provide it – for a fee of course. But I question whether or not the average LA area vacationer would care to see and understand the Civil War from a Southern California perspective in either history or popular culture.
What do you think??