Friday, February 12, 2010

Crossing Over: Foothill Freeway, Southside




Did Henry Ford, Firestone, and fossil fuel conspire to drive public transportation out of Los Angeles? Maybe, but maybe they got a push from the enemy -- the electric trolleys, Henry Huntington’s Red Car system.

In the early part of the last century, Huntington’s hand held more than a deck’s worth of aces. He owned the Southern Pacific, or major shares in it, and he owned the Red Cars. He laid the tracks, straight to his door and the door of his friends. Huntington also owned a great deal of real estate; one can do the tycoon math.

So the automobile brought some measure of independence to the common man in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and thereabouts. Allowed him to express lese majeste, give Huntington and his ilk the universal roadsign. What’s a few blown tires and dusty roads compared to autonomy? How good did it feel when no one could tell you where to go or what time you had to leave to get there.

And eventually freeway architects would speed past the best the railroads and trolleys and electric cars had to offer.

But the romance of the open road left broken hearts along the way. Romance will do that.

There are two one-way streets that sidle up to the Foothill Freeway, the 210 freeway, the dividing line between the Denas, the freeway that connects us to all points north, east, south, west. During the daily 300-minute rush hour, most drivers use the side streets to hop hopefully on the freeway, then limp, sadder but wiser, off again.

You may be more observant than I, most people are. So I never noticed what lined the street south, parallel to the 210, until I left the car and walked it. Some things live, some thrive, some died, some are just fading away. In the context of what came before, it kind of makes sense.

Next installment, next month: Foothill Freeway: Tracking the Southside

21 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Just a quick pitstop b4 I continue on my way to say I'm lucky I don't need to use the freeways for work!! Gave them up at the turn of the century.

    On 3rd thought, sometimes I'll use the FW to go from Pasadena to Sierra Madre. Oh well, one day I will bee free. Keep hope alive.

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  3. Do you mean the sidling streets of Villa and Corson? It must be tough living on those, in houses people only want to get past as fast as they can. They'll never cast a sideways glance at your rambling roses or wisteria, or admire your new paint scheme. And you must be the only person who has ever walked along there. Why???

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  4. I can't wait to learn more about your discoveries.

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  5. Now it's the railroads that seem to hold the romance.

    GG

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  6. Corson. I drive it a lot. There are some photos I want to take along there but I never seem to turn down a side street and park because I only use Corson when I'm on my way somewhere and not just cruising.

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  7. I don't fully grasp all of this, KB, as anything resembling geography or road maps tends to make me close my eyes and think of England. But I know one thing ~ I wish they'd bring trams back to Brisbane.

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  8. Hah! Probably seems a little vague, huh Shell? Just ramblings, as I'm working on a piece about how the freeway shaped the Denas.

    Bellis, M and P, you'd be pleasantly surprised at some places, and not surprised at all by others. I got pictures.

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  9. I've never been there, but this kind of map and demographic and lifestyle stuff interests me. Hope you keep it coming.

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  10. Could you be channeling the spirit of my Grand Uncle Grover? That red chair was his. He was one of the Red Car drivers. One day I'd like to figure out which route.

    Yay... I love a good series

    wv: denstiqu

    the french version of a cross between destiny and destination

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  11. I'm looking 4ward 2 your online freeway investigations, KB!

    I can hardly wait until you tackle So Pasadena, Alhambra, & de 710 fw. You should bring some needed heat in the light of that situation.

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  12. It's amazing to walk the streets you usually drive...sometimes I find that the distances are so much shorter than I always thought.

    Looking forward to the next installment.

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  13. What 'years' was the 210 built? 1960s?

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  14. The 210, the stretch in Pasadena, took forever to build. They razed the area in 1963, I believe, and it lay fallow for years and years. I think it was finished in the early 1970's.

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  15. Love this sort of meandering history, Karin. Walking is the only way to get the lay of the land.

    Yesterday, for the first time ever, I took a bus from the south side of my city, across the harbour to the northside. Piece of cake and encouraged me to think that all is possible all that is required is time. And with my Seniors Card it cost me $2.50.

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  16. I just finished reading Allende's Zorro, it talks about Alta California and Pueblo de Los Angeles, the beginnings of Los Angeles. I imagine that buried beneath all that asphalt and concrete are many, many trails, in fact I would be fascinated to know what streets are simply more modern versions of those original foot trails. Looking forward to your further observations, and yes, getting out and walking a familiar route can change your whole perspective. Fascinating.

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  17. I'm psyched about the upcoming photos.

    When I was a westsider, I used to take Sepulveda in lieu of the 405. I also would take National instead of the 10 and then get up to Beverly and go over Beverly or Laurel or Coldwater to get to the Valley. It was fun to drive LA like it was still the 1940s. I loved Barham into Burbank, Sunset from Hollywood down to the beach. Yeah, it takes longer but it's cool to see the city instead of just freeway.

    There is an amazing video up on Youtube where someone took a picture every ten steps walking all the way from downtown to the beach on Wilshire. You can literally watch it go from blight to wealth/asphalt to green in a matter of minutes.

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  18. Did I say National? I meant Palms. At any rate, you get the idea.

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  19. Super comparison photo.
    Love the line about romance.
    But it's true for any kind of love...
    But only love
    can break your heart
    Try to be sure
    right from the start
    Yes only love
    can break your heart
    What if your world
    should fall apart?
    - Maybe then it's time to head for the hills on the 210.

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  20. "I’m not my own best friend. We have so little in common."

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