Los Angeles Visionaries Association

The Flâneur & The City: Victorian Los Angeles

This tour is now full. If you want to try to get a space on the tour, you may attend the LAVA Sunday Salon and ask about openings before the tour departs.

For the latest installment of urban historian Richard Schave’s site-specific discussion series “The Flâneur & The City,” Richard (Esotouric bus adventures) is joined by architectural historian Nathan Marsak (1947project, On Bunker Hill, In SRO Land).

On this excursion we’ll explore the mostly lost architectural landmarks of the Northern Historic Core, starting from 3rd & Spring, east to Main, then north to the lawn of City Hall, then westward to 2nd & Spring. Within this small footprint, we will discover some of the most fascinating structures in L.A. history, most of them quite forgotten.

The tour is inspired by the September 2011 launch of a new series on the In SRO Land time travel blog featuring archival material from the collection of the Union Rescue Mission, which presents an opportunity for exploring the lost lore of the old commercial neighborhood which was largely cleared via eminent domain in the 1920s and 1930s in order to provide a clean slate for the erection of City Hall and other government buildings. This was a precursor to the much larger and more destructive eminent domain project by which the residential neighborhood Bunker Hill was cleared in the 1950s and 1960s.

Locations on the walking tour will include Joseph Newsom’s exquisite Bryson-Bonebrake Block (1888), first two Union Rescue Mission locations, and the original “civic center” encompassing the Courthouse (1887), the Hall of Records (1911) and the State Building (1931).

To start, we will seek to answer some basic questions about the early development of downtown Los Angeles:

• Who were the architects and financiers of 19th Century Los Angeles?

• Which buildings were most representative of these individuals’ aims, and which were the most significant architecturally?

• What did the Victorian-era Angeleno think of the architecture of his city?

• How did architecture reflect the growth of the city?

Having established these early themes, we will start to ask questions about the emotional and spiritual core of the city of Los Angeles –-its zeitgeist—and begin to draw the connection between architecture and the city’s culture.

An example is the discussion of the Union Rescue Mission’s first two buildings at 145 N. Main Street and 226 S. Main Street. More than a century ago, the URM’s unique mission brought them to the heart of Skid Row, a place filled with characters and scenery worthy of Victor Hugo, and it keeps them there to this day. The city has twice forced a move of the URM as it seeks to “move along” the disenfranchised and those who seek to aid them. These snapshots of lost architectural spaces that were once an intrinsic part of a dynamic urban core tell us much about the tensions and forces still at play in the community.

The tour’s closing thoughts are inspired by a quote from Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame: “When a man understands the art of seeing, he can trace the spirit of an age and the features of a king even in the knocker on a door.”

TAKING THIS TOUR: This tour is now full. If you want to try to get a space on the tour, you may attend the LAVA Sunday Salon and ask about openings before the tour departs. — Reservations will be required for this free walking tour, and space is very limited for all events in this series. Reserve your space for the September 25 event by clicking “Signups(THERE ARE NO “PLUS-ONES” – ONE RESERVATION PER PERSON, PLEASE!).

ABOUT THE TOUR SERIES: “The Flâneur & The City” is an ongoing attempt to explore some of the more important issues revealed by the constantly changing heart of the metropolis. The core notion of the series is of culture and history as commodities that are packaged and sold to a target demographic; meanwhile, it’s the ignored and seemingly worthless scraps of meaning found on the sidewalks and marketplaces where the true remnants of positive public space can be found. All interpretations and nuisances of the word flâneur are examined—from the modern-day aesthete dreaming of Baudelaire while carried along in the human tide past the stalls and shops of Broadway, to its more recent and perhaps relevant use, someone who is loitering. At its heart this series is a celebration of the simple act of getting out of your car, walking through a neighborhood and learning to see it with your own eyes.