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Lost to “Progress”: The Modernization of Los Angeles

Lost to “Progress”: The Modernization of Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA – Opening May 2 to coincide with National Preservation Month, explore the controvertial evolution of Los Angeles through the examination of three lost neighborhoods: Bunker Hill, Palo Verde (Chavez Ravine), and the original Chinatown. Lost to Progress: The Modernization of Los Angeles runs through June 28th.

Beginning with its very early history, Los Angeles has been a city of constant reinvention and replacement. The original inhabitants of the area, the Tongva, were eventually usurped by the Mexican Californios, who were replaced by a large Anglo population after 1850 through a program backed by the United States Government. Yet throughout this history, large ethnic communities never went away, but formed ethnic enclaves such as Little Tokyo and Chinatown. Each community contributed its own social structure, architecture and economic system that both competed with and complemented LA’s larger social fabric.

Lost to Progress begins its critical look at the first Chinatown. The “Last of the Great Railway Stations” in the United States, Union Station was built in 1939 and replaced the site of the first Chinatown. The “new” Chinatown was invented not far away, but many businesses did not return, nor did they look at it as the legitimate site of the Chinese community in Los Angeles. Visitors can view rarely-seen images taken from the archives of this first Chinatown and compare them with those of Chinatown today.

Continuing along the same theme, from the 1940s to the 1960s, massive public works projects would determine the fate of Bunker Hill and Chavez Ravine. As in Chinatown in the 1930s, both of these neighborhoods shared the characteristics of having large low-income, minority populations and being close to the City center. In the late 1940s, the once-stately Victorian-era dwellings began to have a high-rate of absentee land ownership, particularly as white flight to the suburbs began en masse. The resulting deteriorating conditions helped City leaders to justify creation of downtown as a civic and commercial hub.

The closely-knit Mexican-American communities of Palo Verde, La Loma and La Bishop made up Chavez Ravine. In 1962, these communities were forcefully replaced in what is one of Los Angeles’ most well-known battles over eminent domain against a public-partnership consortium to create what is today Dodger Stadium. Lost to Progress takes you inside these battles and the communities the stadium replaced.

As the reinvention of Los Angeles continues, the public is often told it needs large-scale public works development projects and that eminent domain is a necessary means to achieving a positive end. Examining these neighborhoods, now forgotten or reduced to street names, visitors to the exhibit are asked “Was it worth it?”

Celebrating 40 Years of Preservation and Interpretation of the History of Southern California, Heritage Square Museum is a living history museum dedicated to telling the story of the development of Los Angeles. The exhibit is included in the museum’s admission fee: $10/Adults, $8/Seniors, $5/Children ages 6-12. The museum is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 12 to 5 PM. Admission is free for museum members. Lost to Progress runs through June 28. Lost to Progress is co-curated by Jessica Maria Alicea-Covarrubias and Leticia Muñoz.

Heritage Square is located at 3800 Homer Street, off the 110 Arroyo Seco Parkway (110/Pasadena Freeway) at Avenue 43, just north of downtown Los Angeles. For further information, the public may call 323/225-2700 or visit our website at www.heritagesquare.org

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