A Look at Los Angeles Before It Was Tinsel Town

“Lights, camera, action!”

We all know that phrase keeps the film rolling in Hollywood. However, long before the glitz and glamor of Tinsel Town made Southern California famous, photo-worthy moments happened here. You can still capture a few of them on camera in some of Los Angeles’ best spots for photos.

Prehistoric Los Angeles

Before it was Hollywood, LA had its share of big-time actors. Today, some of the biggest are immortalized at the La Brea Tar Pits. Yes, one of the world’s most famous fossil finds is right in the heart of the city at 5801 Wilshire Boulevard. The amazingly preserved skeletons of mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and giant sloths have been waiting patiently for their photo opportunities since being trapped in the tar up to 50,000 years ago. That’s a long time to wait for their big break!

More recently, The George C. Page Museum of La Brea Discoveries has exhibited these stars. Now we can all get a good close-up of these famed fossil celebrities.

In our imaginations, we envisioned these creatures sinking into a quicksand pool. However, our guide explained the process of their petrifaction as something more similar to being trapped on an enormous sheet of flypaper than to languishing in a lake of liquid goop. First, an animal would get stuck. Then others would arrive, thinking they had gotten a free and easy meal. Before long a whole group, sometimes dozens, would be trapped.

Over time, the oily ooze fossilized the bones, preserving the entire scene, almost as if it was caught on film. Once the ice age and the exotic headliners that starred in it were left long in the past, a settlement sprang up just a few miles to the east of the pits.

The City of Angels

Tucked in among the freeways and skyscrapers of downtown and right across from the Union Station train depot, the tiny pedestrian lane of Olvera Street is known as the Birthplace of Los Angeles. More precisely, Don Fernando Rivera y Moncada and 44 Spanish settlers arrived from Mexico and established El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de la Porciúncula in 1781.

As a part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, the cobblestone block known as Olvera Street includes several of the oldest surviving structures in LA, including the Avila Adobe and Sepúlveda House. These landmarks are nestled in among quaint little shops overflowing with every kind of colorful keepsake imaginable. Flamboyant flowers, dresses, guitars, dolls, piñatas, ponchos, rugs, sombreros, and glitzy wrestling masks make a fantastic backdrop for one-of-a-kind photos.

Then, when all of that shutter snapping helps you work up an appetite, nothing tops the original taquitos sold at Cielito Lindo on the end of Olvera Street. Since this shop opened in 1934, it has spanned the timeline between old Los Angeles and new Hollywood, so it’s possible that a few movie stars have stopped by.

Could taquitos be the unknown key to Tinsel Town’s fame?

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10 thoughts on “A Look at Los Angeles Before It Was Tinsel Town”

  1. Wonderful photographs and a great read. I remember having a discussion similar to this with my dad-in-law sometime back where we debated how cities are not what they used to be. It’s great to learn and hear from people who have different opinions. As a traveller, it makes me look at a place with different angles and that’s what I love. Thanks for writing.

  2. Nice post, photographs are amazing ones. Thanks for sharing this post this is really very nice and amazing.

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