Posted by: Brad Nixon | January 25, 2017

Rarely Seen Los Angeles… From the Middle of the Street

The January 21, 2017 Women’s March LA presented a flood of visual stimulation. The human factor alone was overwhelming: nearly half a million people of every age, race and culture filling a significant portion of downtown.

Womens March LA Brad Nixon (640x335)

As I described in my previous post, thousands of them carried signs and banners.

Womens March LA Brad Nixon 5831 (640x480)

Eight hours of standing and walking in that constantly shifting tide was a visually overpowering experience, beginning with the jam-packed train and the station, thronged beyond capacity with a crowd stretching out into the street.

LA 7th St station Brad Nixon (640x478)

For this student of downtown L.A. architecture, the event offered another irresistible treat for the eyes: the opportunity to gawk at the city at leisure from the middle of the street.

LA Downtown Brad Nixon 5865 (640x481)

The above view includes, in the center, the 12-story Art Deco Title Guarantee building (1929-1931), and I was able to shoot it from an unusual angle, not ordinarily available to the sidewalk-bound photographer.

LA Downtown Brad Nixon 5878 (614x640)

What do those signs in the window say? They’re directed at the marchers:

Womens March LA Brad Nixon 5876 (640x585)

From the middle of the street I had a better opportunity to demonstrate that LA has a backdrop of mountains, the San Gabriels.

LA Downtown Brad Nixon 5858 (640x491)

The Italianate Subway Terminal Building (1924-6) is an impressive holdover from an earlier era, both stylistically as well as functionally: five lines of the now-defunct Pacific Electric “Red Car” formerly converged there serving downtown until 1955. (Only in the past 20 years has LA begun rebuilding a subway/light rail system.)

LA Downtown Brad Nixon 5883 (640x473)

The red brick Millennium Biltmore Hotel, a few blocks away, was designed by the same architectural firm, and echoes the Italianate theme. For more about the Biltmore, click here.

LA Downtown Brad Nixon 5861 (640x518)

I was busy participating and didn’t focus entirely on architecture, failing to get a shot of Angels Flight, the funicular built in 1900 that climbs from Hill Street to the top of Bunker Hill. Here it is from my archive several years ago, when it was in operation.

Angels Flight Brad Nixon 3449 (640x480)

At the time this article was published, Angels Flight had been shut down since 2013. If you watched the recent film, “La La Land,” you saw Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone ride Angels Flight and dance their way off at the top.

Angels Flight in La La Land Summit Entertainment (640x341)

How did the film company get permission to have two high profile actors ride it? Well, it IS the film capital of the world. This article provides some possible explanations. I wrote more about Angels Flight with additional photos here. Since I wrote this article, Angels Flight has reopened. CLICK HERE to read my update.

There are modern structures in L.A., too. Once the tallest building on the west coast, the 1,018-foot U.S. Bank building (1989) was recently eclipsed by a taller building, but looked impressive from a new angle.

LA Downtown Brad Nixon 5863 (515x640)

The skyscrapers clustered atop once-residential Bunker Hill, while not one of the world’s notable group of structures, put on a good show with a timely backdrop of clouds.

LA Downtown Brad Nixon 5894 (640x480)

I even got a new angle on Frank Gehry’s iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall.

LA Downtown Brad Nixon 5891 (640x384)

The object of the march was to gather at Los Angeles City Hall (1928, 32 floors, 454′), once the dominant landmark of the city skyline (no other building was allowed to exceed 150′ until the 1950s), and still a symbol of the city. As it happened, the crush of people prevented us from reaching it to hear and see the impressive group of A-list celebrities slated to speak, but we saw the old hall in a new context.

LA City hall area Brad Nixon (640x488)

The day wasn’t intended to be a tour of Los Angeles, but it was a rare gift to have the streets to ourselves. L.A. without automobiles? Unthinkable, although many thousands of people did ride a train to get there, not a car.

For many of the details in this post I relied, as I often do, on the monumental An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles, © Robert Winter and David Gebhard 2003, Gibbs Smith, Utah.

Tip to visitors: The most convenient and knowledgeable source of architectural tours of Los Angeles is the Los Angeles Conservancy. Highly recommended.

© Brad Nixon 2017. Image from “La La Land” © Summit Entertainment 2017, used for illustration. No reproduction for any commercial purpose without the permission of Summit is allowed.


  1. Great photos! Thank you for documenting the fresh perspective we marchers got of the city.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved all the photos and explanations as well!


  3. Thank you for your sensitive tribute to a very large city that few people probably think of as interesting or beautiful.

    Regarding the marches, what struck me was the imagination and sometimes humor of the signs, notwithstanding the serious purpose of the gatherings. One of my favs: “Dear world, We’re not all jerks!” That’s American humor, with a serious message, for you.


    • The preponderance of the signs were at least trenchant, and some, as you say, possessed wit. A few were churlish, vindictive or negative in a way that did nothing to further any cause, but it was a big tent with everyone invited. And, besides, freedom of speech was, perhaps, the core principle being upheld. So let it be.


      • I wish that you would stop using words that I have to stop and look up! 😦 It interrupts the flow, you know what I mean? Like with your lyrics, you Beetle.


  4. I meant, “Beatle,” Paul.


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