The street owes its existence to Lt. Edward Ord, who named it Fort Street. From 1849 until 1890, Fort Street connected L.A.'s downtown with Fort Moore. In 1890, the thoroughfare was re-christened "Broadway". And, yes--the name was a nod to New York City's Broadway.
One of North Broadway's cross streets is "Ord"--named in honor of the famed surveyor. Fort Moore is gone, but an impressive (if decaying) monument to the fort remains atop Hill Street. Pedestrians on Broadway who wish to visit the monument can climb a narrow staircase connecting Broadway to Hill.
Today Broadway stretches from Lincoln Heights, a neighborhood north of Downtown Los Angeles, past the sprawling rail yards and newest downtown park, through the last vestiges of "Little Italy" and through still-vibrant Chinatown, through the Civic Center, and thence flowing through L.A.'s famed theatre, jewelry, and fashion districts, finally terminating well south of the downtown in Carson.
"Downtown Los Angeles in Photographs 2014" will be, like the original book, a
collection of black-and-white photos showcasing the city's "noir" beauty, featuring historical information as well as noting anticipated changes. For Broadway is under revitalization, particularly along its historic theatre corridor.
Broadway's Chinatown remains largely untouched, a bustling community that welcomes foreign and domestic tourists. "Downtown Los Angeles in Photographs 2014" will focus heavily on this fascinating enclave, where the old and new, the traditional and modern, exist in sometimes dream-like congruence.
Chinatown is perfumed with the scent of freshly cut oranges, and incense burning in rooms off shop. There is very little you cannot find in Chinatown. Tanks of live crabs. Glass cases of roasted pig. Bakeries--among the best in the city--and jewelers, and banks, dentists and optometrists, cultural centers and benevolent societies.
One hears the frantic clucking of chickens behind a fence on which a sign proclaims "Pollos Vivos" ("live chickens") and "No Entry". No entry for the public; no exit for the fowl.
Everything seems to be for sale. Cardboard boxes overlowing with colorful produce--fruits and vegetables and berries. Herbs. Vitamins. Irish caps. Heavy-metal T-shirts. High-end sunglasses. Lucky bamboo plants. Fresh flowers. Birthday cakes. Fortune cookies by the bag. And everywhere, everywhere, merchandise stamped with the adorable visage of "Hello Kitty".
Bookended by the last remnants of "Little Italy" to the north, and the Great Dragon Gate to the south, the Chinatown section of Broadway welcomes drivers and pedestrians to Downtown Los Angeles. Tourists snap photos and queue at the Chinese restaurants. Elderly locals take morning constitutionals, or sit languidly on benches, smoking.
In the central plaza, a golden statue of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen welcomes visitors entering the plaza from the Broadway side. Here is the district's heaviest concentration of traditional Chinese architecture and decor. Red-pink paper-lanterns strung across the courtyards link restaurants, gift shops, and importers.
Esther, a shop owner, runs two stores in the plaza, one she describes as more American, the other more traditionally Chinese; the latter is presided over by a large, lucky Buddha statue. "Sincere Imports" has been open since 1937, when Esther's father-in-law opened it. Esther took over the store in 1980.
While instructing an employee on the benefits of using water-and-newspaper to remove grease from the shop windows, Esther holds forth about the upcoming Lunar New Year festivities. "The Year of the Horse" is nigh. She recommends that the author photograph Chinatown's neon and its glowing lanterns at night, particulary during the new year festivities.
In research there is no substitute for talking to primary sources. Esther directs the author to a somewhat hidden gem: The Chinese Historical Society, tucked away in a tiny purple house on Bernard, just west of an abandoned gas station. Esther also holds forth on stories of treasure hidden by Chinese residents long in the past "in vases inside of vases" and then buried by construction when the nearby freeways were built ...
[Look for "Downtown Los Angeles in Photographs 2014"
later this year at Amazon.com or through the author's website: www.leslielemonauthor.com.]