A great article by Laura Barton on Sunset Boulevard:
This is a story of belonging and not belonging, of preposterous wealth and immense poverty; of how, in a city where people love to be seen, so many can slip through the cracks unnoticed.
It is also the story of a single street, Sunset Boulevard, a 22-mile vein that goes from the coast to the clutter of downtown, past Sunset Strip, the Church of Scientology and on through Silver Lake. And of how, if you should choose to walk that street, from sunrise to sunset, you will come to see a city unadorned and unmade, a city at odds with itself.
SUNSET WAS ONCE a cattle trail. In the 1780s it ran out of the Pueblo de Los Angeles, west towards the sea. It remained a dirt road until the early 1900s, when it was paved and polished to fit the intentions of a burgeoning city. “The paving of Sunset Boulevard is one of the most important public improvements attempted in Los Angeles,” said the Los Angeles Herald in 1909, “and because of this fact has been attended with more than the customary amount of difficulty.” The bickering between the rival contractors dragged on for two years, with the Board of Public Works finally awarding the contract to Barber Asphalt, for $181,733.16.
Within a generation, it was given another make-over. In the early 1930s, Sunset Strip—the mile-and-a-half-long stretch that runs through West Hollywood—was paved with thick Portland cement and Warrenite Bitulithic, to match the growth of glamorous casinos and nightclubs along its route.
In the years since, Sunset Boulevard has become shorthand for what Los Angeles represents in the collective imagination. It is the Chateau Marmont and the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, the Hollywood Palladium, Schwab’s Drugstore, the Directors’ Guild of America and the Hustler store. It evokes extremes, from the spangled American Dream to seedy, untempered excess; the wild and peculiar destination of a country forever looking West.