It’s not every day that a space shuttle lands at LAX. Although this was a first for the major Los Angeles airport hub, it was a last for the space shuttle Endeavour, as it completed its tour of California skies and landed, albeit atop a 747, for the last time. During its last flight the iconic shuttle and its chase planes were photographed near several of California’s own icons including the Golden GateBridge in San Francisco, the HollywoodSign, and the skyline of Los Angeles. Previously, in May, the space shuttle Enterprise was captured passing behind several of New York City’s icons on its way to the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum. Pictured above, the piggybacking shuttle was snapped on approach last week to LAX as it crossed above and beyond a major Los Angeles street. Now retired, the space shuttles are all museum pieces, with the above shuttle scheduled to be towed along the streets of LA to the California Science Center.
Watch in full screen!
Looking at photos of the Hollywood Sign in its early years is a little like seeing the Statue of Liberty with a third arm, or the Golden Gate Bridge with a second deck. The sign has become such an effective icon of Los Angeles that we assume its present configuration must conform to its Platonic ideal.
But when those white, sans-serif block letters first rose from the face of Mount Lee in 1923, they were simply a real-estate advertisement, not a cultural symbol, and there were four more of them: L-A-N-D. The thirteen letters—illuminated at night by 4,000 incandescent bulbs—promoted the Hollywoodland subdivision to the rest of the booming city of Los Angeles. And as Leo Braudy writes in his authoritative history of the sign, they were meant to be seen from an automobile; the sign’s principal designers, publicist John D. Roche and Los Angeles Timespublisher Harry Chandler, scaled the letters—50 feet tall by 30 feet wide—to be read from Wilshire Boulevard.
The images above and below—many of them produced for publication in the Los AngelesTimes, Examiner, and Herald Express—reflect the unbound optimism of the time. Sure, the concrete is freshly poured, the landscaping is trimmed, and the shoulders are free of debris, but the photographs themselves represent a deliberate celebration of the freeway. Their composition emphasizes open pavement and gently curving lines, implying speedy and graceful travel. And in many of the images, the freeway lanes fill the frame at the expense of the surrounding landscape—a subtle but reassuring message that these superhighways have conquered the long distances of the famously sprawling region.
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.