Originally, infamous alley called Calle de los Negros ran southward from the southeast corner of the Los Angeles Plaza southward to an open space called Broad Place, at the junction with the east-west streets Arcadia and Aliso, under today’s 101 freeway. From Broad Place, Los Angeles Street ran southward.
Around 1888, Los Angeles Street was extended from Broad Place northward to Alameda St. in three sections:
- The Colonel Adobe and other buildings were demolished and the street was extended from Broad Place to the Plaza
- the existing street which formed the eastern side of the Plaza, along which the Lugo and Del Valle adobes lay, was then called part of Los Angeles St., and
- a small new street was built from the north side of the Plaza (Marchessault St.) northward to meet Alameda. This is now a pedestrianized area called Placita Dolores.
Note how at the time of the map (1888), the blocks south and east of the Plaza are marked “China Town“. This was the western part of Old Chinatown, and was nearly all demolished in the 1950s to create the 101 freeway and its service roads and onramp, a parking lot, and a park. Old Chinatown also included areas east of Alameda St., which were demolished in the 1930s to make way for Union Station.
The block from the Plaza to Alameda (Placita Dolores)
Los Angeles Street was extended one block north from the Plaza in 1888, and terminated at Alameda Street. This short block is now pedestrianized and is part of Placita Dolores, a small open plaza which surrounds a statue of Mexican charro entertainer Antonio Aguilar on horseback. Los Angeles Street now turns east at the north side of the Plaza to terminate at Alameda Street at a right angle, directly across from the entrance to the Union Station complex.
Eastern side of the Los Angeles Plaza
Calle de los Negros
Until around 1888, Los Angeles Street did not form the east side of the Plaza as it does today; it ran south only from Broad Place at the intersection of Arcadia Street. Here, the Coronel Adobe blocked the path north one block to the Plaza, but just slightly to the right (east) of the path of Los Angeles Street was Calle de los Negros (marked on post-1847 maps as Negro Alley or N***er Alley), a narrow, one-block north–south street likely named after darker-skinned Mexican afromestizo and/or mulatto residents during the Spanish colonial era.. At the north end of Calle de los Negros stood the Del Valle adobe (also known as the Matthias or Matteo Sabichi house), at the southern edge of which one could turn left and enter the plaza at its southeast corner. Calle de los Negros was famous for its saloons and violence in the early days of the town, and by the 1880s was considered part of Chinatown, lined with Chinese and Chinese American residences, businesses and gambling dens.
The Colonel Adobe was demolished in 1888 and 1896 Sanborn maps show that the Del Valle adobe had been removed, and Los Angeles Street had been extended to form the eastern edge of the Plaza, thus passing in front of the Lugo Adobe. Calle de los Negros remained for a few more decades, behind a row of houses lining the east side of Los Angeles Street between Arcadia and Aliso streets. This was also the western edge of Old Chinatown from around the 1880s through 1930s. It reached eastward across Alameda St. to cover most of the area that is now Union Station. It proceeded one more block past the Plaza, with the buildings on the east side of Olvera Street forming its western edge, until terminating at Alameda Street.
The neglected dirt alley was already associated with vice by the early 1850s, when a bordello and its owner both known as La Prietita (the dark-skinned lady) were active here. Its other businesses included malodorous livery stables, a pawn shop, a saloon, a theater and a connected restaurant. Historian James Miller Guinn wrote in 1896, “in the flush days of gold mining, from 1850 to 1856, it was the wickedest street on earth…In length it did not exceed 500 feet, but in wickedness, it was unlimited. On either side it was lined with saloons, gambling hells, dance houses and disreputable dives. It was a cosmopolitan street. Representatives of different races and many nations frequented it. Here the ignoble red man, crazed with aguardiente, fought his battles, the swarthy Sonorian plied his stealthy dagger, and the click of the revolver mingled with the clink of gold at the gaming table when some chivalric American felt that his word of “honah” had been impugned.”
By 1871, the alley was notorious as a “racially, spatially, and morally disorderly place”, according to historian César López. It was here that a growing number of Chinese immigrant railroad laborers settled after the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. There, William Estrada notes, the “Chinese of Los Angeles came to fill an important sector of the economy as entrepreneurs. Some became proprietors and employees of small hand laundries and restaurants; some were farmers and wholesale produce peddlers; others ran gambling establishments; and some occupied other areas left vacant by the absence of workers in the gold rush migration to California.” The Chinese population increased from 14 in 1860 to almost 200 by 1870. Guinn stated that the alley stayed “wicked” through and after its transition to the city’s Old Chinatown.
Calle de los Negros was reconfigured in 1888 when Los Angeles Street was extended north, with a small, shallow row of houses remaining between the new section of Los Angeles street’s eastern edge and the western edge of the new, shortened alley. The site of Calle de los Negros is now the Pueblo parking lot and a cloverleaf-style entrance to the US 101 freeway.
Broad Place and the Coronel Adobe
The Coronel Adobe was built in 1840 by Ygnacio Coronel as a family home. It stood at the northwest corner of Arcadia Street and Calle de los Negros; Los Angeles Street terminated at its southern end. The area gradually became an area for gambling and saloons, and upper-class families left to live elsewhere. Around 1849, they sold the house to a “sporting fraternity”, which operated a popular 24-hour gambling establishment with games including monte, faro, and poker; up to $200,000 in gold could be seen on the tables at a time. Arguments ensued and murders were frequent. The building later became a dance hall where “lewd women” were employed, aimed at the Mexican-American population. After that, still in the 1850s, it became a grocery and dry goods store (Corbett & Barker), then a storage house for iron and hard lumber for Harris Newmark Co. It was then leased to a Chinese immigrant. In 1871, it was the site of the Chinese massacre of 1871. The Adobe was torn down in 1888 in order to extend Los Angeles Street north past the Plaza.
After the Colonel Adobe was demolished and Los Angeles St. was extended north from Broad Place around 1888, the Garnier Building was built in 1890 at the northwest corner of Aliso St. and the new block of Los Angeles St. The location was still part of the city’s original Chinatown. The southern portion of the building was demolished in the 1950s to make way for the Hollywood Freeway. The Chinese American Museum is now located in the Garnier Building. It should not be confused with another Garnier Block/Building on Main St. a block away now commonly known as Plaza House.
Los Angeles Street was lined mostly with commercial buildings and few hotels, offices or shops; the southeast end of the business district around Los Angeles and 3rd streets was the Wholesale District. Only a few buildings were notable:
East side of Los Angeles St. from Aliso St. south to today’s Temple St.
- Bell Block was at the southeast corner of Aliso Street. It was General John C. Fremont‘s headquarters and the first Los Angeles City Hall. Captain Alexander Bell and Mellus lived here (Francis Mellus married a niece of Mrs. Bell’s). It was taken over by General Fremont for his headquarters and thus became the state capital for the short period of his acting as governor. The Los Angeles City organization was formed in this building in 1850.
- Mellus Row, adjacent to Bell Block on the south
- Hellman, Haas & Co. grocers (a partnership of Abraham Haas and Herman W. Hellman), the predecessors of Smart & Final. Located in the 1880s and 1890s at 218-224 (pre-1890 numbering, post-1890 numbering: 318-324) N. Los Angeles St., adjacent to Mellus Row on the south. Not to be confused with the Haas Building.
- Between Aliso and Temple streets on the east side of Los Angeles St. at #300 is the Federal Building, opened in 1965-6, architect Welton Becket. Adjacent to and east of the Federal Building in the same oversized block is the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and United States Courthouse, completed in 1992.
West side of Los Angeles St. from Arcadia south to Temple St.
- Arcadia Block: southwest corner of Arcadia Street. Built 1858, razed in 1927.
- Hellman Block: in 1870, banker and University of Southern California founder Isaias W. Hellman erected the Hellman Block at the northwest corner of Los Angeles and Commercial streets. This is one of several Hellman Blocks or Hellman Buildings in the city.
Temple Street originally did not extend east Main Street; instead, Aliso St. ran east-west slightly north of today’s Temple St., and a street first known as Requena St., later Market St., ran east-west slightly south of today’s Temple St.
Los Angeles St. from Temple south to 1st St.
Between Temple and First streets on the east side of Los Angeles Street is Parker Center, the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters from 1955–2009. As of 2021, the site is slated for redevelopment.
Los Angeles St. from 1st St. south to 3rd St.
- At the southeast corner of First Street, Little Tokyo begins. At this corner was the Tomio Department Store, and two more Japanese-American department stores, the Asia Company and Hori Brothers were located east of it on 1st Street during the 1920s. Now the site of Weller Court and the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown, formerly the New Otani Hotel.