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Thursday, September 29, 2016

The forgotten beauty of a Silver Lake underpass

Earlier this week The Eastsider reported about Silver Lake’s homeless population and the encampment that was recently moved out from the  Silver Lake Boulevard underpass at Sunset Boulevard. There is little reason for anyone else to linger here, where the sidewalks are covered in litter and pigeon poop and the aroma of urine is mixed in with fumes from cars that zoom past. But if anyone takes the trouble to look and linger they will  notice a row of eight, graceful arches on both sides of the underpass that form arcades over the sidewalks. Pedestrians enter the dark and dank arcades under imposing walls of brick topped by terra cotta medallions depicting the seal of the City of Los Angeles. It’s hard to believe that in 1934, when this overpass was completed, it was hailed as a thing of beauty and a key part in the transformation of Silver Lake Boulevard into an important roadway.

The completion of the 136-foot-long Sunset Boulevard viaduct and an a 186-foot-long viaduct over Silver Lake Boulevard at  Temple Street were part of the creation of a  “north-south artery of special importance in the development of the city,” according to a February 1934 story in the L.A. Times.  “Unobstructed for its entire length when its underpasses are ready, Silver Lake Boulevard will afford a direct and quick-time route for a great flow of traffic midway between the downtown approaches to the Pasadena and east county regions … ”

While the Temple Street viaduct was longer and more expensive, the Times story reserved special praise for the $135,000 Sunset viaduct over Silver Lake Boulevard:

The latter boulevard’s sidewalks under the viaduct are through arcades in the abutments. That of itself is an exceptionally pleasing arrangement from an architectural standpoint. For  the first time in such viaduct construction here, the Sunset viaduct abutments are brick-faced and this touch of artistic design is enhanced by terra-cotta seals of the city medallion-like against the structure on either face.

The city seals are still there, hanging above abandoned mattresses and furniture.



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8 comments

  1. My wife and I have walked the dog under it three times this past week and it’s actually in the cleanest condition I’ve seen it in a long time.

    PS. There’s a great picture of the bridge over Silver Lake Boulevard during its construction phase at silverlake.org:

    http://www.silverlake.org/HistoricPhotos/oldphotos/Sunset&Parkman%28600×800%29.jpg

  2. “Unobstructed for its entire length when its underpasses are ready, Silver Lake Boulevard will afford a direct and quick-time route for a great flow of traffic midway between the downtown approaches to the Pasadena and east county regions”

    Translation: let’s turn this street into a dangerous highway because suburban commute times are more important than local neighborhoods.

  3. thanks for that link, never seen that before.

  4. Reporter from 1934

    Say fella, what’s a suburban commute?

  5. hah, good point!

  6. the underpass is featured in this new commercial for Chrysler, check it out at the 20 second mark… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K13DjOVGkLk

  7. not forgotten, love it! the bridges and underpasses of Los Angeles are seldom documented or explored.

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