Before there was a Ralphs and a KFC there was the Silver Lake Auto Court

Postcard above and photo below courtesy J. Scott Shannon

Existing Silver Lake shopping center

After a recent Eastsider story about store closures at a Silver Lake shopping center, blogger Diane Edwardson passed along a link to  a website with vintage images of the same Glendale Boulevard property that is now the home of a Ralphs market and a strip of other retailers. Long before the strip mall was constructed, the same land at the bottom of a narrow valley was the site of the Silver Lake Auto Court, which was in business during the 1920s as roadside motels cropped up across the country to cater to the growing legions of  motoring travelers.

The colorized postcard and black-and-white photo shown above come from Los Angeles Past, a website created by J. Scott Shannon.  The photo dated July 1938 shows Shannon’s mother, Lillian, who lived in Westlake at the time, posing at the Silver Lake Auto Court with her “pride and joy,” a 1936 Pontiac Master Six Coupe, her first car.  The back of the linen postcard reads:

A 67 unit Auto Court with Trailer Sites. Resort Atmosphere in the heart of the City, well known for its Hospitality and Service. Rates Most Reasonable.

The Silver Lake Auto Court (there are also some early photos and references to the Silver Lake Auto Rest) at 2500 Glendale Boulevard operated from the 1920s through at least the 1950s, based on a search of the L.A. Times online archives.  A classified ad from January 1929 promoted the Silver Lake Auto Court as having “Low Winter Rates” ranging from $17.50  a month to $32 a month. Gas, light and water were included.

Visit Los Angeles Past to see old and new aerial images of what was once the Silver Lake Auto Court.


  1. A nice hotel in that spot wouldn’t be so bad actually. A vintage style “auto court” if well executed would be pretty damn cool. It’ll never happen, I know I know.

  2. We were young, we were bored, we decided to move to LA (NOT to try to work in the movies)in 1962. Even the best of girlfriends have differences and not finding work made things worse…so I set out, newspaper in hand (probably the Herald Ex) to try to find someplace to live.
    Sounded ok, individual unit, etc: I caught a bus there (who drove? We’d all lived in SF) and while the privacy and uniqueness of the place was nice, it was also a place on the way down and as ‘independent’ as I fancied myself, I knew it wasn’t a good place for a single young woman (I think I would have called myself a ‘girl’ back then, even though I was almost 20) who wanted a regular, legitimate job.
    Clean sheets were provided (rather thin), place looks clean but it had not been well-maintained. It was also a long walk from the closest bus…
    Differences were resolved and after less than 6 months, we returned to SF and our different lives (I got my old job back).
    When I moved to LA in 1984 I remembered and revisted some of the places we’d been but I could never remember enough about the place with the one room cabin to even begin to look for it, but did remember it.
    How wonderful to find it again and know what it looked like in its prime…
    (of course the Hollywood Ranch Market is still gone, POP too….the AM stations don’t report when the grunion are running and who in their right mind would think of hitchhiking…)


    • You may have bored sunny, but I enjoyed every word.

      • Thats funny , Will Campbell insulted “my pedigree” (his words) when i posted family stories about growing up in the neighborhood since 1951 a few months back. It was very insulting, as i was just trying to share some history about the neighborhood. Im surprised to see hm posting he enjoyed this story .

        • ploe, I’m unable to recall this post or comment of yours in which you assert I insulted your “pedigree.” Please share the link.

          • October 7, 2010 at 4:07 pm
            Are you guys for real ?

            It’s a CAR WASH !

            Who cares , really ?

            Are there not more pressing issues in the community than critiquing a car wash ? get real !

            Will Campbell October 8, 2010 at 7:34 am
            Certainly for juke who couldn’t care less there’s nothing more pressing than to complain about those of us who do find aspects of a new business in the community a relevant topic. Get real, indeed.


            October 8, 2010 at 9:45 am
            It Is certainly not about not caring less …was just trying to view the big picture , that in the scope of how big the world is , and the bigger issues that are pressing , how small this issue really is .

            I actually knew Pat Nardoni and his whole family who owned the 76 station .
            My family has lived in Silverlake and Echo Park for over 62 years .

            How dare you. Relevance is fighting protesting and rallying against a football stadium in Elysian Park like the community did years ago .THAT was and is relevant , not a dumb car wash sign!

            Where were you ?

            Still living our of state before you claimed this as “your neighborhood “?

            How dare you try and “school” those of us whose families have lived here long before you developed your nasty attitude ! What a tool you are .


            Will Campbell October 8, 2010 at 11:45 am
            Juke rhymes with rebuke! Such vitriol and venom (and a reading such an impressive residential resume) seems defensively directed at those of us who dared not to embrace such an initial and apopleptic dismissal toward those of us who found this post of interest enough to comment.

            It’s very remedial of me, but last I checked: just because something isn’t relevant to someone else, doesn’t render it irrelevant. Juke is certainly entitled to believe he or she has cornered the market on what matters most, but such an ability to look at the big picture through such a narrow field of vision is intriguing.

            Less compelling, amidst all the accusations of nasty attitudes and tool-dom, is the tired belligerence against those assumed not to have Juke’s embedded pedigree — as if we can’t have a say in the matter (unless it’s a concurring one) or simply disagree because we haven’t lived here as long.

            But at least there were no demands to “move back to Idaho.” Or at least none yet. But I’ll check in and see after I put my cheesy mugshot up on Facebook. If I visit the dotcom Juke suggested my wife would drop a “how dare you” even more outrageous than Juke’s.

          • Couple points worth noting, ploe/juke//whatever other screen names you call yourself: First, a link to the post is far more efficient and space-saving than all that copying and pasting. Second, October 2010 isn’t a “few months back,” but those 17 months hence are certainly a long time spent dwelling — not to mention twisting my comments out of context.

            Upon review of our interaction in that post’s thread from practically a year-and-a-half ago about the then-new Car Wash at Fletcher and Glendale, my side of it was primarily spent parrying back the enraged cuts you took at me because our opinions differed about the worthiness of that car wash’s signage as a topic of discussion.

            Are you seriously “surprised” that I liked Gabriele’s wonderful recollection? Your comments then weren’t offering anecdotes from your family’s history in the neighborhood, they were hateful and attacking and rude.

    • Thanks for sharing your memories Gabriele! Hearing these personal stories about our city’s past makes history come alive.

      • Will Campbell.
        My comments were hardly hateful OR rude. Really ? How do you figure that ?
        I was trying to point out that there were bigger issues that we have all fought for in the neighborhood. Enraged cuts ? Hardly . How about passionate about the place i have spend the last 56 years in . My family since 1950.
        How does one take your comments out of context when
        (yes, copy and pasted )your comments are clearly angry ? If anyone is guilty of “vitriol” (your favorite word) it is you .
        You have issues with being incorrect , and no where did you even acknowledge that yes , bagged my “embedded pedigree”, as you did.
        Im so glad that you are not a part of the wonderful people I grew up with here, the schools we went to , and the real issues we have fought You are truly what has gone wrong with the neighborhood in the past few years . You don’t get it , and never will .
        Im sure if someone was being a jerk to you in your hometown , you would feel passionate as well .
        In the meantime, you can contribute videos of your bike rides , take care dude. You have issues.

        • I was born, raised, and still live here a log with a good friend Emilio Rivera from Sons of Anarchy. As stupid teens we were in a gang here as well. Anyway if Will Campbell lived here it’s a part of his rite of passage he is a member of this place and always will be welcomed back period. I don’t know where you are from or what kinda get down you got going on but we don’t roll like that here. He will always be a member of our community. My grandparents and parents lived here as well so I think I got authority over you on this one. But one question? WTH is wrong with you why are you so angry were you drifters and never had a place to call home’? LOL Get off this poor guys back this is a blog to have fun with not some hating territorial Nazi fest and if it was, once again I have you outdone.

          • LOL and that goes for you too Will I wanted to bust Ploes balls for a minute because he was a little hard on you and handed you your a*s but both of you need to just chill out seriously 2 old men going at it wow as for the car wash I car I care about it alll and you should too Ploe …Did you go to Marshall?

  3. Looks very much like the auto court in the James Cagney classic “White Heat” from 1949. Anyone know if this is the same location?

    • Mike r livingston

      I was thinking that last time I saw the Cagney movie. This was also the sight of the early Tom Mix studio Mixville

  4. THANK YOU Eastsider – This is perfect example of why I need to garner more support for my Echo Park time machine I am currently planning. Most of the comments on the inter-web are about how change sucks and about how the way before was better and how someone who has lived here longer has more ‘juice’ on the s’street’ (for further explanation of this advanced slang may I suggest “breaking” the hit movie, or its fantastic follow-up “breaking’ 2, electric boogaloo”). With a time machine we won’t have to read all those comments! Anyone who doesn’t like the mural that comes or goes, or the business that starts of fails, or the building that gets demolished or built can just use our community time machine and go to a ‘safe place’.

    Now listen, there is a ticking clock here though, I have heard that the hipsters are also working on a time machine – and get this – they plan to go to the FUTURE! So we better shake a leg and get ours together, pronto.

    Who’s with me?

    • If I can go back and grab that ’36 Pontiac, I’m in!! And that was a very classy way to ignore the usual trolls who complain about someone reminiscing about Silver Lake on a blog devoted to Silver Lake (and other communities).

      • Edward, this is great news! Preliminary sketches have the time machine’s payload at 6×4 to accommodate the standard size safe used to ship gold bars west during the expansion of our union. I realize now this was short sighted as there might be a whole bunch of stuff other people want to bring back with them too. I think we should make it democratic so that we don’t have anyone trying to ‘occupy’ the time machine – though I suppose we could always go back before the occupation and take measures to make it ‘un-occupied”.

        In any even please send me some basic stats (size, weight and optimum distance from road-surface to deck for loading etc) and I’ll have some new drawings set up and we can really start this thing whirring.

  5. If there’s a sign up for a time machine I’m in.

    Love to return to when

    — Texaco on Temple@Coronado had 25 cent gas, and with coupon knocking off two centavos you could get 23 cent a ga. gasoline. A ten ga. fill up in a ’65 VW Bug was, well, you figger.

    — Rush Hour was one hour. I could time getting on 101 — then, one of LA’s easiest freeways — to get to CSLA or some other location at, say, 6:20 p.m. and know the jams would be loosening up.

    — An LA when only cops in town had guns.

    — When we went as far as we could in LA to go trick-or-treating, no worries, gang of six or more 6th graders, roaming about.

    — When an unescorted boy of 8 — 10 could get on the 42 bus alone and go east on Temple to go fishing on a Saturday morning at Echo Park Lake. Me. Fishing was from 9 a.m. — noon, and then you had to quit. Or the ranger would get you.

    • Mr. Kuni!

      Yes, there will be extra seats on this time machine, and you will be a valued rider as we will need tour guides, especially since you did not note what the hipsters of this far away time looked like. We will want to see them too. I can imagine them now, plotting to ruin bucolic scenes of yester-year with their skinny jeans et-cetera. Actually, I yahoo’d (is that a verb) this ‘VW bug’ you spoke of (using the internet you know) and found out that it is not an insect at all, but a popular car of many decades ago. In fact, it was inferred in one article that the VW bug and it’s brother, the VW bus, were driven by hipsters of the day! These ancient hipsters were called “hippies” (remarkable coincidence!). But they did not wear skinny jeans. But, interestingly, the non-hip company men of the era DID wear very skinny pants! This is only one of the strange contradictions we will be able to ‘get down to brass tacks’ about when we start taking the tie machine for a spin.

  6. An LA when only cops had guns? Not sure if that was ever the case in the “Wild West”. I wouldn’t want that, because we all know about the Rampart scandal, which is about to become a movie. There was also a LA Weekly story on 3-10-11, “How LA Covered up the Massacre of 17 Chinese”.

  7. Remember when Silver lake was; That Kind of Girl ?
    ( Dont mean that in a Derogatory sense in the least. Statement is merely an Artistic, Sociocultural Observation. As I. recall such Places were actually kind of rare ( But not unknown ) on the NE side of Town. The Olive: to name one ?
    Isnt that what Motels were all about, Anyway ? )

  8. E, I’m not talking the ‘Wild West,’ but the marvelous post-
    WW II years in LA — prob out peak period.

    Take it from someone who was there, gun shots were not heard — even on New Year’s eve — and if there was a fight around a school, and I indeed went to (what some thought were) tough inner city schools, Virgil and Belmont, and if there were fisticuffs that’s what it was, a fight. If a blade came out — and I never saw on produced, nor heard of one being brandished — that may have been between hard core types. There were no drivebys, or bullets hitting innocents around town. This isn’t to say LA was a peaceful place, just to say that peeps didn’t go around shooting each other, innocents through wood walls and highway signs — anyone else notice all the bullet holes in our highway signs? — like today. Cops carried a .38 and a nightstick.

    But guns in the public? They came out, so to speak, about when the MacArthur Park area went downhill starting in mid-70s.

    The Chinese Massacre certainly did occur. I would lay blame for that more on 1/anti-Asian racism, 2/booze, than on guns. And Ron, if you are cool I’ll let you in my Bug, we’ll fill up, grab some Tommy’s and cruise to the Allmans, Clapton (Derek and the Dominoes to be accurate) or if you really want to trip, Inna-Gadda-da-Vida, baby.

  9. — prob our peak period.

  10. Post WW II? Dang was that dust that you just farted? JK, LOL! You’re alright, and I always love to read your old stories. You probably grew up when EP gang was just starting. Was 18 St. & Diamond St. around back then? BTW, Artie was my best friends older brother. It was very touching to read your story about him. I remember helping him in the early 80s, when he was a Crash Detective. He told me to jump into his cruiser, to help him find a perp in Victor Hgts., known to us as Chinatown Hills or Fig Terrace back then, so don’t think that I hate cops. Do you remember when there were gas stations on each corner, at Sunset & Fig? Dang was that dust that I just farted? Man I’m getting up there too. Take care!

  11. If you mean Art Soo Hoo, killing in line of duty by hit-and-run in Chinatown, along with fellow officer, driver never caught, then yes. As far as those gangs I know Diamond has been around forever, 18th prob not as old but became powerful during crack epidemic in 80s.

    Gas stations were all over the place, you’re right on there — including four on the four corners of Alvarado and Temple. And three on Alvarado and Beverly.

  12. Arthur was a really nice guy, and he aways had this smile on his face that I will never forget. He was what I would call one of the good guys on the force!

  13. I found this to be very interesting. I have been looking for information on the Silver Lake Auto court for years. My parentes lived there for a short time back in 1955 when I was six years old, I remember it as not being as nice as the photh shown, but I would love to see more photos of this location from the era if anyone has any.
    I hae memories of leaving for school and walking up a long hill and crossing some trolly tracks and then down a hill where the grade school was located at the bottom. Now that I have an address I plan on looking around on my next visit to the LAX area from St Louis MO.


  14. The following stores have closed: Roundtable Pizza, Basket Robbins, KFC and the Video Store. Only stores left are CVS, Ralphs and the Chinese Food place.

  15. The economy is bad. Those businesses have been there for many, many years. Maybe someone can find out what is going on.

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