Los Angeles in Maps

Picture-10-12-bGlen Creason, Rizzoli International, New York, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0-8478-3391-7, list $50, Amazon $31.05

Glen Creason is the Map Librarian for the Los Angeles Public Library who put together a wonderful show of local maps last year. This book includes many of those maps plus numerous others from other collections. This 9 by 11 inch book in full color has clear readable map images. Additionally Glen, who has studied the history of Southern California in depth, provides descriptions which are concise and well thought out. With a few exceptions, the maps are presented in chronological order. Though many city map books cover the history well, this book runs right up to today with a final map of LA neighborhoods compiled in 2010.

Several books have been written on this same subject. W.W. Robinson’s Maps of Los Angeles (1966) and Neal Harlow’s Maps of the Pueblo Land of Los Angeles (1976) are both beautiful and fine press printed examples. Yet in Creason’s book all maps are in color if appropriate, and there are over 75 maps illustrated.

Some maps are very familiar: the Ord Survey and Hancock’s 1875 expansion are classics. Some less familiar but significant maps include Abbot Kinney’s original plan for Venice of America and the LA Times 1931 creation of the 1881 City in 3-D in glorious rotogravure. Some other favorites are the Wilcox 1887 brilliantly colored Hollywood map and the detailed 1909 Birdseye View Publishing map with most downtown buildings clearly labeled, many of them readable with a good magnifying glass.  Remember Wrigley Field? It’s in there with a nicely written history, as is Chavez Ravine with its somewhat checkered past.

Political correctness sometimes shows its head in amusing ways.  The reproduction of the Dakin 1888 map of the Plaza area carefully deletes the unacceptable name of a well-known alley. Discussion of Eaton and Hering’s proposed sewer system map neglects to mention that the terminal sewer farm became present day Playa Vista where flowers grow profusely.

The forward is written by D. J. Waldie who perhaps confuses wind direction with compass direction in his explanation of why Ord followed existing street patterns in laying out the city. In so doing, Ord made finding the original Pueblo boundaries simple.

The book extends beyond the current City and should be a part of every Southern California map enthusiast’s library.

Reviewed by Bill Warren
from the Society’s December 2010 Newsletter