The last time I tried to hike during the Santa Anas, I had to fight to open my car door at the trailhead and almost got blown off the trail into a ditch, so over the weekend I reluctantly left the hiking boots in the closet and instead donned my historian’s hat and went to USC for the 7th annual L.A. Archives Bazaar.

The event is run by L.A. as Subject – a network of private collectors, research libraries, and other archives that serves as a treasure trove of information for people interested in the unique, fascinating, and otherwise sadly unknown history of the Los Angeles area. I have been of fan of this group for a while – I think their KCET blog posts are some of the best historical L.A. writing around – so I was really excited to see some of their goods first-hand … and let me tell you I was not disappointed.


I started off the event watching a dual presentation of the history of L.A. and California in postcards – including some great shots of the Cahuenga Pass with light traffic AND light rail:


Next up was a very cool presentation called “A Very Quick Tour of the Los Angeles Area Archives.” Over a dozen presenters from various archives around the city showed off some of their oldest and coolest L.A. items. They ran the gamut from archival photos of L.A.’s abandoned subway tunnels to pioneering LGBT publications to 14-foot long hand-written documents asking Washington, D.C. to name San Pedro as an official U.S. Port of Entry to photos of the area’s biggest pre-Hollywood tourist traps – Alligator Farms.



Nathan Masters and Zach Behrens, the team behind the KCET blog posts, also debuted a short intro to the premiere of their upcoming LA as Subject documentary series. The first episode will be on L.A. funicular railways and includes the popular hiking destination Mount Lowe.

The old railway and hotel on top of that mountain featured prominently in the rest of the collected material on display in the library, too – many archives had maps, old photos, and other artifacts on display – including this original Pacific Electric brochure for the railway trip from 1911!


$2.50 roundtrip from 6th and Main to the top of Mount Lowe? Can’t beat that price!

I was looking for more images from L.A.’s “Golden Age of Hiking,” but couldn’t seem to track many down beyond the usual collections of stuff from Switzer’s Camp, the Echo Mountain / Mount Lowe complex, and Brown Mountain – but it was still a really fun way to spend a morning in the company of fellow L.A. history nerds.