I confess to a love of historical photographs. It can be argued, and has been, that all photographs are historical since they record places and events that occurred at a specific time that has already passed at the moment the shutter closes. But I’m thinking here of those images that bear a monumentality that transcends most mere records of places and events. I came across the above photograph by Los Angeles photographer Dick Whittington of what was at the time known as the Southern California Edison Building (designed by Allison & Allison architects) but has since been renamed One Bunker Hill. Through our workshops I have gotten to know this building better than when it had been one of many passed on the way to other places and I am immediately struck by how different it is now. Alterations have been made to the building since it was erected in 1932, most notably the enclosure of the fourth floor balconies, however, the much more significant changes have been to the surrounding area. As seen here the Cal Edison Headquarters, sitting on a slope of downtown Los Angeles’ prominent Bunker Hill, clearly towered over its neighbors. But it has outlived all of the buildings visible behind it in this view. Also gone now is a street parallel to Fifth Street that once rose westward directly in front of it. Today the 12-story structure is virtually surrounded by much taller buildings, including the thousand-plus foot tall Library Tower to the west and the Gas Company Tower across Grand Avenue to the east. No longer there either are the trees in the foreground, their having been removed to make way for the expansion of the Central Library following two disastrous arson fires that were set in 1986. It may no longer dominate the landscape as it once did, but One Bunker Hill has retained all its quiet grace.
One Bunker Hill
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