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Hall (Theodore) Photographs of Bunker Hill, Los Angeles and Environs
photCL 384  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Scope and Contents
  • Processing Information
  • Arrangement
  • Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

  • Contributing Institution: The Huntington Library Photo Archives
    Title: Theodore Hall photographs of Bunker Hill, Los Angeles and environs
    Creator: Hall, Theodore
    Identifier/Call Number: photCL 384
    Physical Description: 31 Linear Feet (34 boxes, 10 volumes)
    Date (inclusive): approximately 1939-1962
    Abstract: A collection of photographs chiefly documenting the Bunker Hill neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles before and during redevelopment in the mid-twentieth century. Also includes images of residents and adjacent districts of Los Angeles.
    Language of Material: Materials are in English.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Open for use by qualified researchers and by appointment. Please contact Reader Services at the Huntington Library for more information.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Theodore Hall photographs of Bunker Hill, Los Angeles and environs, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Irving Haines, November 1993.

    Biographical / Historical

    Theodore Seymour Hall (1880-1963) was born in Honolulu, Hawaii to William Wisner Hall and Elizabeth Archer Van Cleve Hall. He attended Berkeley High School, in Berkeley, California, and Harvard University. In 1909, he married Ruth Houghton, and they had two children: Houghton Seymour Hall (born 1910) and Winslow William Hall (born 1912). Hall worked in various managerial positions, and in 1920 was manager of the Standard Chemical Company in Alameda, and lived in Oakland, California. In 1925, Hall had settled in New York, working in industrial banking. He and Ruth divorced in 1929, and the same year, Hall married Edna Kofal Davison; they lived in Long Island while Hall worked as a bond salesman and sales executive. By 1938, the 58-year-old Hall was again divorced and living on Bunker Hill in Los Angeles, as a roomer at the Sherwood Apartments on South Grand Avenue. He took up photography and was befriended and mentored by Irving Haines, a local commercial photographer, and Haines' wife, Martha. Hall joined outings of Haines Camera Club, which met downtown on Olive Street. In 1952, Hall was living in the Cumberland Hotel on South Olive Street (Bunker Hill), which he later vacated because the building was scheduled to be torn down. In 1960 he was living at the Engstrum Apartments on West Fifth Street. Hall died in 1963, in Los Angeles, at age 83.

    Biographical / Historical

    The Bunker Hill neighborhood of Los Angeles was an enclave of wealthy residents and grand mansions at the turn of the century. By the 1920s to 1940s, it had transformed into a mixed-use urban residential area with a more transient population, and went into decline. The Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles proposed the Bunker Hill Urban Renewal Project, which was officially adopted by the Los Angeles City Council in 1959. The CRA acquired Bunker Hill properties, relocated residents and businesses, and began demolishing buildings and clearing land, changing the landscape dramatically.

    Scope and Contents

    This collection contains approximately 9,000 negatives (2 ¼ x 2 ¼ inches), 7 binders of contact prints of a large portion of the negatives, and 3 photobooks (11 x 14 inches). The photographs were taken by Theodore Hall, an avid amateur photographer and resident of Bunker Hill, Los Angeles from 1938 to 1963. Photographs depict the historic structures and streets of the neighborhood before and during the urban renewal of the 1950s, when buildings were razed and much of the hill was lopped off and graded. Hall photographed houses, storefronts, signs, architectural details, cars, and often the residents: shopkeepers, newsstand vendors, local children, and people on their front porches. A diverse population including African American, Asian American, Latin American, and white residents are pictured in everyday activities in the neighborhood. Grand Central Market, the downtown food and grocery emporium, is featured extensively in detailed images of vendors, customers, neon signs, and food stalls. Also seen on Bunker Hill are hotels and apartment buildings, the Angels Flight funicular railway, Victorian mansions turned into rooming houses, liquor stores, and construction crews grading land and pouring cement. Many historic buildings are seen in disrepair, and some are pictured in the midst of being torn down.
    Other Los Angeles sites depicted are: Union Station, City Hall, Olvera Street and the Plaza, churches, freeways, and automotive tunnels. The contact print binders also contain Hall's photographs of friends, social gatherings, camera club members, practice portrait sessions, annual visits to family in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a few day trips in Southern California.
    Some of the Los Angeles architects whose buildings are represented are: John C. W. Austin, Austin and Brown, Welton Becket, Dodd and Richards, Frederick R. Dorn, Edelman & Barnett, Theodore A. Eisen, Charles O. Ellis, Arthur L. Haley, Marsh and Russell, T. J. McCarthy, William H. Mohr, Joseph C. Newsom, John Parkinson, John Cotter Pelton Jr., James M. Shields, Lewis A. Smith, Train and Williams, George Herbert Wyman, and Robert Brown Young.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Huntington Library staff, circa 1996. In 2022, Suzanne Oatey created a finding aid. The three photobooks contain captions by Hall, which have been transcribed in the container list. Supplemental information in the Scope and Contents notes has been provided by Nathan Marsak, author of "Bunker Hill Los Angeles: Essence of Sunshine and Noir" (Angel City Press, 2020).


    Organized in three series:
    Series 1. Photobooks, 1939-1962
    Series 2. Contact prints (photographs), approximately 1951-1961
    Series 3. Negatives, approximately 1939-1962

    Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

    Photographic negatives (Boxes 2-34) housed in cold storage; extended retrieval and delivery time required.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Negatives (photographs)
    Photographs -- California -- Los Angeles -- 20th century
    African Americans -- California -- Los Angeles -- Photographs
    Apartment houses -- California -- Los Angeles -- Photographs
    Architecture, Domestic -- California -- Los Angeles -- Photographs
    Architecture -- California -- Los Angeles -- Photographs
    Asian Americans -- California -- Los Angeles -- Photographs
    Bunker Hill (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Photographs
    City Planning -- California -- Los Angeles
    Hispanic Americans -- California -- Los Angeles -- Photographs
    Hotels -- California -- Los Angeles -- Photographs
    Los Angeles (Calif.) -- Photographs
    Los Angeles (Calif.) -- Buildings, structures, etc. -- Photographs
    Low-income housing
    Mansions -- California -- Photographs
    Olvera Street (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Photographs
    Urban renewal -- California -- Los Angeles -- Photographs
    Wrecking -- California -- Los Angeles -- Photographs
    Grand Central Market (Los Angeles, Calif.)
    Angels Flight (Railway) -- Photographs
    Austin, John C. W. (John Corneby Wilson), 1870-1963
    Becket, Welton
    Train and Williams (Firm)