Monday, December 28, 2009

A Neighborhood Far Afield

In the heart of downtown Los Angeles is the neighborhood of Bunker Hill. Once it was a steep hill covered with Victorian mansions and shops and reached by seemingly impossibly steep trains tracks.

Over time their wealthy owners moved to the suburbs in places like Pasadena and the mansions became apartments and flophouses. The whole area became a giant filming location for film noir movies.

In 1955 the city decided the neighborhood as is stood impeded the city's development. They declared it blighted (which of course once such a determination was made only led to area becoming truly blighted), eliminated the 150 foot height limit on new buildings, and leveled the district. Literally. About a hundred feet were shaved off the hill, tearing down most of the old buildings and making way for the steel and glass skyscrapers that dominate the downtown today.
I don't know anything about LA and I can't say much about the rightness or wrongness of what was done six decades ago. But I can provide a link to an amazing site ( On Bunker Hill) put together by local LA historians and aficionados in order to document the old, and long lost, Bunker Hill.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


As usual I've left things till too late, but, Merry Christmas to one and all!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Shults Bread Company and company

On Cary Avenue and Taylor Street in West New Brighton (edging perilously close to Port Richmond), stands an old factory built of red brick. In my time it's housed the Art Network (who remembers that now?) and then, in one form or another, a church for the last decade or so.

Apparently, formed from the consolidation of several bread wholesalers, for a few years the Shults Bread Co. was one of the most prolific bakeries in NYC. They operated a dozen factories in and around the city (six in Brooklyn, their home, alone). In 1923 they were acquired, in a stock deal, by the United Bakeries Corporation and were no more. UBC renamed itself Continental Bakeries, and became one of the biggest bakers in the country.

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I've posted this theater before, but here's it's in a larger neighborhood context. It was the first movie theater on Staten Island and until recently it maintained much of its original facade (see the googlemaps' picture) though its present Pentecostal owners have finally fixed up the building and covered it over.

The intersection of Castleton and Broadway and several blocks around seem to have been an entertainment nexus a century ago. There was an opera house (!) on Henderson and Broadway and a movie theater on the corner of Broadway and Noble. Now there's projects, dollar stores and scary delis.

Tell me again how were things improved when the projects replaced older working class apartments? Am I wrong in thinking that people aren't meant to live piled together in giant apartments like ants? How many people and neighborhoods suffered because Corbusier offered a cheap way out for packing in the poor like rats?

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

An Industrial Bend in Richmond Terrace

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Taking Richmond Terrace westbound heading toward Mariner's Harbor and points beyond, at West New Brighton, right past Broadway, there's a great northward bend in the road. On a low rise on the south side of the road is an old factory building that is the beginning of an industrial and commercial area. Part of me always wondered what that factory made in the sooty days of its youth. Now I know (and you will too), thanks to my new found map friends.

It was the part of the C.W. Hunt Company. According to the NYPL website, the firm were "manufacturers of railway freight cars, coal handling equipment, and related machinery".

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This building appears to have been the boiler house. I assume it's where engine boilers were cast.

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These buildings were all part of the C.W. Hunt Co.'s factory once in a long ago past of red hot iron sparks and clanging machinery and coal dust.