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A Natural History of Los Angeles Freeways
October 17, 2021 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
This is a recording of a webinar that previously streamed live. You can purchase a ticket to watch the recording, but you won’t be able to participate in the live chat or Q&A.
Please join us Sunday November 14 at 4pm Los Angeles time for a new live webinar.
Join Esotouric, L.A.’s most eclectic sightseeing tour company, for an immersive cultural history webinar that’s whirlwind trip through Los Angeles freeway lore, from their design, mapping and engineering innovations to the communities displaced in their path, packed with unexpected tidbits that will forever change the way you navigate and understand the city.
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Our special guests for this program are transit historian Paul Haddad (author of the newly published Freewaytopia: How Freeways Shaped Los Angeles), photographer and educator Jeff Gates (In Our Path) and Bunker Hill native son Gordon Pattison, a witness to the displacement and community disconnect caused by the 110- Harbor Freeway’s 4th Street Cut.
We’ll hop right onto the fast lane as Paul Haddad takes us for a virtual tour around the freeways and interchanges featured in “Freewaytopia,” slowing to see the sights and point out memorable characters and vistas. Our other guests will chime in with insights along the way.
The route includes:
- The East LA Interchange, the world’s busiest, designed by Heinz Heckeroth and the perpetual target of legendary traffic reporter Bill Keene’s razzing with nicknames including Malfunction Junction, The Beast, The Octopus, The East Delay Interchange and the Nickel/Dime (where 5 and 10 meet). With more than a half million daily vehicle trips, the Mother of All Interchanges gives birth to transit quintuplets: the San Bernardino (I-10 East), the Santa Monica (I-10 West), the Pomona (SR-60 East), the Santa Ana (U.S. 101 North and I-5 South), and the Golden State (5 North), so even if you’ve never traveled her lanes, she’s part of your Los Angeles journey.
- The Figueroa Tunnels (1930-36), designed by master Los Angeles bridge architect Merrill Butler to carry two-way street traffic, they became part of the freeway system to solve the problem of connecting the jammed up Arroyo Seco Parkway (1940) to the new Downtown Los Angeles Four Level interchange, the world’s first such connector.
- A trip around L.A.’s rare cloverleaf on- and off-ramps on the Glendale Freeway (SR-2), 405 and 101, with an explanation of the engineering flaws inherent in a sprawling design that reduces transitioning traffic speeds to a grueling 35 mph, and the many attempts by CalTrans to patch the broken system.
- A quick trip from the 105/110 to the 105/405 interchanges, to show how the failures of the Downtown Four-Level were solved by adding ramps exclusively for carpool lanes, so interchanging drivers are able to sustain freeway speeds.
- The graceful 10/405 interchange (1964), the first to be designed by a woman (Marilyn Reece Jorgenson) and the first major interchange in which cars could blaze through at freeway speeds.
We’ll also sit a spell with Gordon Pattison, who grew up on old Bunker Hill and saw his Victorian neighborhood split in two when the 4th Street Cut cleared land for the 110-Harbor Freeway to connect with the 101-Hollywood and 10-East. Gordon will share his childhood memories of the massive construction project, then provide an historian’s overview of how freeway construction severed Fort Moore Hill, dug through historic cemetery plots and forever transformed the shape of northern Downtown.
All of these themes lead us at freeway speeds to explore Jeff Gates’ “In Our Path” photo project. “In Our Path” comprises two series of black-and-white photographs and essays chronicling the construction and impact of the I-105 “Century Freeway.” The 18-mile freeway runs east-west from El Segundo and the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Norwalk and bisects the communities of Hawthorne, Willowbrook, Lynwood, and Downey.
He took the first set of photos between 1982 and 1983, when a seven-year injunction filed by homeowners, the NAACP, and the Sierra Club, stopped construction. At first, he had no idea what was taking place on that swath of land. But he wanted to capture the sense of “abandoned suburbia” that lay before him. As he photographed, he became acquainted with the history of this public project and with the people who lived within and along the Corridor. He also spoke to those who were building the freeway and those responsible for carrying out the stipulations of the court’s Final Consent Decree.
In 1990, after attending an exhibit of these first set of photos, Hall & Associates (the successor to the Center for Law in the Public Interest in the Century Freeway litigation, and the firm which represented homeowners in this case) commissioned Gates to rephotograph the freeway now that it was finally under construction. This second set of photos, taken between 1990 and 1993, document the physical transformation of the soon-to-be-opened freeway.
This webinar is an illustrated lecture packed with rare photos that will bring the story of Los Angeles freeways and their impact on the communities they cross to life. And you’ll find the look of an Esotouric webinar is a little different than your standard dry Zoom session, with lively interactive graphics courtesy of the mmhmm app.
Our guests are eager to answer your questions, so get ready to be a part of the show.
ABOUT OUR GUESTS:
GORDON PATTISON is a native son of Bunker Hill. His family owned the Salt Box and the Castle, the last two homes standing after the neighborhood was cleared for redevelopment. He is a tireless advocate for the lost neighborhood, through illustrated lectures (like Old Bunker Hill: One Family’s Perspective)and as a guest on Esotouric tours and webinars.
JEFF GATES is an artist and writer interested in the intersection of art and American culture. He is the founder of the Chamomile Tea Party, where he’s created over 230 posters on the sorry state of American political discourse. In 2018, Google Arts & Culture published a seven-part online exhibition of this work, allowing Gates to create a visual history of American politics from the Tea Party’s rise to the effects of Donald Trump’s presidency. Public engagement is an essential aspect of Gates’ work. And, he has incorporated several online communities as part of his projects. In 1999, concerned about online privacy, he was the first artist to use eBay as an art form, auctioning his personal demographics to the highest bidder. After 9/11, he created the online site, “Dichotomy: It Was a Matter of Time and Place,” where people posted their experiences that day from two perspectives: those affected directly by the attacks and those who witnessed the events via the media. And, in 2008, much to the chagrin of his most ardent supporters, he tweeted his root canal live to a group of dentists across North America. In the early 1990s, Gates formed Artists for a Better Image (ArtFBI) to study artist stereotypes in contemporary culture. He published a history of these stereotypes and collected artist depictions from film and TV, using them to talk with artists about their place in American society. Gates also organized a symposium to discuss how artists could connect with their communities. And, as a way of engaging with the public, he produced series of bumper stickers about artists. Gates taught college photography and computer graphics for 23 years before becoming Lead Producer of New Media Initiatives at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. He has written and talked about social media’s effect on organizational change. And, in 2005, Gates launched the Smithsonian’s first blog, Eye Level. His writing and art have appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and The Nation. He is the author of the book Uneventful: The Rise of Photography, exploring the evolution of photography from the 19th to 21st centuries. He now focuses his time on his art and writing full time. In Our Path is his project website and other projects can be found at Outta Context.
PAUL HADDAD: A native Angeleno, Paul Haddad has been writing about Los Angeles since 1996, when he penned his first essay about businesses and buildings with portmanteau names for Los Angeles Times Magazine. His first nonfiction book was High Fives, Pennant Drives, and Fernandomania: A Fan’s History of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Glory Years (1977-1981), a look back at the team’s previous championship era through the radio calls of announcer Vin Scully. It was named one of the Best Baseball Books of 2012 by the Los Angeles Daily News and led to Haddad’s participation in Fernando Nation, ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on Fernando Valenzuela. Haddad’s other nonfiction books include the perennial “local interest” bookstore favorite 10,000 Steps a Day in L.A.: 57 Walking Adventures, an updated edition of the original book, 10,000 Steps a Day in L.A.: 52 Walking Adventures. Each appeared on the Los Angeles Times Bestseller List. Haddad has also published several novels, including Paradise Palms: Red Menace Mob a neo-noir crime novel set during the 1950s about a family trying to fight off gangsters from hijacking their Hollywood hotel. His most recent book is Freewaytopia: How Freeways Shaped Los Angeles. Augmented by 175 photos, it is the complete, often-untold story behind L.A.’s vast freeway system, charting its influence on the city’s landscape and human lives from a 360-degree perspective. The book includes a Foreword by journalist and L.A. Times scribe Patt Morrison. Haddad’s “day job” is in television as a writer, director, and executive producer, which has resulted in multiple Emmy nominations. He is on Twitter and Instagram as @la_dorkout, on Facebook and his website.
Can’t join in when the webinar is happening? You’ll have access to the full replay for one week. Please note: the 2-hour running time is just an estimate, and we often run long because the stories take on a life of their own. You can always come back and watch the last part of the webinar recording later.
So, tune in and discover the incredible history of Los Angeles, with the couple whose passion for the city is infectious.
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About Esotouric: As undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz, Kim Cooper and Richard Schave inexplicably hated one another on sight. (Perhaps less inexplicably, their academic advisor believed they were soul mates). A chance meeting 18 years later proved much more agreeable. Richard wooed Kim with high level library database access, with which she launched the 1947project true crime blog, highlighting a crime a day from the year of The Black Dahlia and Bugsy Siegel slayings. The popular blog’s readers demanded a tour, and then another. The tour was magical, a hothouse inspiring new ways for the by-then-newlyweds to tell the story of Los Angeles. Esotouric was born in 2007 with a calendar packed with true crime, literary, architecture and rock and roll tours. Ever since, it has provided a platform for promoting historic preservation issues (like the Save the 76 Ball campaign and the landmarking of Charles Bukowski’s bungalow), building a community of urban explorers (including dozens of free talks and tours under the umbrella of LAVA) and digging even deeper into the secret heart of the city they love.
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