Know Your Streets: San Vicente Boulevard

A brief history of everyone’s favorite traffic shortcut

Back when trolleys blanketed the region, the popular Balloon Route crossed the city diagonally, charging riders $1 for round-trip passage from downtown to the coast and other points, like the Old Soldiers’ Home (now the VA medical center) on San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood.

Taking its name from a Mexican land grant, the northern section of San Vicente was paved in 1905, stretching from Wilshire Boulevard to the sea. Another diagonal rail route that dipped from Wilshire near the Miracle Mile down to Venice Boulevard was paved in 1922.

Where the northern portion rolled past homes big and small, the southern stretch saw mostly midsize Spanish Colonial Revival homes that rose along with the Carthay Circle Theatre, a towering Mission Revival movie palace that was demolished in 1969. Collectively measuring seven and a half miles, the two San Vicentes have long been trolley-free, and both are among the city’s worst-kept secrets as traffic shortcuts.

RELATED: Know Your Streets: Huntington Drive

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