See L.A. Through the Eyes of a Newcomer with This 1960s Map

Cartographer Norman Garbush was a master at mapping New York. Then he came west
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This quirky yet graphically engaging map of our fair city in 1960 reflects the hopeful spirit of the coming Age of Camelot but still contains dashes of old, post-war Los Angeles. Cartographer Norman Garbush had created terrific maps back East, especially for New York City, and he seemed to be looking to expand to the West Coast.

Norman’s Map of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area, Norman Garbush, 1960
Norman’s Map of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area, Norman Garbush,
1960

Map courtesy Los Angeles Public Library

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Norman describes the old and the new with the eye of a man visiting a bewildering foreign country. His descriptions are akin to words like “hella” or “Cali” which alert locals that a tourist is talking. Calling UCLA Univ. of Calif. at L.A. or USC as University of So. Cal. simply would not wash today. He even labels MacArthur Park “General MacArthur Park,” which no L.A. native has ever called the place.

His downtown appears as a slight rectangle stretching from Macy to Olympic between Figueroa to Broadway. Hollywood Park is labeled with the more elegant sounding “Hollywood Turf Club,” and today’s fine Natural History Museum was once the catchall “Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art.”

As depicted by Garbush, the city layout looks quite logical. Baby freeways are visible—some which were still in the process of being completed, and others which never made it off the drawing board. Garbush captured the first local descriptions of the demon roads that would someday be described only as numbers preceded by “the.” It certainly seems more romantic to travel on the “Colorado,” “Foothill,” “Golden State,” “Harbor,” or “San Bernardino” freeways than “the 210,” “the 5,” “the 110 South,” or “the 10.”

Other planned roads appear on the map, forming the concrete labyrinth of the automotive city—“Corona,” the one mile long “Glendale,” “Imperial,” “Laguna,” “Pomona,” “San Gabriel River,” “Pacific Coast” and the rugged sounding “MacArthur freeway.” The days of a magnificent streetcar system were coming to an end and the days of muscle cars burning leaded gas were at hand. There was no Clean Air Act or emission standards yet, but they were on the hazy horizon.

A number of vanished attractions can also be found on the map. Gilmore stadium where the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League played is labelled as “baseball field.” (It was vacated when the Dodgers came to town and the Stars were sold to investors from Utah to become the Salt Lake City Bees.) Other venues lost to the mists of time make appearances. The Sonja Henie Ice Palace in Westwood, the Polar Ice Palace, Marineland at the tip of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and two more old ballparks slated for the wrecking ball—Gilmore field on Beverly near Genesee and Wrigley over at 42nd and Avalon—are all apparent.

Vestiges of the pre-Disneyland Southern California tourist trade are still on the map. If you look close, you’ll see alligator, chinchilla, ostrich, and lion farms, but arrows pointing towards Knott’s Berry Farm and the Magic Kingdom behind the Orange Curtain herald a new day of chicken dinners and E tickets.


Los Angeles Public Library map librarian Glen Creason shares a map from the Central Library’s collection at CityThink each week.

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