DTLA’s Bunker Hill neighborhood is now a gleaming, if somewhat desolate, mini-city on the hill, with shiny museums and government buildings filling the street scene. Seventy years prior, the area was also mostly devoid of humans, but its buildings were more run-down and human scale. The glaring difference is on display in a new short film from Keven McAlester, featured in The New Yorker.
Both versions of Bunker Hill appear charming, if ghostly. The older footage, shot some time in the 1940s, shows a city stacked with crumbling Victorian buildings—with the population decamping from the center city and into the suburbs, the area looks like a hollowed-out San Francisco. It would be about a decade later that the massive Bunker Hill redevelopment project could bulldoze all those unkempt, handsome hotels and flophouses, filled with drifters, drunks, and brilliant writers like Ask the Dust‘s John Fante.
Those squat homes are now filled with skyscrapers and monuments to culture, like MOCA, the Broad, and Disney Hall. While everything looks clean and modern in the video, Bunker Hill—as opposed to other DTLA environs like the Historic Core or South Park—still appears mostly abandoned. The tall and expensive buildings lack a close attachment to the street; they’re like Monets, better from afar than up close. Take a look at the comparison below.