Why So Many Los Angeles Landmarks Are Turning 100 This Year

Los Angeles is a place defined by reinvention, where history is regularly erased and replaced with something newer and shinier.

So it’s notable when an institution in L.A. turns 100. And it is especially notable when many of them do.

Several of the city’s most iconic landmarks are celebrating their centennials this year, including the Hollywood sign, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Biltmore Hotel downtown, and the stately headquarters of AAA. And as we’ve previously mentioned in this newsletter, Walt Disney’s first offices, in Los Feliz, and the famed Mexican restaurant El Cholo are also turning 100.

It’s no coincidence. Patt Morrison, a columnist for The Los Angeles Times, said 1923 was the city’s civic “Big Bang” year. Crews broke ground on the Mulholland Highway that year, too, and the immense Angelus Temple opened in Echo Park. “Los Angeles — you’re gonna need a bigger cake,” she wrote.

So what was so special about 1923?

Well, the 1920s were a boom time for Los Angeles. Local business leaders were investing heavily in marketing the city as an idyllic, sunny place for East Coasters to relocate, and were financing the infrastructure to turn the region into a metropolis. Southern California’s real estate, movie, oil and aerospace industries had all begun to take off.

And so emerged many of the institutions Los Angeles is most recognizable for today.

“These anniversaries in 1923 — they’re happening right around there, because this is the fruition of all this promotion,” said Philip Ethington, a history professor at the University of Southern California. “This is a breakout decade for Los Angeles.”

Up to the 1920s, San Francisco was the largest and most important city on the West Coast, after the gold rush drew thousands of people to its shores. But expansions of railway lines and Southern California’s water system in the early 20th century allowed L.A. to catch up.

The Los Angeles population surpassed San Francisco’s for the first time in the 1920 census, and L.A. began to become, well, L.A.

The Hollywood Bowl, the Rose Bowl stadium and Grauman’s Egyptian Theater all opened in the early ’20s. In 1923, a garish sign advertising an upscale housing development went up in the Hollywood Hills. It was supposed to be temporary. Now, of course, it’s the city’s most famous tourist attraction.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, honoring those who served in World War I, was unveiled in Exposition Park that year, and it quickly became a central meeting place and civic hub for Angelenos. The coliseum has attracted speakers including John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. And in 2028, when the Olympics are set to be held in Los Angeles, the stadium will become the first venue in the world to have hosted three Summer Games.

“It was meant as a monument to the city,” Frank Guridy, a history professor at Columbia University who studies the civic impact of stadiums, told The Los Angeles Times. “And it happened at the right moment.”

From 1920 to 1930, L.A.’s population more than doubled, to 1.2 million from 570,000, while San Francisco’s grew only about 25 percent, to 630,000 from 500,000. (Today, L.A.’s population is 3.8 million, while S.F.’s is around 800,000.)

In the 1920s, “L.A. really eclipsed San Francisco, and has remained the most important city west of the Mississippi for decades,” Ethington told me, adding that the period was “really a turning point.”

For more:

  • Tell us: What are your favorite memories of the coliseum? Or the Hollywood sign? Email a few sentences to, and please include your name and the city where you live.

Today’s tip comes from Becca Rapp, who lives in Santa Cruz. Becca recommends visiting the town of Pescadero, about 50 miles south of San Francisco:

“My partner and I recently took a drive up Highway 1 to Pescadero, a small town that lies about two miles east of the highway. The 50-minute scenic drive up the coast from Santa Cruz is filled with stunning views of the Pacific. Lush rambling fields meet jagged cliffsides, and an array of different farm stands, selling locally grown strawberries, wildflower honey and stone fruits, dot the road.

Pescadero is a small, “one-horse” town, and is home to Arcangeli Grocery, which bakes the best bread I’ve ever had. The garlic and herb-dusted loaves are stuffed with artichoke hearts, and you can purchase partly baked or freshly baked loaves. My partner and I like to pick up a fresh loaf and drive down to Pescadero State Beach, where we sit on the sandy bluffs — the bread (still warm from the oven) and some farm-stand cheese make for a simple yet delicious lunch as we watch the gulls careen above the sea.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

The American Exchange Project sends high school seniors to different communities in an effort to bridge ideological gaps in the country.

From June to August, 350 high schoolers traveled to new areas and locations to appreciate the local culture, The Mercury News reports.

Madelyn Castro, 18, and Paul Zeferino, 19, formed a friendship despite their differences. Castro grew up in Palo Alto, while Zeferino grew up in Muskogee, Okla., where the average household income is a fifth of Palo Alto’s. Castro plans to attend Northeastern University this fall, while Zeferino will be going to Oklahoma City Community College.

“Paul and I got really close,” Castro told the newspaper. “And I feel that’s because we were able to put our politics aside to get to know each other.”

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Briana Scalia and Geordon Wollner contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at

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