Downtown Los Angeles is located close to the geographic center of the metropolitan area, featuring many of the city's major arts institutions and sports facilities, skyscrapers, art works, shopping malls and transportation terminals.
Downtown LA is delimited by the Los Angeles River on the east, Route 101 to the north, Santa Monica Freeway on the south and the Harbor Freeway on the west. On the vertical axis, the US Bank Tower is the tallest building in the United States west of the Mississippi River, reaching 310 m.
Downtown Los Angeles is enjoying a fast transformation in recent years, with historic buildings being converted into lofts, retail businesses and restaurants opening, and high-rise residential buildings being built.
The town was founded on September 4, 1781, as "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles Del Río de Porciúncula" ("The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels on the River Porciúncula"), on the area known nowadays as the Pueblo de los Angeles, next to Union Station.
Later, New Spain achieved its independence from the Spanish Empire in 1821, and the pueblo continued as a part of Mexico. The Mexican-American War ended on January 13, 1847, with the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga and with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, the Mexican government formally ceded Alta California and other territories to the United States. Soon California became a state in the union.
The Southern Pacific Railway reached Los Angeles in 1876 and changed the city forever. Oil was discovered in 1892; by 1923 Los Angeles produced one-quarter of the world's petroleum. In1913, the completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, under the supervision of William Mulholland, assured the continued growth of the city. In this period, Los Angeles began the annexation of many of neighboring communities without water supplies of their own, Hollywood is the most famous of them. In the 1920s, the movies and aviation industries contributed to the fast growing pace of Los Angeles. In 1932, the city hosted the Summer Olympics.
World War II and related defense industries brought new growth to the city, though the state succumbed to racism, transporting the Japanese American residents from Los Angeles and other cities to concentration camps.
In 1984, the city hosted the Summer Olympic Games for the second time, an event which was boycotted by the Soviet Union in answer to the earlier American boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games.
Downtown Los Angeles saw a building revival from the 1980s to 1990s, the city tallest skyscrapers were built during this period, which was plagued with gang violence and police corruption. In 1994, the 6.7 on the Richter scale Northridge Earthquake caused $12.5 billion in damage and 72 deaths.
Three districts in downtown host most of the attractions: Chinatown, Little Tokyo and El Pueblo de los Angeles are located in a small area surrounding the Union Station; I dedicated to each of them separate entries in this journal. Union Station was the last big railways terminal built in the US and is worth a detailed visit.
The modern downtown is not far away from there and is worth a detailed visit. Despite the seventy-six districts forming the city and its relative decentralization, Los Angeles has one of the largest sky-lines in the United States. Between 1917 and 1957, a city ordinance limited building heights at 150 feet, leading to an unusually homogenous skyline, broken only by the well known shape of the City Hall, next to Little Tokyo. Nearby is the blocky, solid, windowless structure of the Los Angeles Times, inaugurated in 1935. In 2003 the Walt Disney Concert Hall was opened and provided the area with the peculiar touch of uneven - sometimes rounded and other angular - metal walls.
But all this buildings are dwarfed by the Library Tower, now known as the U.S. Bank Tower, on Bunker Hill. At 310m it is the seventh tallest building in the United States, and the tallest building west of the Mississipi.
Traveling around downtown LA is best accomplished with the help of the Metro Rail; a daily ticket combining the subway and buses services costs $5 and allows exploring the attractions quickly and efficiently. The system is much friendlier that parallel systems in cities like Miami.
One of the striking characteristics of LA, is that all of us know it, even if we have never visited it. That's mainly the result of movies produces by Hollywood. Maybe two of the most distinctive films dealing with LA - and its future characteristics - are Blade Runner (Union Station is featured there as a police station) and the Terminator's series. Is their violence and pessimistic view of the future a result of living in LA?