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Photos: When Trolley Tracks Ran Through Southland Beaches

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A Pacific Electric trolley rolls down Redondo Beach in 1939. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
A Pacific Electric trolley rolls down Redondo Beach in 1939. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.

Trolleys once rivaled the crashing surf in the soundscape of Southland beaches. Along much of the Southern California coast from Santa Monica to Redondo and from Long Beach to Newport, a red dot -- a distant Pacific Electric car -- would appear down the shore. As it neared, the click-clack of the wheels moving over the wooden ties, the squeal of steel on steel, and the monotonous clanging of the bell would temporarily overwhelm the Pacific's roar.

They might have been somewhat of a sonic nuisance (though no worse, perhaps, than automobile highways), but in the early twentieth century, trolleys were an essential transportation link between populated inland areas and the coast. Indeed, many beach cities were born of trolley lines.

The opening of Abbot Kinney's Venice of America coincided with the arrival of an electric car line. In the early days of Manhattan Beach, real estate sharks circled the seaside development's trolley station, waiting for prospective homebuyers to disembark. And one Orange County beach town so owed its existence to interurban trolley lines that it named itself after the region's preeminent trolley magnate, Henry Huntington.

Tracks along Huntington Beach, circa 1908. Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
Tracks along Huntington Beach, circa 1908. Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
A red car bound for Newport Beach. Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
A red car bound for Newport Beach. Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
A Pacific Electric excursion car in Huntington Beach, circa 1915. Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
A Pacific Electric excursion car in Huntington Beach, circa 1915. Courtesy of the Orange County Archives.
Tracks along Huntington Beach's Ocean Avenue, circa 1915. Courtesy of the Security Pacific National Bank Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.
Tracks along Huntington Beach's Ocean Avenue, circa 1915. Courtesy of the Security Pacific National Bank Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.
Pacific Electric tracks at the Huntington Beach pier, circa 1920. Courtesy of the California State Library.
Pacific Electric tracks at the Huntington Beach pier, circa 1920. Courtesy of the California State Library.
A Pacific Electric car in Long Beach. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
A Pacific Electric car in Long Beach. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.

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A coloring page created by the Los Angeles Public Library's Octavia Lab. An illustration of Manuela C. García sitting next to a phonograph. Behind her is a faint sheet music background.

Manuela C. García, the Voice Behind a Treasure Trove of Old Mexican Songs

Born in Los Angeles in the late 1860s, Manuela C. García is the voice behind over 100 songs in Charles Lummis' recordings of Southwest musical heritage. Known mostly by historians specializing in 19th-century Mexican American music, her voice connects California's present musical history with its past.
 Charles Alston (left) and Hale Woodruff at Beckwourth Pass

How Two African American Artists Explored the Roots of Racism on the West Coast

When Golden State Mutual Life Insurance commissioned artists Charles Alston and Hale Woodruff to design a home office building, the duo traveled across California to retrace the steps of the region's Black explorers, settlers and leaders. Their mission? To design a headquarters for GSM that looked to California's future and recovered an erased Black past.
An image of the French district in downtown Los Angeles. The image shows Aliso Street in downtown Los Angeles, California, with signs labeling buildings "Griffins Transfer and Storage Co." and "Cafe des Alpes" next to "Eden Hotel," which are located on opposite corners of Aliso and Alameda Streets. A Pacific Electric streetcar sign reads "Sierra Madre" and automobiles and horse-drawn wagons are seen in the dirt road.

What Cinco de Mayo Has to do with the French in Early L.A.

Cinco de Mayo is often celebrated wrongly as Mexican Independence Day, but a dig into the historical landscape of Los Angeles in the early 19th century reveals a complex relationship of French émigrés with a Mexican Los Angeles.