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What Happened in L.A. During the Civil War?

Battle of Antietam
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The American Civil War and Los Angeles might seem worlds apart. The conflict, after all, was fought between North and South; Los Angeles was in the distant West. It was fought over the issue of slavery; California was (officially) a free state. Tensions between northern and southern states had been simmering for decades; Los Angeles had only been recently been wrested from Mexico.

Nevertheless, the horrors of war nearly came to Los Angeles as the rebellion inflamed passions in distant Southern California. For a time, it seemed that Southern sympathizers might capture Los Angeles for the Confederacy, or that California might secede from the Union, form an independent "Pacific Republic," and declare neutrality.

The story of Civil War Los Angeles has been told before, but never as vividly as in D. J. Waldie's recent triptych for "Lost L.A." – a series of three longform articles about the anxieties of a frontier town that was barely beginning to grow into a city.

Southern California flirted with secession.

Civil War L.A.

A terrific disaster in the San Pedro harbor left the town reeling.

San Pedro, 1867

Los Angeles took some of its first steps toward becoming a real city.

Operating room, 1908

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 A map of Los Angeles City, 1867.

The Convoluted Logic of L.A.'s Numbered Avenues

As Los Angeles expanded, a need to clear up confusion for citizens came when duplicate numbered streets and avenues appeared throughout the city.
A mountain range, parts of which are covered in snow.

The Lost Plan to Create a National Park in L.A.’s Backyard

In 1916, the proposed establishment of the Sierra Madre National Park laid in the hands of conservationist Stephen Mather. But an underfunded national park system and the area's lack of "nationally significant" monumental scenery meant a swift end to the plan.
A view of the iconic landmark, the Bradbury Building, showing dark, ornamental grilling and brickwork and layers of stairs.

The Savvy Mexican Businesswoman Behind the Iconic Bradbury Building

While the building’s namesake Lewis Bradbury is often referenced in historical accounts, his wife Simona is rarely mentioned alongside him even though she oversaw his business affairs after his death, including the completion of the iconic Bradbury Building.