Los Angeles is a city known for its constant reinvention and replacement of landmarks with something newer and shinier. Therefore, it is significant when an institution in L.A. reaches its centennial. This year, several of the city’s most iconic landmarks are celebrating their 100th anniversary, including the Hollywood sign, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Biltmore Hotel downtown, and the AAA headquarters. Additionally, Walt Disney’s first offices in Los Feliz and the famed Mexican restaurant El Cholo are also turning 100. This concentration of centennials is not a coincidence; it is a result of the city’s “Big Bang” year in 1923.
The 1920s were a boom time for Los Angeles. Local business leaders heavily invested in marketing the city as an idyllic, sunny place for East Coasters to relocate and financed the infrastructure necessary to turn the region into a metropolis. Industries such as real estate, movies, oil, and aerospace began to grow rapidly, leading to the emergence of many of the institutions that Los Angeles is known for today. These centennial celebrations in 1923 mark the fruition of all the promotional efforts during that time.
Before the 1920s, San Francisco was the largest and most important city on the West Coast due to the gold rush. However, expansions of railway lines and Southern California’s water system allowed L.A. to catch up. In the 1920 census, the Los Angeles population surpassed San Francisco’s for the first time, and L.A. began to establish its unique identity. The Hollywood Bowl, the Rose Bowl stadium, and Grauman’s Egyptian Theater all opened in the early 1920s. In 1923, a temporary sign advertising an upscale housing development went up in the Hollywood Hills, later becoming the city’s most famous attraction, the Hollywood sign.
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, erected in 1923 to honor World War I veterans, quickly became a central meeting place for the community. Throughout the years, it has hosted numerous influential figures, including John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela. In 2028, the stadium will be the first venue in the world to have held three Summer Olympic Games.
In the 1920s, the population of L.A. more than doubled, while San Francisco’s growth remained modest. This decade marked a turning point where Los Angeles eclipsed San Francisco as the most important city west of the Mississippi River. Today, L.A.’s population stands at 3.8 million, while San Francisco’s is around 800,000.
In conclusion, Los Angeles’ centennial celebrations for several iconic landmarks this year are a testament to the city’s growth and evolution. The boom of the 1920s solidified L.A.’s status as a major city and introduced institutions that still shape its identity today. These centennials provide an opportunity to reflect on the city’s history and its ongoing reinvention.