Bridges in Los Angeles?

The second Spanish settlement in the Downtown area, which became the Pueblo of Los Angeles was established next to Yangna along the river. The waters drew the native Gabrielinos here, and later Spanish explorers. A few blocks west of the 4th Street Bridge, the historic buildings along Olvera Street preserve some of the early Spanish settlements. Recent excavations near Olvera Street have produced 3000 year-old artifacts from a Gabrielino settlement. In the early days the area was a vast matrix of alders, cottons, sycamores and ash (trees) interspersed with tules or wetlands. Now the bridges that cross the river here preserve some of the architecture and flavor of Los Angeles in the 1920s and 30s, in contrast to the nearby ultra-modern downtown office buildings.

The building of these bridges was influenced by the "City Beautiful" movement which started at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. To relieve the growing traffic congestion of a young, urban Los Angeles, voters passed the Viaduct Bond Act in 1923. Merrill Butler was selected to direct the construction of a series of bridges.

The towers on the 4th Street bridge and Macy Street bridge display the Beaux Arts style, which was a mixture of late-19th-century Parisian neobaroque, Italian Renaissance and Roman Imperial imitations.

The Macy Street bridge actually posts a sign marking the Los Angeles River, although few motorists strain their necks to view the concrete channel below.

A plaque on the Macy bridge commemorates the explorations of Father Junipero Serra and the old Spanish Trail, the El Camino Real, which traversed California from south to north.

Other architecturally notable bridges include the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge (complete in 1929) and the Washington Boulevard Bridge (1931). Butler called the former "an architectural jewel in a landscaped setting". The Washington Bridge features brown and black terra-cotta friezes which depict the workmen, surveyors, and engineers constructing the bridge. For a more visual look, see bridge photos from the Los Angeles City Bureau of Engineering.

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