Historic Greater Los Angeles Flood Photos from the Homestead’s Collection, 1900-1930

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

With our region pummeled with Pineapple Express-generated rainstorms not seen in this area for several years and, as we dry out and dig out from the latest storm, it seemed an opportune time to share a trio of snapshots taking during regional floods in the first decades of the 20th century.

Flood Over Road To Los Angeles Long Beach Calif 2007.276.1.1
This February 1916 snapshot from the Homestead’s collection shows the “Road to Los Angeles,” probably Long Beach Boulevard, in Long Beach completely submerged by floodwaters.

The first photograph is labeled “Flood over Road to Los Angeles, Long Beach, Calif., Feb. 1916”  and shows a completely flooded area.  If it wasn’t for the trees lining the route and, of course, the ink inscription, “THIS IS THE ROAD”, you’d never know it was a thoroughfare, which most likely was Long Beach Boulevard.

The 1916 floods, in fact, led to a major effort by the County of Los Angeles and, later, the federal government to implement a comprehensive flood control program, a topic covered on this blog previously.

Flood 8th And Hill Sts LA 2007.476.1.1
Two guys with shovels try to clear the intersection of Hill and 8th streets in downtown Los Angeles in this 1906 snapshot.

Our second image goes back a decade to 1906 and shows the intersection of Hill and 8th streets in downtown Los Angeles, just a couple block south of Central Park, now Pershing Square.  A couple of gents are doing what they can with shovels to clear the floodwaters from the streets.

Incidentally, the structure on the corner (can’t tell which corner) has some signage for a grocery store and an instructor in music.

Children Selling Flood Photographs 2008.186.1.1
A sextet of entrepreneurial youngsters offer passersby the chance to buy “Flood Pictures” for a nickel from a makeshift lean-to in this undated snapshot, likely from the 1910s or 1920s.

Finally, the last photo shows some enterprising young folks on a roadside several miles from some nearby mountains setting up their own busines in a hastily improvised covered structure of two-by-fours and canvas.

The product wasn’t lemonade or cookies, but “Flood Pictures” and it appears, on closer inspection, that they were selling the snapshots for 5 cents apiece.  A nice touch is the planting of American flags flanking their place of business.

Unfortunately, the photo wasn’t inscribed, so we don’t the place or date, but the image could be from the mid-1910s when the floods of 1914 and 1916 occurred or in the following decade, when there were such waterlogged seasons as 1927.

As for our weather, it looks like we’re in for sunny skies and warming temperatures over the next week after being walloped by that trio of storms, but that was quite a run!

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