Traffic engineers and urban planners: Why would a short stretch of street be raised two feet?

Just spitballing here, but isn’t it possible that a century of repaving the road has increased its height a significant amount? Isn’t this how thousand year old cities have multiple older versions of the city buried under newer construction?

I thought the Seattle Underground was a political movement.

It looks to me (poking around Google Maps streetview, too) like the sidewalk has possibly been built up close to that rolling door for the purpose of sloping it away from said door in all directions (looking at the door straight-on, to the right which is downhill already, to the left, and toward the street). Looking at your closeup, there’s no way that’s in any way watertight when it closes. You’re going to want everything to slope away from it, which might require quite a little build-up if one side (the left) is already uphill. And of course you’ve got little control over how/where they grade the street. Is re-grading the whole sidewalk area worth it instead of just bricking over the door? Well, I know a lot of shops like that keep the door open a bit, just like that one is, for fresh air and ventilation. It may even be fulfilling some requirement, like for fresh air in a workspace or emergency egress, etc. Since I imagine they probably ship and receive large sheets/boxes of plastic I guess they might use it for that, too. I don’t really see any other loading doors around.

Do you by any chance know anything about that rather odd wooden frame house and collection of brick bungalows on the SE corner? Other than that the county assessor’s database says the earliest build date was sometime in the 1920s, I haven’t been able to find out anything else.

Because of the mild weather, sidewalks last a long time in L.A. Not too many years ago I saw where “Loraine” had written her name in the year 1937. And that’s just the oldest I’ve seen. The streets themselves get repaved–if not as often as citizens would like–but that doesn’t raise the level that much. Main near where it parallels Olvera Street hasn’t risen at all in 155 years.

Now if you ask where are Palms, especially around here, you’ll see why this type of thing is so hard to Google.

The nearby freeway didn’t exist in 1924, so the road may have gone straight through to nearby Ethel st originally. That could be checked fairly easily by finding a pre-1950s street plan.

That said, I think you may be right! There’s a bit above the cab of the steam engine that might be the lintel of the back door, and something that might be a drainpipe in the right place, too. I think that the paint patch would be to cover graffiti, unless the door happens to be a recent removal.
I can’t discount subsidence, but looking at the all important door at the front corner, it is at a convenient street level, and the building may have been constructed with this in mind. In 1915, this would also be important because while leveling the site, they could cut the dirt from the high side and fill on the low side, avoiding the need to cart dirt onto the site (which no doubt was more expensive when you had to use a horse and cart or early truck.)

The odd door in the side may have originally had a ramp down to it which was modified to improve drainage, or the street may indeed have been built up. (But not by much, if at all, I think.)

Even though one was liquefaction of soggy land during an earthquake, the principle is still basically the same. (And a lot buildings in of those parts of San Francisco are also just subsiding incrementally below street level.) And it’d be the same idea where maybe that building is the only one from the 1910’s on the block so it’s the only one that shows the subsidence.

If you google street view all the way round the corner, the two doors on the back of the building really look like subsidence to me.

Not really. Went by them all the time. Someone I knew lived (lives?) in the two-storey house on the corner with the picket fence. That was an odd place. Looks nice from the front, but it’s only about 20 feet deep. Never really paid attention to the other houses. I lived in the U-shaped apartment building next to the corner house.

ETA: Looks like The Coop Pizza is still there. :slight_smile:


Yes, but what part of Louisiana?

If it’s south by the New Orleans area, drainage is problematic in much of that area.

L.A., not LA. :wink:

I managed to find a map from 1924
Sadly, most streets aren’t named, and most of the ones that are are illegible.
I found a guy who did a higher-res scan of the legend: Los Angeles Past: The 1924 Olmsted "Major Traffic Street Plan"

So instead I went to Google maps and tried some imagination.
It does look like maybe Edith Street used to connect through where the U-Haul place is. Also, it seems obvious that National Boulevard used to be … straighter? That it probably ran along the railroad tracks, and got moved because the I-10 is now where it was.
But that doesn’t really help guess what that corner of Motor Ave looked like.

In the 1924 photo there appears to be another building right next to the Blacksmith shop (to the left). If the camera is looking east, that building would be where National Boulevard turns, but if the camera is looking south that building would be where Waters Auto Body is, or perhaps behind Hill Liquors.

When I zoomed in on Google Earth I noticed something important: the building we’re looking at (was the blacksmith shop) isn’t a rectangle! The part with a peaked roof is rectangular, but the part behind that is triangular. The back wall of the place is not parallel to Motor Avenue.
The most likely reason to build a building that shape is that was the shape of the property lot, and the most likely reason for an irregularly shaped property lot is a right-of-way.
Simply put, I think that building is that shape because when it was built a street ran behind it at an angle where National Boulevard does now.

In which case the 1924 picture has to be looking at that angled back wall, because it it was looking at the northwest wall there would be a street where the photo shows a building.

Newer brickwork (or concrete) will take paint differently if only because there are fewer layers of paint on it. In my experience, even after multiple repaintings and decades of weathering, a bricked-over doorway will be an obvious rectangle of slightly-different-color.
Much like the one shown in the photo.

Agreeing to this interpretation goes against my grain since we’re essentially “substituting” a door that no longer exists, and forcing ourselves to pick out its former location on the back end of the building. Nonetheless, on further examination, I think you’re right. Here’sthe north side of the building viewed from what was then a vacant lot at the NE corner of Motor and National (Youtube link to that point in a summary of shooting locations). Note that in this view of the building the large BLACKSMITH SHOP sign isn’t anywhere in sight; by contrast at the point where the train enters, near where I took my original still, the sign is there. So it has to be in the back. I’m missing the window to the left of the vehicular entrance, but it’s not uncommon for windows in old buildings like this to have been walled up. Or, it may have been converted into the pedestrian entrance visible in your GSV screengrab.

The lot next door was mostly vacant at the time the film was made, so it makes sense that, in the film we see what looks like an auxiliary outdoor space possibly used for deliveries or parking. And the alignment of National is straight here so that fits as well.

Be that as it may, however, we know the pavement on the north side, near the existing sunken vehicular door, has to have once been level with the interior floor, or nearly so. So the original question remains.

At some time prior to 1929, the roof was lowered from 18’ to 12’

In case I forgot to mention it, we know the roof was lowered from 18’ to 12’ some time between 1924 and 1929; possibly accounting for the low profile.

It looks like Motor may have been lowered when the Santa Monica Frwy was built. That may be irrelevant or cut the wrong way, but you might find some clues looking at the old topo maps.

Said the member who lives 8000 miles away–and nevertheless appears to be right.

Very interesting. The area of interest is 8 squares down and 2/3 squares over. It seems like there were two streets running parallel to the railway. The north one was expanded into I-10 and the south one is the modern National Blvd.

As for subsidence, I don’t think it likely. One story building is not all that heavy. On the other hand, if the roadway had been repaved a couple of times, the sidewalk would have been raised as well.

At 3:41, I think you can just see the edge of the blacksmith sign.

Very helpful. After lots of looking at all the links in this thread, a quick visit to LA county’s GIS and rereading the OP because what was the question again :D, here are my conclusions:

[li]The floor height is the same as it’s always been. The screenshot of the train is a former back entrance - the sign is the tip-off, because other shots in the video show clearly that there is no sign on the side or frontage.[/li][li]The gutters of the street also haven’t changed elevation significantly, It’s probable that they have been rebuilt a few times.[/li][li]The closeup of the door - Looks to me like the sill has been retrofitted - New build stuff doesn’t usually have cement splashes over it, and concrete over 50 years old usually has a rougher, darker appearance. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone installed it to stop water getting in through the disused doorway and it was only later that the ground was built up to it and paving replaced.[/li][li]The ground was probably engineered to direct all the water toward the earth berm/road gutter area when the road was upgraded to avoid runoff entering the buildings. The new road would have a raised crown for better drainage, where originally, it was probably lower than the local buildngs.[/li][/ul]

I should have said something earlier and saved some of your trouble–no, National didn’t go straight through. The rail ROW has been there since the 1870s and was a typical heavy duty route with limited crossings. Then it went to local transit which faded away in the 1950s, and now this section is about to go into service a transit line once again.