Los Angeles History

Los Angeles is a massive, sprawling city that has come to embody the glamour, richness, and excitement of the West Coast. The name alone is iconic and likely to bring to mind ultramodern skyscrapers, smog, boulevards lined with palm trees, sunshine, swimming pools, movie stars…

The second most populous city in the U.S., Los Angeles began as a Spanish settlement on the banks of the Porciuncula River (now called the Los Angeles River). Founded in 1781 by California governor Felipe de Neve, the community was given the name El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio de Porciuncula (“The Town of Our Lady of the Angels of the Porciuncula River”). Over the years, this was gradually shortened to “Los Angeles.”

After the Mexican-American War, the territories in California were ceded to the United States. People flooded into the Los Angeles area during the California Gold Rush, and the tiny pueblo quickly grew into a wild frontier town. Los Angeles was basically lawless at the time, to such an extent that the City of Angels was given the nickname “Los Diablos.”

The railroads and the discovery of oil brought more settlers and ushered in a land boom around the turn of the century. William Mulholland’s controversial aqueduct, completed in 1913, diverted water to the city from nearby Owens Valley and allowed Los Angeles to expand and annex its neighboring communities. Meanwhile, the cinematic arts were in their infancy on the East Coast. Thomas Edison owned the patents on the movie-making process and was charging exorbitant fees to filmmakers. To get around this, a number of filmmakers flocked to Los Angeles and set up shop in the newly annexed community of Hollywood.

Over the years, the city of Los Angeles has continued to grow, spreading from the banks of the Los Angeles River to the surrounding canyons and foothills. Many communities have been absorbed into the growing city as neighborhoods. Others, such as Beverly Hills and Inglewood, have maintained their independence as Los Angeles grew around them, becoming cities within the city. Los Angeles’ economy is driven by a number of diverse industries, including international trade, oil, aerospace, entertainment, and tourism.

The Mediterranean climate of Los Angeles means hot summers and mild winters. Snow is rare in the city basin, but falls regularly on the mountain slopes, which means its possible to surf and snow ski in Los Angeles on the same day. For those seeking a less strenuous way to pass the time, check out the chic fashion boutiques on Melrose Avenue, or head to the La Brea Tar Pits and catch a glimpse of the Los Angeles area’s savage past. And of course, no visit to Los Angeles would be complete without a visit to the Hollywood sign and a tour of the stars’ homes.

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