Then & Now: downtown Sierra Madre

Photo by Alan Weeks.

Photo by Alan Weeks.


Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro


Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro

If you happened to be in downtown Sierra Madre on Friday afternoon and wondered who the idiot was stumbling around in the street juggling an iPad and Nikon DSLR, look no further. The idiot was me.

But I was there to serve a larger purpose: to try to update Alan Week’s 1950 photo of downtown Sierra Madre, which once upon a time had a streetcar and a depot as part of the old Pacific Electric system. The photo was taken shortly before this line was abandoned in Oct. 1950. I took a stab at recapturing the photo both in color and black and white, the second and third photos above.

The line branched off from tracks along Huntington Boulevard and ran along Sierra Madre Boulevard to the penultimate stop in downtown Sierra Madre and then one more at the Mt. Wilson Trailhead on Mira Monte Avenue.

What has changed? The depot is gone but the shortcut with parking between Baldwin Avenue and Sierra Madre Boulevard remains. The building at far left in Alan’s photo remains as the Shirley Hotel but the facade at top has been added. Alan’s photo offers a gimpse of a gas station at right along Sierra Madre Boulevard; there’s still a gas station there, but it’s one of those modern, lacking in character things. The San Gabriel Mountains, thankfully, remain.

And, finally, the tree in my color photo that is just left of the ‘Do Not Enter’ sign may be the same tree shading the old car in Alan’s photo. If I had a DeLorean and some asphalt, perhaps I could go find out.

This was a tricky one. I was obviously near the spot where Alan took his photo but I couldn’t seem to find the exact spot. I also had a hard time mimicking the focal length that Alan used on his camera with my cropped frame Nikon DSLR with an 18-55 lens.

About Alan: He worked for many years as a transit scheduler first with the RTD and later the MTA, now known as Metro. He is retired and very proud of his many years of public service — as he should be. Many of his photos of L.A.’s transit scene can seen on the Metro Transportation Library & Archive’s Flickr page, which as of this morning had 8,915 images and is still growing.

If you’ve enjoyed our Then & Now posts, then you are morally obligated to check out the Metro Library’s Historypin page, a sophisticated mapping tool that allows you to overlay historic photos with current street views. It is, trust me, epically cool. Here’s a Source post from last week explaining Historypin; check out the photo from Crenshaw and 60th on Historypin. Very cool.


Then & Now: In L.A. getting rid of streetcars easier than getting rid of billboards

Then & Now: a streecar and a bus in Highland Park, 1955 and 2013

Then & Now: streetcars along the Crenshaw/LAX Line alignment

Then & Now: a streetcar and a bus on Florence Avenue in Inglewood, 1955 and 2013

4 replies

  1. But we still haven’t seen paired shots of a PE car and a Metro car on the same spot. Just cars and buses.

    Of course, the ideal would be a shot of a PE car, then a shot of an RTD bus, and then a shot of a Metro car.

    • Hi James;

      If you want a photo of streetcar versus Metro light rail vehicle, probably the best bet is with the Expo Line, since streetcars once used that corridor along Exposition Boulevard. I don’t believe the tracks are in the exact same spot, but can give it a try. Might work on the Blue Line, too – I don’t know enough about history of streetcars in that corridor.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. Thanks for the “then and now” comparison of Kersting Court in my hometown of Sierra Madre. As for the tree on the right of the 1950 photograph, it’s probably not the same as the one in the present-day picture. A 1965 overview picture of Kersting Court in Michele Zack’s history of Sierra Madre shows a very young tree on that spot, probably planted after the PE depot was torn down. No more streetcar, but now we have the Metro 268 and 487 that stop at lovely Kersting Court.

    • Hi John;

      Thanks for that nugget — very interesting. Do you know when the depot was torn down? Too bad. Looked like a neat old building.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source