A Road Runs Through It: West Adams and the Construction of Interstate 10 in Los Angeles
Jordan Baldridge is a Historian-in-training in the MA program at Rutgers-Newark. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and his attachment to history blossomed while walking, driving, and riding on buses around America’s most complicated and confounding city. A student of urban history, his research interests include the built environment, race and racism, music, and urban/regional cultures.
The West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles was first populated by turn-of-the-century moguls: white men who had built fortunes in the city’s booming new industries. When what is now Mid City Los Angeles existed on the periphery of a very young city, they built Craftsman and Victorian mansions that defined the neighborhood’s image and status. In the late 1930’s, the neighborhood would become home to a Black middle and upper class that included prominent businesspeople and performers. The neighborhood, however, was cleaved down the middle in 1963 by the construction of Interstate-10. This project sets out to examine the origins of the decision to bulldoze a historic, famous, and wealthy Black community. Why, for example, was the freeway route plotted on this particular course? Was there resistance to the construction of the interstate? And, finally, what have been the long-term impacts of this dramatic change in the built environment? This project taps into a broader history of highway construction while analyzing factors of race, class, and power. Despite the prevailing narrative that urban renewal projects and sites of environmental injustice take advantage of poor neighborhoods lacking political power, West Adams provides a case study that disrupts these notions.
Race, Class, Roads, Community, Pollution