PE ‘s Hill Street Tunnel #2 – 1952: Oblivion awaits
By Ralph Cantos
This photo, taken from the observation deck at LA City Hall, shows the south portal of PE’s Hill Street #2 just before it was demolished to make way for construction of the space age Hollywood Freeway and the Four Level Interchange.
Both tunnels #1 and #2 were built by the PE around 1909. The second twin tunnel to #1 was built around 1913 for automobile use by the City of Los Angeles.
Looking like some newly discovered archeological artifact from some prehistoric time, the south portal looks so out of place in this photo. Trackage along Hill Street was used by 3 lines: The Venice Short Line, the Hollywood Boulevard Line via Hill Street, and the Echo Park Line.
The Venice Short Line was abandoned on September 17, 1950, followed two weeks later on October 1, 1950 by the Hollywood and Echo Park lines using tracks north of The Subway Terminal surface yard, through Hill Street Tunnels #1 & #2 and out Sunset Blvd.
For the next three months, a lone Hollywood car made the daily franchise run the entire length of the Venice Short Line and Echo Park Lines.
It all came to an unceremonious end on the cold winter day of December 28, 1950. Both tunnels were abandoned. The rail portion of Tunnel #1 was reused for auto traffic until both tunnels were demolished in 1955 for the Bunker Hill redevelopment project.
However, Tunnel #2 would fare a little better. Construction of the Hollywood Freeway cut the tunnel in half. The south half was demolished, but the north half was reused for textbook storage by the Los Angeles Unified School District for almost 60 years, until mid-2014 when new development in that area destroyed the century old bore.
Today, no trace of either tunnel can be found.
The year 1950 marked the beginning of the end for the once great Pacific Electric. Just 11 years later, on April 9, 1961, the Pacific Electric was history in all respects. Slowly, but surely, almost all traces of the PE have been, or are being obliterated. It’s as though the PE was an embarrassment to Southern California and Los Angeles in particular.
And now, almost 60 years after the last PE passenger rail service was abandoned, “experts” are trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Looking back at city politics in the early 1950s, all I can say is, “Here’s another fine mess they got us into.”
Ralph Cantos Collection