Monday, February 6, 2012

Anaheim for the Urban Archeologist

Harlow's Service Station, 1930s
401 S. Los Angeles St, Anaheim

Whenever we find an old photograph of Anaheim that we haven't seen before, it's like discovering a map to buried treasure.  Photos are the keys to a lost world, letting us explore forgotten places right in our own neighborhood, hidden under layers of progress and development.  

Take, for instance, this recently unearthed image of Harlow's Service Station at the corner of Elm Street and Anaheim Blvd (then called Los Angeles Street).  In the late 1920s and '30s motorists stopped here to fill up on St. Helens Gasoline or to buy a quart of motor oil for 25¢, made of petroleum from the nearby Whittier oil fields.  The photo shows a quaint gas station built at an angle to the street, with hand-painted signage and glass-topped fuel pumps. 

But a good Urban Archeologist, ever in search of pieces to the puzzle of the past will look deeper into the details.  Behind the station runs Elm Street, lined with a row of old homes and buildings.  One of the houses particularly caught our attention-- a two story Victorian house with ornamental roof railing:

Does it look familiar?  It's the historic 1897 Rea House, the stately downtown home of sisters Kate and Ella Rea, after whom Katella Avenue is named.  The house was relocated in 2007 to its current location on Stueckle Avenue:

The Kate and Ella Rea House today.
 The decorative roof railing, removed decades ago, will be restored this year!

The Harlow's Service Station photo shows another building that has remained pretty much unchanged in  90 years, as well.  On the far right of the image, behind the St. Helens sign, is the back end of a brick building with a window.

That building survives today as the location for two popular restaurants, Punjabi Tandoor Indian Food and Lindo Michoacan Mexican Restaurant.  The row of houses has been replaced by a monstrous high-density residential complex, and the telephone lines have moved underground. 

The corner of Elm and Anaheim Blvd. today. 

Though it doesn't look very pretty at the moment, this area is about to be redeveloped for future use. The old lot itself was recently fenced off and many ideas are being discussed for this major parcel of historic Downtown Anaheim.  What would YOU like to see built here?


  1. This service station reminds me of a similar one I found abandoned in some obscure corner of New Mexico a few years ago, but that one had an Indian trading post painting on the side...

  2. A lot of things have changed. This can only mean that the featured town had progressed very well. My grandpa will like those old photos of the gas station when I show them to him. He might recall the car he owned back then.

    Stelle Courney