Developed as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s massive package of assistance programs designed to pull the United States out of the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was known for employing thousands of artists to paint murals in federal buildings and for also employing thousands of the nations’ unemployed in hundreds of massive construction projects around the country.
One of these many programs was also designed to create maps of various locales. The WPA conducted a land use survey from December 18, 1933 to May 8, 1939 for the City of Los Angeles, Department of City Planning. It covered approximately 460 square miles within the boundary of the City of Los Angeles and resulted in a series of 345 hand-colored land use survey maps. They are collected in 10 books (averaging 35 maps per book) each corresponding to a geographic region within the City’s boundary. The books cover:
- North Los Angeles District
- San Fernando Valley from Canoga Park District to Van Nuys District
- Van Nuys District to Garvanza District
- Santa Monica Mountains from Girard to Van Nuys District
- Hollywood District to Boyle Heights District
- Topanga Canyon to Hollywood District
- Downtown Los Angeles and Hyde Park to Watts District
- Pacific Palisades Area to Mines Field (Municipal Airport)
- Shoestring Addition to San Pedro District
Each original map measures approximately 2 ft. x 3.5 ft. The maps themselves identify whether land was vacant or used for commercial, farming, residential, industrial, manufacturing, or recreational purposes.
A website, provided by USC, allows users access to the 345 maps. Along with viewing various maps of the different neighborhoods throughout the city, you can search the contents of the maps. Check it out.