Bunker Hill is the highest point of downtown Los Angeles, both literally and figuratively. Its circle of life has created a continuous saga of change, each chapter rich with captivating characters, structures, and culture. In Bunker Hill Los Angeles: Essence of Sunshine and Noir, historian Nathan Marsak tells the story of the Hill, from the district’s inception in the mid-19th century to its present day. Once home to wealthy Angelenos living in LA’s “first suburb,” then the epicenter of the city’s shifting demographics and the shadow and vice of an urban underbelly, Bunker Hill survived its attempted erasure and burgeoned as a hub of arts, politics, business, and tourism.
As compelling as the story of the destruction of Bunker Hill is—with all the good intentions and bad results endemic to city politics—it was its people who made the Hill at once desirable and undesirable. Marsak commemorates the poets and writers, artists and activists, little guys and big guys, and of course, the many architects who built and rebuilt the community on the Hill—time after historic time.
Any fan of American architecture will treasure Marsak’s analysis of buildings that have crowned the Hill: the exuberance of Victorian shingle and spindlework, from Mission to Modern, from Queen Anne to Frank Gehry, Bunker Hill has been home to it all, the ever-changing built environment.
With more than 250 photographs—many in color—as well as maps and vintage ephemera to tell his dramatic visual story, Marsak lures us into Bunker Hill Los Angeles and shares its lost world, then guides us to its new one.
Nathan Marsak studied under the eminent historian of Los Angeles, Reyner Banham, at University of California, Santa Cruz, and completed his graduate work with noted Sullivan/Wright scholar Narciso Menocal at University of Wisconsin, Madison. He worked on the curatorial staff of Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and served as historian for the LAPD Museum archives. Bunker Hill Los Angeles is his second book; his first was Los Angeles Neon (2002).