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Main Street Station
MAIN STREET STATION
When Henry Huntington decided to build a combined interurban terminal and office building in downtown Los Angeles, everyone knew the structure would be extraordinary, in keeping with Mr. Huntington's usual high standards. The result was Los Angeles' first skyscraper and the largest building in the city. The Huntington Building was constructed on the southeast corner of 6th & Main Streets, and was responsible for the moving of the city's business district from the traditional 2nd & Spring focal point to 6th & Main.
The Huntington Building opened on January 15, 1905 with a great public celebration. The interurban cars of PE and LAIU turned in from Main St. into the double track concourse where they changed ends and sallied forth again. The huge waiting room, with all necessary appurtenances (restaurant, ticket windows, check stand, shops, etc.) occupied the northeastern portion of the ground floor, to which access was gained from Main St. via a long, wide foyer, and from 6th St. by means of a ramp midway between Main and Los Angeles Streets. The waiting room was ornately furnished and decorated in the style of the period and was widely regarded as being the outstanding example of railroad terminal design west of Chicago. There simply wasn't anything to equal it on the Pacific Coast, and this includes all depots of the various steam railroads.
In those days, the interurban concourse was a stub and terminal; all cars entered, discharged passengers, ran to the back(at the rear wall, facing Los Angeles St.), changed ends, switched over to the other track, rolled forward to the passenger loading gates, and finally reentered the stream of traffic on Main St. This invariably delayed interurbans, especially as the building of additional lines and the normal increase in patronage brought unprecedented passenger loads into the terminal. Interurban cars, waiting their turn to enter and unload, delayed local streetcars on Main St. and it was not unusual to behold a string of assorted cars stretching from the terminal south to Ninth St. and north to 4th St. The city demanded relief, and Huntington brought forth a plan for the Santa St. Spur, connecting at the rear of the station.
In February, 1906, it was announced that Huntington had secured all necessary land and that construction on the spur track would start in the near future. This trackage was to have started at 9th & Santee Streets, and run north on Santee to a point east of the Huntington Building, then curve into the terminal from the rear. Thus all interurban traffic from San Pedro, Long Beach, Whittier, Santa Ana and Newport would be removed from Main St. This Santee Street Spur was never built, and Huntington later sold the right-of-way to private parties. One of them built a large loft building on his portion, and this is why Santee St to this day is blocked north of 8th St.
In 1911 the Pacific Electric Building. became the property of Southern Pacific as one of the conditions of the Great Merger. Out moved all Huntington offices into the new Los Angeles Railway Building at 11th & Broadway in due time, and in moved the offices of the Southern Pacific(hitherto located at 6th & Spring) where they remain today.
The Main St. Station got a portion of its rear elevated trackage in 1910 when a train platform was erected. This structure was extended to San Pedro St. on December 3, 1916. This elevated consisted of a two-track steel structure running from the rear of the terminal building to Wall St., where it became a pile trestle descending to grade at San Pedro St., midway between 6th and 7th Streets. It was the original intention to continue the elevated to the east bank of the Los Angeles River with a branch to the Southern District four-track main stem at 14th & Long Beach Ave.; this dream persisted for years, but never came to pass. Additional elevated stub tracks at the rear of the terminal were opened on February 11, 1917.
For many years the Pacific Electric Building remained as when first opened. From 1917 to 1942 the great terminal functioned quite up to the highest expectations of its designers. However, the bus was in the picture to stay by the mid-Thirties and PE's own busses and those of its affiliate, Motor Transit Lines, were unable to use the big station; Motor Transit and certain PE bus lines were centered at the Union bus Depot at 5th & Los Angeles Streets. About the middle of February, 1942, work began altering the rear elevated deck to permit busses to use it. PE sought to gain greater comfort and convenience for its patrons by this move, as well as increased efficiency due to centralization of forces, unification of dispatching, and better allocation of equipment.
A new era for the 6th & Main station was entered on September 27, 1942, when busses began using this depot. The changes required cost about $175,000 and consisted of a parking deck south of and adjoining the elevated structure, reached by a ramp from Maple Ave. Also necessary were a new elevator for mail and express from Los Angeles St., a ramp to Los Angeles St. for patrons desiring to enter the building from that street and the enlarging of ticket office facilities. The joint operation by rail and bus began on the above date and concurrently the Union Bus Depot was removed from service. All busses entered the concourse from the rear and left via Main St. No rail service through the concourse was permitted except for special service on New Year's Day when Pasadena crowds monopolized all gates to the concourse and busses were banished to Los Angeles St.
Effective on the same date, cars of the Pasadena Short Line and Pasadena Oak Knoll line discontinued their use of the station, looping instead via San Pedro St., 6th St. and Main St. Sierra Madre cars began using the elevated stub tracks the same day.
The final use of the concourse came on New Year's Day, 1950. Thereafter all rail operations were concentrated at the rear of the terminal on the three
stub tracks and the two stubs of the former through tracks. Rails through the concourse were removed in 1954.
When the Pacific Electric Building was finished in 1905, it was regarded as a model of its kind. Its spacious waiting room with tiled floor, plastered walls, high beamed ceiling, tall round columns with massive bases, arched windows, extending almost from floor to ceiling, huge heavy entrance doors
and iron trains gates were the objects of much admiration from the 5,000 passengers a day who strolled though, to and from their trains. The three top floors were leased to the Jonathan Club, and were fitted out in especially luxurious fashion(Huntington was an enthusiastic member of the club). To add still further to the attractiveness of the building, in 1923-1924 the corridors from the second floor up were improved with new tile floors, a marble wainscoting, and mahogany doors, at the entrances to all offices.
The 5,000 passengers a day of 1905 rose at length to 100,000, as population grew and World War II brought its soldiers, sailors, and scarcity of gasoline and tires. Then the bringing in of the bus passengers in 1942 capped the climax. By 1944, the old building was running down, and PE embarked upon a major remodeling program. Chief object of the remodeling was the waiting room but the lobby, stores, and even the exterior walls were ultimately included.
The modernizing included the following changes in the waiting room: a new marble floor; a new lowered ceiling suspended by hundreds of wires and permitting space for forced ventilation, public address system, etc.; walls covered with marble; new train & bus gates; closing up the huge windows; old round columns were given an octagonal shape and covered with marble; fluorescent lighting replaced the old chain-suspended fixtures; rest rooms remodeled with all new plumbing, tile floors and walls, fluorescent lighting, new ceilings; all concessions were modernized in keeping with the beautiful simplicity of the station interior with much use of solid wood paneling and stainless steel. The lobby received stainless steel street doors, marble walls, lower ceiling with fluorescent lighting, aluminum elevator doors, and fronts and a new floor. The stores on the south side of the lobby were remodeled with bay windows framed in Philippine mahogany. The telephone room was greatly enlarged and made much more attractive though the use of modern wood panels. The exterior of the building likewise saw considerable improvement: a new stainless steel marquee was placed over the Main St. entrance with fluorescent lights set into it flush with the underside. The former tan brick front of the building was faced with Tennessee marble all along the Main St. side and for some distance on the 6th St. side. The marble facing continued to the top of the new store fronts. Store windows were lowered and widened on the Main St. side; on the 6th St. side all show windows but one were completely closed in an faced with marble.
As a result if the 1947 modernization, the Pacific Electric Building was transformed from a dingy near-relic into one of the city's most attractive locations. As a result, not only have passengers been quite favorable impressed and their comfort increased, but the upper floors have attracted new tenants.
In 1961 the last rail line out of this station was abandoned. In 1964 the final bus operated out of this historic terminal. The waiting room and concourse were then remodeled for auto parking. The elevated structure was razed in 1964 and a new Greyhound depot erected, which opened in 1967.
INTERLOCKER: The switches and signals at 6th & Main Terminal were controlled by an interlocking machine located on the second floor of the PE Building overlooking the el deck. To activate this interlocker, 47,000 feet of heavy electrical cable was required. By 1926 the old rubber covered cable had deteriorated badly and it was replaced by an intricate network without interrupting service; cost about $3,600 at that time.
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