Downtown Los Angeles has gone through major changes over the last century, and Bunker Hill is one of the city’s neighborhoods that has been completely transformed.
In his latest book, “Bunker Hill Los Angeles: Essence of Sunshine and Noir,” author and historian Nathan Marsak tells a visual story of Bunker Hill’s evolution with more than 250 photographs, maps and vintage memorabilia.
“I’d always had an interest in lost landscapes and became enraptured by the concept of LA,” Marsak said.
“I moved to LA in the early ’90s and gravitated to Downtown. I hung out around Grand Central Library and began working at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I learned about all the old mansions that use to exist in DTLA and watched old movies with friends that offered glimpses of LA back in the day. I became fascinated with Bunker Hill and started collecting old images, slides and anything else I could find.”
Marsak grew up in Santa Barbara with historian parents and developed an interest in LA at an early age. While attending the University of California, Santa Cruz, he studied under renowned historian Reyner Banham and completed his graduate study with Sullivan/Wright scholar Narciso Menocal at the University of Wisconsin—Madison.
In his recent book, Marsak covers the inception of Bunker Hill in the mid-19th century up to the present day, commemorating the folks who played a role in its transformation. He also delves into the architecture of buildings that graced Bunker Hill, from Victorian and craftsman to mission and modern.
“There are a lot of images in this book no one has ever seen before that are the product of my lifelong collecting,” Marsak said. “My favorite part about working on this book was meeting all of the wonderful people who had relationships to Bunker Hill. I would love to do a second book at some point.”
Marsak published his first book, “Los Angeles Neon,” in 2002. It features more than 350 color photographs, vintage postcards and rare images of neon signs throughout California—many of which no longer exist.
“Besides architectural history I’m also into preservation,” he said. “Part of me is addicted to the heartbreak when things are torn down, as well as the prevention of it.
“Anyone who has the chance to visit and explore Bunker Hill should go now and get to know it. There’s a lot to see there, both old and new. As more things continue to be torn down, Bunker Hill is changing and won’t stay the way it is forever. Don’t take it for granted, because one day we’ll look back and realize how much we miss the old Bunker Hill from 2020.”