article-imageTeam Edward Doheny thinking about their next clue at The Farmers and Merchant Bank. (photograph by Jeff Notte)

On a hot day at the end of June, one group of time-traveling explorers went in search of a forgotten past. Meeting in downtown Los Angeles, Pershing Square to be exact, these brave adventurers had one mission: to discover how Los Angeles became the great city it is today by learning about its past.  

Obscura Society LA put on the first ever “In Search of LA’s Past,” a historical scavenger hunt highlighting the changes, both big and small, Los Angeles has undergone over the last century. 

Grouped into teams of four or five, each team was named after a major contributor to Los Angeles’s history, e.g. Team Edward Doheny or Team Aimee Semple McPherson. Then, the teams received clues and decades-old pictures provided by and were given their instructions — to find the present-day buildings shown in the old pictures and complete a “photo mission.” When all the sites were found and pictures taken, the teams were to hustle back to our final stop, The Redwood Inn, for drinks and celebration. The first team back, and with all their photo missions correctly completed, would win a unique prize, one that highlights another part of Los Angeles’s storied history: hand-painted, colored, animation cells from assorted 1980s/90s Saturday morning cartoons: 

article-imageAn animated cell from the animated television series Star Wars: Ewoks, which ran from 1985 to 1986. (photograph by Matt Blitz)

These were much-valued prizes indeed. 

So, at approximately 4:15 pm, the starting gun was shot (figuratively, not literally) and the teams took off into the past. 

Below are the pictures taken by the teams’ for their photo missions, as well as some historic photographs. If you like to see all the clues each team received and the routes they took, visit:  

article-imageTeam Norman O. Houston giving their best sad Charlie Chaplin impression at the Bradbury Building. (photograph by Doug Morier) 

The Bradbury Building, the oldest commercial structure in downtown LA, was featured in the movie “Blade Runner.” This photograph is circa 1960 and is from the California State Library.

article-imageTeam Sid Grauman embarking on a trip on Angels Flight, the “shortest railway in the world.”

article-image Angels Flight in its heyday in 1955. Its first trip up the hill was in 1901. (image from the Los Angeles Public Library)

article-imageTeam Norman O. Houston not heeding the “danger” sign outside of the Pacific Electric Terminal Building. (photograph by Doug Morier)

A picture taken of the Pacific Electric Terminal Building shortly after it’s opening in 1905. It remained the hub of interurban street cars until April 9th, 1961. (image from the California State Library)

Team Aimee Semple McPherson upset that the doors of the Warner Brothers Theatre, now a jewelry mart, have closed for the evening. (photograph by Annie Gregory)

In 1926, when this photo was taken, this theatre was known as the Pantages Theatre. In 1929, Warner Brothers bought the theatre and promptly changed all the signage with “P“‘s to “WB“‘s. (image from the Los Angeles Public Library)

Our winners, Team Biddy Mason, enjoying food and beverage at the Redwood Inn after their victory. They clocked in at a cool one hour and 33 minutes. (photograph by Scott Garner)

Congratulations to the winners Team Biddy Mason, who received their prizes from such legendary Saturday morning programs like Extreme Dinosaurs, Skeleton Wars, and Care Bear Cousins

Thank you to everyone who embarked on this adventure with us. And a special thank you goes for providing us with the amazing pictures and an enlightening history lesson.  Also, a big thank you to Redwood Inn for their hospitality. 

Pictures provided by Jeff Notte, Annie Gregory, Doug Morier, Scott Garner, and the author. 

Until next time discovering this intriguing world of ours, remember....



The Obscura Society is the real-world exploration arm of Atlas Obscura We seek out secret histories, unusual access, and opportunities for our community to explore strange and overlooked places hidden all around us. Join us on our next adventure!

All Upcoming Obscura Society Events

If you’d like to be notified about future Los Angeles events, be sure to join our Obscura Society Los Angeles Events Announcement List and join our local community pages on Facebook

Facebook: Obscura Society San Francisco

Facebook: Obscura Society Los Angeles

Facebook: Obscura Society New York City