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15 Striking Photos of The 1934 New Year’s Floods in Los Angeles

Ian Smith
Jan. 1, 1934: Cars marooned outside Bohemian Gardens at 3890 Mission Road, East Los Angeles. This photo was published in the Jan. 2, 1934 Los Angeles Times.
Jan. 1, 1934: Cars marooned outside Bohemian Gardens at 3890 Mission Road, East Los Angeles. This photo was published in the Jan. 2, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

In November 1933, wildfires raged through the nearby San Gabriel mountains above the   Los Angeles County communities of La Crescenta, La Cañada and Montrose. During the last week of December of that year, a series of winter storms pounded the mountainside with 12 inches of rain. On New Year’s Eve, more heavy rains led to sporadic flooding.

Around midnight, hillsides in at least three mountain locations collapsed sending millions of tons of mud and debris into the Crescenta Valley neighborhoods below.More than 400 homes were destroyed in La Cañada, La Crescenta, Montrose and Tujunga. Scores of people were killed, and hundreds were left homeless. Entire families were wiped out. The mudslides that began in the mountains above La Cañada and La Crescenta carved a path of destruction all the way to the Verdugo Wash and beyond.

Some Montrose residents sought shelter from flooding at American Legion Post 288, which was destroyed, killing 12.Parts of Foothill Boulevard were buried under 12 feet (4 m) of mud, boulders and debris. The mud was deep enough to bury cars completely on Montrose Avenue. Miles of Honolulu Boulevard were inundated by several feet of sand and silt.Two notable victims of the flood were silent-era identical-twin child actors Winston and Weston Doty, who died at the age of 19.

 

Oct. 18, 1934: Workers dig out car and remains of home on Glenada Ave. in Montrose following flooding from a storm the night before.

Oct. 18, 1934: Workers dig out car and remains of home on Glenada Ave. in Montrose following flooding from a storm the night before.

 

Jan. 2, 1934: Car caught in mud from flooding in La Canada-Montrose. The car is sitting on the pavement of Montrose Ave. This photo was published in the Jan. 3, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

Jan. 2, 1934: Car caught in mud from flooding in La Canada-Montrose. The car is sitting on the pavement of Montrose Ave. This photo was published in the Jan. 3, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

 

Jan. 2, 1934: Burro used to move water and supplies after New Years Eve flooding in La Crescenta area. This photo was published in the Jan. 3, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

Jan. 2, 1934: Burro used to move water and supplies after New Years Eve flooding in La Crescenta area. This photo was published in the Jan. 3, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

 

Oct. 18, 1934: Severly damaged home located at Sunset Ave. near Florencita St. in Montrose. This photo was published in the Oct. 18, 1934 Los Angeles Times. Monrose suffered two major floods in 1934, this October event and a more damaging one on Jan. 1, 1934.

Oct. 18, 1934: Severly damaged home located at Sunset Ave. near Florencita St. in Montrose. This photo was published in the Oct. 18, 1934 Los Angeles Times. Monrose suffered two major floods in 1934, this October event and a more damaging one on Jan. 1, 1934.

 

Oct. 17, 1934: Cars caught in the flooding on Honolulu Ave., near Rosemont in Montrose. This photo was published in the Oct. 18, 1934 Los Angeles Times. NOTE: Montrose hit twice in 1934 by bad flooding, first on Jan. 1st then Oct. 17.

Oct. 17, 1934: Cars caught in the flooding on Honolulu Ave., near Rosemont in Montrose. This photo was published in the Oct. 18, 1934 Los Angeles Times. NOTE: Montrose hit twice in 1934 by bad flooding, first on Jan. 1st then Oct. 17.

 

Jan. 1. 1934: A milk truck is almost completely submerged on Whittier Blvd. under Union Pacific railroad bridge. This photo was published in the Jan. 2, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

Jan. 1. 1934: A milk truck is almost completely submerged on Whittier Blvd. under Union Pacific railroad bridge. This photo was published in the Jan. 2, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

 

Jan. 1, 1934: Mud, rocks and damaged cars on Montrose Avenue in Montrose, after New Years flooding. This photo was published in the Jan. 2, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

Jan. 1, 1934: Mud, rocks and damaged cars on Montrose Avenue in Montrose, after New Years flooding. This photo was published in the Jan. 2, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

 

Following the disaster, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the County of Los Angeles built a flood control system of catch basins and concrete storm drains, designed to prevent a repeat of the 1934 disaster.The flood was commemorated in Woody Guthrie’s song “Los Angeles New Year’s Flood”.To honor the victims of that New Year’s calamity and to mark its 75th anniversary a small monument was dedicated January 1, 2004, at Rosemont and Fairway Avenues, in Montrose, near where the American Legion Hall had stood.

Jan. 1, 1934: Five people drowned when this car and Rush Avenue bridge was swept into the Alhambra Wash, near present day Whittier Narrows Recreation Area. This photo was published in the Jan. 2, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

Jan. 1, 1934: Five people drowned when this car and Rush Avenue bridge was swept into the Alhambra Wash, near present day Whittier Narrows Recreation Area. This photo was published in the Jan. 2, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

 

Jan. 1, 1934: Cars marooned outside Bohemian Gardens at 3890 Mission Road, East Los Angeles. This photo was published in the Jan. 2, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

Jan. 1, 1934: Cars marooned outside Bohemian Gardens at 3890 Mission Road, East Los Angeles. This photo was published in the Jan. 2, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

 

Jan. 1, 1934: House in La Cresenta-Montose area was swept off its foundation and carried hundreds of feet by New Year Eve flooding. This photo was published in the Jan. 2, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

Jan. 1, 1934: House in La Cresenta-Montose area was swept off its foundation and carried hundreds of feet by New Year Eve flooding. This photo was published in the Jan. 2, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

 

Jan. 2, 1934: Panorama made from three negatives in the Los Angeles Times Archive at UCLA showing mud-covered Honolulu Ave. in Montrose. This panorama was published in the Jan. 3, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

Jan. 2, 1934: Panorama made from three negatives in the Los Angeles Times Archive at UCLA showing mud-covered Honolulu Ave. in Montrose. This panorama was published in the Jan. 3, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

 

Jan. 3, 1934: Cars parked on the dirt, left, show the depth of debris on roadway being cleared on Foothill Blvd., in Montrose. The boulder on right is fifty feet in circumference. This photo was published in the Jan. 4, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

Jan. 3, 1934: Cars parked on the dirt, left, show the depth of debris on roadway being cleared on Foothill Blvd., in Montrose. The boulder on right is fifty feet in circumference. This photo was published in the Jan. 4, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

 

Jan. 3, 1934: Following the New Years Eve flooding in Montrose, food kitchen is set up to help survivors. This photo was published in the Jan. 4, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

Jan. 3, 1934: Following the New Years Eve flooding in Montrose, food kitchen is set up to help survivors. This photo was published in the Jan. 4, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

 

Jan. 4, 1934: Civil Works Administration men from Pasadena help clear Honolulu Ave. in Montrose following flooding during New Year Eve rain storm. This photo was published in the Jan. 5, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

Jan. 4, 1934: Civil Works Administration men from Pasadena help clear Honolulu Ave. in Montrose following flooding during New Year Eve rain storm. This photo was published in the Jan. 5, 1934 Los Angeles Times.

 

Jan. 1934: American Legion Hall in Montrose following the New Years Eve flood were a dozen people were reported killed. The building was located at the intersection of Fairway Ave. and Rosemont Ave.

Jan. 1934: American Legion Hall in Montrose following the New Years Eve flood were a dozen people were reported killed. The building was located at the intersection of Fairway Ave. and Rosemont Ave.