Subway Terminal Building / Metro 417 – 1925

Subway Terminal Building / Metro 417 - 1925

The Subway Terminal Building, now known as Metro 417, is a Renaissance Revival building in Downtown Los Angeles located at 417 South Hill Street. It was designed by architects Schultze and Weaver and was built in 1925. It served as the downtown terminus for the “Hollywood Subway” branch of the Pacific Electric Railway Interurban rail line. Currently it is a luxury apartment building. It is located near Pershing Square. When the LACMTA Red Line, the replacement for the Hollywood Subway, was built, the Pershing Square station was located nearby.

As street traffic increased in Downtown Los Angeles, the Pacific Electric Railway undertook its most ambitious project, a dedicated right of way into downtown by use of a subway. The existing downtown terminal in the Pacific Electric Building at Sixth and Main was reached by shared street running. Responding to the traffic congestion that clogged the streets, the California Railroad Commission in 1922 issued Order No. 9928, which called for the Pacific Electric to construct a subway allowing passengers to bypass downtown’s busy streets altogether. Plans for the “Hollywood Subway,” as the project came to be known, were drafted as early as February of 1924, and ground was broken in May of the same year.

The Subway Terminal Building was built to conform to the 150 foot height limit imposed on all downtown construction. The other end of the subway line emerged at the surface at the Belmont Tunnel / Toluca Substation and Yard.

After 18 months of construction and $1.25 million in expenditures, the Subway officially opened to the public on December 1, 1925. The trains, which traveled a distance of slightly over one mile, transported passengers between the tunnel’s mouth near the intersection of Beverly and Glendale Blvds. in Westlake, and the Subway Terminal Building.

The early years of the Subway were widely met with success, as the Hollywood Subway emerged as one of Los Angeles’s most popular modes of public transit throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Ridership hit an all-time high during the World War II-era; in 1944 – considered to have been the Subway’s peak – trains carried an estimated 65,000 passengers through the tunnel each day.

The unprecedented growth which characterized the Los Angeles region in the postwar years ultimately led to the closure of the Hollywood Subway in the 1950s. Increasing dependence on the automobile as well as the emergence of a complex network of freeways throughout Southern California drastically reduced ridership, forcing Pacific Electric to dismantle its Subway in 1955. The last train to carry passengers – carrying a banner reading “To Oblivion” – traversed the tunnel on the morning of June 19, 1955. Shortly thereafter, Pacific Electric removed the tracks and trains from the tunnel and closed the station within the Subway Terminal Building.

The building served as an office building for many years. The tunnel remained intact until December of 1967, when the section from Flower Street to just west of Figueroa Street was filled in.

When the LACMTA Red Line, the replacement for the Hollywood Subway, was built, the Pershing Square station was located nearby.

As of 2007, the Subway Terminal Building has been renovated as “Metro 417”, a luxury apartment building. The historic Florentine exterior is being threatened by the construction of a 76 story skyscraper, Park Fifth. It is historic cultural monument #177

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