August 25, 2011

Photo Essay: In Search of LA's Military History, Part 1

I'd had plenty of opportunity to explore the various forts of the New York Harbor, including Governor's Island which once housed the Coast Guard, but it never occurred to me that Los Angeles would have its own military history. It seemed like it would be all sunshine and palm trees.

But of course it does have a military history, being a major coastal metropolitan area with its own active harbor and industrial ports.

Plus, it has plenty of high peaks from which to observe and defend.

I'd heard that there were a few remaining old Nike missile sites from the 50s and 60s scattered around Los Angeles, now surrounded by hiking trails and interpretive historical markers, so I decided to hike to the closest one: Briar Summit Open Space, off Mulholland Drive.

The entry gate looked foreboding enough...

...and although some new signage from the Department of Water and Power gave the sense that there is some current activity there, it definitely felt abandoned.

Understandably, peaks like this - as in the Verdugo Mountains as well - are useful these days for mounting radio towers.

Unfortunately at Briar Summit, the original Nike observation tower - a key component of detecting, intercepting, and destroying enemy targets - looms behind a locked gate.

Fortunately for me, I knew of another place to go, not too far away, where I could get closer to the old relics of another site: San Vicente Mountain Park.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Further Reading:
Fort MacArthur Museum
Project Nike (Wikipedia)

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