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Rediscovering LA's Little Italy thanks to this upcoming museum

Michael Juliano
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Michael Juliano
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Chinatown hasn't always centered around the neon-filled Central Plaza; the enclave was originally settled at what's now Union Station. So what used to occupy current-day Chinatown before the train station was built? LA's mostly forgotten Little Italy.

One museum is making sure that Angelenos don't forget about the Downtown neighborhood's Italian roots. The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles is set to open next month on the corner of Main Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue.

The Olvera Street-adjacent museum will take up residence in the restored Italian Hall, once a focal point of the Italian-American community from its construction in 1908 until the early 1950s. KPCC put together a fantastic account of the neighborhood's history and the hall's restoration. The short version: Italians began settling in Southern California in the early 1800s and gravitated toward northeast LA until suburban flight and Italy's alignment in the World Wars dispersed the population.

The group behind the museum, which also runs the Taste of Italy event each fall, has been planning the museum for years (the idea was first hatched in 1988 and fundraising began in earnest in 1993) and documenting its progress along the way. Once open, the museum will showcase some of its 6,000 artifacts, photos and documents to examine the history and contributions of Italian Americans in LA and the rest of the United States. Check out some photos below of the in-progress interior, frieze repairs and restored mosaic.

Photography: Courtesy IAMLA

Photography: Courtesy IAMLA

Photography: Courtesy IAMLA

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