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Historic photo exhibit opens at city hall

Historic photo exhibit opens at city hall

A gallery of over 30 large Lakewood historic photographs from the city’s archive now lines the main hallway at city hall. Visitors can see Lakewood’s history unfold – from a map showing the land purchased in 1949 by the Lakewood Park Corporation, through the construction of Lakewood in the early 1950s, to scenes of contemporary life. The exhibit was assembled by Don Waldie, Lakewood’s historian emeritus.

Lakewood City Council Members recently presented Don with a special “I Made A Difference” Lakewood lapel pin in honor of his work on this and other projects over many years that have told the Lakewood story. See photo above.

“Some photographs are displayed for the first time,” said Waldie, “although long-time residents are sure to recognize many familiar landmarks and events. This exhibition gives visitors a sense of the city’s remarkable history and distinctive quality of life.”

The images in the exhibition can also be seen at

Visitors are welcome any time city hall is open, which is 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on alternating open Fridays. City hall is closed the other Fridays. A list of open and closed Fridays is available at or by calling 562-866-9771.

“Building Lakewood was an enormous project,” said Waldie, “involving a workforce of more than 4,000 carpenters, electricians and plumbers who constructed 17,500 houses between 1950 and 1954. The most dramatic photographs of Lakewood show these thousands of new homes from the air.”

The houses were bought by young families ready to begin a new life. These “pioneers on the suburban frontier” are shown in a series of images that narrate Lakewood’s boom years.

But those houses weren’t yet a city, as the exhibition’s descriptive labels point out. The contest over Lakewood’s future was intense, with arguments for and against incorporation in 1953. The gallery highlights John S. Todd, a young lawyer at the time, who drafted the plan that made incorporating Lakewood possible: contracting for city services from Los Angeles County. Lakewood incorporated as the nation’s first “contract city” in 1954.

As the gallery illustrates, Lakewood was first in other ways. Lakewood Center was the nation’s first regional shopping center in 1952 and the largest for several years. The Sky Knight program was the first helicopter patrol program in law enforcement in 1966.

Images from the city’s archives show that family recreation is an enduring Lakewood value, reflected in the city’s many parks. So is Lakewood’s focus on public safety.

In the images of today’s Lakewood that conclude the exhibition, long time residents and new families are shown sharing the promise made in 1954 — that Lakewood will be the place they call home.