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The premier exhibit curated by the new Museum Management Committee examines the history and cultural significance of the first freeway in the West.

Coming Soon to the Museum: Arroyo Seco Parkway -- Dawn of the Freeway Age
by  Kelly Markham
Issue Date: 02/2011

The premier exhibit curated by the new Museum Management Committee looks at the history and cultural significance of the first freeway in the West.

[Click on photos to read captions.]

The often-empty museum space on the first floor of District 7 Headquarters is about to get a lot less empty. After months of meetings and extensive planning, the first exhibit curated by the new District 7 Museum Management Committee (MMC) will open this month. The focus: the historic Arroyo Seco Parkway.

“Part of the reason we decided to focus on the Arroyo Seco Parkway for our first exhibit is that the freeway’s 70th anniversary was in December. This is a way to celebrate that important milestone,” said Chief of Programming and Contract Management Alberto Angelini, who also serves as the MMC co-chair.

It’s an important milestone for an important freeway – the first freeway in the West. With its curves, short ramps and narrow lanes, the Parkway’s origins are clearly in another era. But its 8.2 miles paved the way for the massive freeway systems that came later.

“We have to remember, too, that this area had an interesting history before the freeway was there,” said Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Dale Benson, who is also a committee member. “We thought it was important to include information about the area before construction began.”

Exhibit visitors can view archival photos, historic survey equipment, an impressive bronze plaque created for the freeway’s 50th anniversary in 1989, and two videos created by Steve Devorkin, videographer in the district’s Graphics Unit. The videos include wonderful archival footage of the early days of the freeway, contemporary footage shot in the past few months, and even a recent interview with the 1939 Rose Queen, Sally Stanton, who cut the ribbon on the Parkway’s opening day. (Though as she describes, she didn’t actually cut the ribbon.)

Putting the exhibit together was no small feat. Southern California AAA provided graphics for the exhibit, and the Los Angeles Central Library and Los Angeles City Archives and Records Center contributed archival photos. But most of the work was done by the all-volunteer Museum Management Committee. The MMC formed in September and is charged with programming the museum. All divisions are represented on the committee. Members include: Alberto Angelini (co-chair), Dale Benson, Steve Devorkin, Norma Dorsey, Doug Hoover, Shafiqul Islam, Stephanie Jones, Dawn Kukla, Lindy K. Lee (chair), Wayne Liu, Duncan McIntosh (ex-officio), Ralph Ricketson, Carmen Roberts and Lewis Yee.

The committee is hoping the Arroyo Seco Parkway show will attract not only Caltrans staff, but also members of the public. Exhibits such as this bring us a step closer to realizing the museum potential to serve as an educational and marketing vehicle, a means to share the history, diversity and culture of Caltrans.

The exhibit is expected to run for about a month. Coming next: “hidden talents” of District 7 staff.

To find out more about the MMC, check out this Inside 7 article.


The exhibit traces the history of the Arroyo Seco Parkway from construction to the present day. The exhibit includes several before-and-after photos illustrating how the freeway changed the Arroyo Seco wash. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in December 1939. The Rose Queen at the time, Sally Stanton (center), participated in the event. A recent interview with Stanton is featured in one of the exhibit's videos. The exhibit acknowledges the culturally rich area the Arroyo Seco Parkway passes through. Pictured here: the Lummis House, one of many historic homes in the surrounding communities.