When you think of the New Deal, you probably think about the repeal of prohibition, the creation of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the suspension of the gold standard. You picture men building bridges, laying roads and planting trees. You probably don’t picture Muscle Beach.
But you should.
In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal social works agency, employed men and women for public works projects in communities all across the country. In Santa Monica, that included a public park and recreation center.
With Hollywood springing up all around it, the beach-front park quickly became popular with tourists, stuntmen and film stars alike. And as that popularity grew and grew, gymnastic and acrobatic exhibitions were routinely held there and bodybuilders began bringing their own dumbbells to the park.
Between the well-muscled bodybuilders and the strength of the gymnasts and acrobats, the name Muscle Beach was perfectly fitting.
Which leads me to this marvelously amusing window on Sunset Boulevard:
As the story goes, Sunset Boulevard is set in “the Hollywood that never was,” highlighting California in the 1930s and 1940s. Right down the street from this window is the Hollywood Hills Amphitheatre and the Hollywood Tower Hotel (circa 1939).
This window—advertising for some very bulky protectors—fits right into this early 20th century vision of the Los Angeles area.
What’s your favorite window on Sunset? Let us know in the comments!