In 1877, Los Angeles was just a tiny pueblo that would one day become Downtown, but by the turn of the 20th century it was starting to birth the little population pockets that would eventually grow up and sprawl out to cover roughly 4,900 square miles. (As far back as 1925, Aldous Huxley could write that Los Angeles was “nineteen suburbs in search of a metropolis”).
A map animation from NYU’s Stern Urbanization Project, released in 2014, shows how it all happened, beginning with a little purple blob in the 1870s and expanding into a thick and far-reaching puddle by 2000.
The city really started growing around World War I. It steadily densified by World War II, then sprawled out in the 1970s.
The video stops in 2000, but it’s going to get even more interesting when it’s updated one day. LA’s population has kept growing, but, with the push for more housing and denser development near transit, the city is starting to check its sprawl.
Watch the growth of the region below.
The Atlantic Cities has more on the Stern Urbanization Project, which has produced research covering 30 cities.