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Underneath the sprawling Los Angeles Airport (LAX to most everyone) a lot of history is buried. The airport created a unique feature -- a modern ghost town. The wealthy community of Surfridge effectually disappeared as the airport took shape, taking with it a popular resort that had attracted the well-to-do and style-conscious Californians who basked in its coastal amenities.
Not only that, but the Surfridge area had been home to a rare butterfly species, the El Segundo blue butterfly, and they had nowhere to go to find the buckwheat plants they had been accustomed to laying their eggs on. The beautiful litttle insect made a comeback when authorities stepped in to recreate some of their breeding spots and now, more than 100,000 of them can be spotted in the desolation that is all that is left of Surfridge, equably sharing the air with the jets that roar overhead.
LAX is virtually a city unto itself. Shops and eateries are only part of the amenities available to air travelers who find themselves with time on their hands in one of the world's busiest airports. And, of course, there are always notaries at the airport as well. They are there to facilitate necessary business for air travelers. For instance, if you need an official document to allow an underage child to travel with a designated person other than a parent, the LAX notary can witness the signatures and have your child ready for departure in plenty of time. There also are those who still are wary of air travel. More than one has been known to write a last will and testament right in the airport, with an LAX notary on hand to witness the signature. (Makes you wonder if such an will has every been executed post-flight.)
If you have time between planes, and have finished essential business with the LAX notary, there is some interesting history to see at LAX. Hangar One, in the southeast corner of LAX has a unique look among the airport's buildings. It was built in 1920 when LAX was just a dream and the airport was called Mines Field. The hangar is a designated historic site so it won't be dismantled.
Some interesting facts about the airport: Some 50 million people and 2 millions tons of cargo pass through in a year. More than 59,000 employees provide services. A U-shaped road with two levels connects the nine terminals. A 277-foot-high tower is the nerve center that controls air traffic. A Coast Guard Air Station is located on the site, providing 24-hour service to travelers and employees. The Encounters Restaurant (now closed) is located in the central terminal and still features an observation deck open to visiitors who visit lits roof. The 3,425 acres of the airport are located right in the middle of Los Angeles, not on the outskirts as is the case with many modern airports. And LAX has its own song, written by Leann Scott and performed by David Frizzel in 1970. It was resurrected for the airport's 75th anniversary.
People who visit LAX are generally headed somewhere else, but they miss an opportunity to see some wonderful things, including artwork such as the 100-foot pylons and 32-foot letters that adorn the entrance, spelling out LAX. That unique introduction to the building is the work of Paul Tzanetopoulos. The airport also encourages young artists by sponsoring displays of their work, giving them an opportunity to earn college credit.
Don't rush your trip through LAX. You'll miss too much if you do.
Things You Might Overlook in LA
Second largest city in the United States, (almost 4 million residents) Los Angeles is a tourist attraction that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. The list of well-known must-sees is long and exhausting. But did you hear about Surfridge? Probably not, but it's a suburb with a tale to tell.
If there could be a ghost town in the middle of a thriving mega complex of small cities, Surfridge is it. Any one of the local LA traveling notaries could take you to where it used to be, but what you'd see now is the LAX, one of the busiest airports on the planet. Surfridge simply disappeared when the airport took over. There is always a mobile notary to be found at LAX, where there likely are people who need such services. (Possibly authorization for a child to travel with someone other than the parent, a document that requires verification by an authorized notary.)
But what about Surfridge? The once-wealthy neighborhood was a haven for a rare species of butterfly. Now, efforts are being made to restore native vegetation and provide habitat for the butterflies. With an airport sitting in its middle, the community is no longer the playground for the wealthy. Barbed wire is a barrier between the airport and the remnants of Surfridge. Opportunistic weeds sprout where sidewalks once led to upscale homes that were the abodes of celebrities and the elite. The small airport that was the city's pride before the big aircraft moved in was a good place to see an airshow in the late 1920s, but it's gone.
The El Segundo blue butterfly isn't super fussy about its environs, but when the last 800 homes in the area fell to demolition in the 1970s, it seemed the butterfly was about to become extinct, too. Under the auspices of the federal government, which listed the colorful little critter as endangered, it has enjoyed a comeback. An estimated 125,000 of these jewels of nature now inhabit the area, nurtured by a 200-acre tract that was planted in buckwheat, the ideal setting for the species to lay its eggs.
And there are plans for further restoration as part of a settlement agreement that was signed after LAX announced further expansion plans. It's the reality of today's world. Things change in the name of progress. So the notaries traveling the area now catch only glimpses of what was once a quality neighborhood, but if you are one of the millions who travel by plane, there's nothing like a quality airport. Take your pick.