In early twentieth-century Los Angeles, Anglo-American women writers documented the emergence of a metropolis. Perceptions of race, ethnicity and culture became embedded in the struggle to depict and interpret a new urbanism. In capturing the changing cityscape, women writers constructed Sonoratown, the old Mexican Quarter of Los Angeles, as a place in the social imagination. This article examines representations of Sonoratown and its Mexican inhabitants in two anthologies. Women writers, many of whom moved in civic and reform-minded circles, rendered Sonoratown ambiguously: as a “picturesque” place to be preserved and yet a space earmarked for renewal, Sonoratown became entwined with the drive for social reform, assimilation and urban development.