Sunday, September 30, 2007

Southwest Museum Support Groups

From the 110 Freeway, the Southwest Museum looks impressive. Charles Fletcher Lummis, once the Los Angeles city librarian who edited the forerunner of Westways Magazine, founded it and began construction in 1913, supported by a "Southwest Society."

Lummis was a character and a half, in love with the romance of this area. This picture of him at age 24 (from the Autry website) was taken after he'd walked to California from Cincinnati, about 3500 miles.

Back to the Museum, though.

The Southwest Museum holds a quarter million artifacts of Native American origin--but has only enough room to display 2% of them. One of the reasons the Museum was up for grabs 4 years ago (The Autry now owns it) was that the museum building itself, physically run-down, put those artifacts at risk.

The Museum has been closed pending renovations, and that's expected to last till 2010--according to the website, which gives an overview of the damages done by flooding and insect infestation. The problems with the building and the preservation of the artifacts concerns everyone, but the Autry's responsibility and it's handling (not to mention placement) of the collection raises hackles in some circles.

That's all confusing enough. But newspapers now announce the birth of a new "Southwest Society" to raise money for renovations and expanded display space in the Southwest Museum. Huh? Wasn't that what the Autry was supposed to do? And weren't there grants and . . . all that stuff to pay for it? Definitely confusing.

Mayor Villaraigosa, Assembly Speaker Fabio Nunez are on board with the new Southwest Society, along with City Councilman Jose Huizar, Supervisor Gloria Molina, and others (the list is unofficially published at the Yahoo Group NELA). The Autry will provide staff for their fundraising activities.

Hopefully, they will issue a statement on the Autry site explaining what's going on, so that museum-lovers in Los Angeles will understand.

Here are some websites o' interest about Lummis and his museum:

  •, promoting a prize-winning biography of Lummis, with lots of pictures and data
  • A 2005 article from LA Weekly about the Autry-Southwest agreement, exploring the question of cultural piracy.
  • Friends of the Southwest Museum wants expanded space in a rennovated Southwest Museum. They are not mentioned in the new Southwest Society blurbs.

They're Everywhere . . .

Even at the Huntington, skulking around outside the Archives show!

You know how you feel when you walk into a museum lobby, really excited about the exhibit you're going to visit--but there, in front of you, are three busloads full of ten-year-olds hooting at each other?

I like kids, but not in dozens. And not in front of me at museums.

Anyway, rounding a corner and seeing a bevy of red hats is kind of like that.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Last Sunday in September

An embarrassment of riches is offered to Angelenos with a love of history or place this weekend. Apart from the Huntington Garden's free display of area archives on Saturday (starting at 10:30), there are these things to do on Sunday, the 30th:

  • 31st Annual Simon Rodia Watts Tower Jazz Festival, at the Watts Towers Art Center. Call 213-847-4646 for info. 10-6 pm, at 1727 E. 107th Street.

  • Textile, Costume and Clothing Show. Antique fabrics, jewelry, vintage clothes, quilts! At the Pickwick Gardens, 1001 Riverside Drive, Burbank. No website; phone 310-4445-2886 for info. 9-3 pm. Costs $5 with ad from L.A. Times' Home section.

  • Japanese Gardens Tour, sponsored by the LA Conservancy. A drive-yourself tour of several sites, most notably the Storrier-Stearns Garden in Pasadena. Call 213-623-2489 for info. 10-4 pm. Costs $30.

  • Grand Avenue Festival, the 4th Annual Street Fair. No phone, but great website. Grand between Temple and 5th Street. This actually runs all weekend, and on Sunday it's open 11-5 pm. Free.

  • Swerve Festival at Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd. and other locations--see their schedule. From 12-6ish. Some events free, others not.

  • West Hollywood Book Fair at West Hollywood Park. 323-848-6515 for info. Starts at 10 am, free.

  • Abbott Kinney Street Festival, around Abbot Kinney and Venice Blvd. 10-6 pm, free.

  • Last day of the L.A. County Fair, with Earth, Wind and Fire performing!

  • Knott's Halloween Haunt starting! OK, it's not LA but go anyway. 714-220-5000.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

City History in Two Volumes

A dedicated archivist (is there any other kind?) named Hynda L. Rudd somehow managed the production of a huge book titledThe Development of Los Angeles City Government -- An Institutional History 1850-2000.

The L.A. Times carries the story, describing how Rudd poured through the city archives, from "1769, when Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola's expedition reached the area, only to be greeted by a strong earthquake."

Three dozen historians worked on the project. The book's chapters cover Los Angeles city's "debt, taxation and revenue; the city's justice system, police and fire departments; city planning and 20 other major topics."

I'm not going to buy a copy or read it, but I am sincerely grateful that there are people in the world who will collect, sort, and publish such information for those of us who might want to look it up some day.

For those who do expend the $100 for the limited edition, the Times story hints at some fascinating tales based on archival research, with scholars like Leonard Pitt and Jennifer Koslow contributing essays, and Tom Sitton serving as senior editor. It can be ordered through Loyola Marymount University, according to the Times, though no website has been provided yet.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lankershim Hotel

In an earlier post about population density, I mentioned the Lankershim Hotel. That building was on the corner of Broadway and 7th.

Before the hotel was begun in 1902, there was a vineyard. Yup--that's according to On the Old West Coast, Further Reminiscences of a Ranger by Horace Bell--who never lied or exaggerated, lol.

Bell wrote that that the 7th and Broadway site was the home and vineyard of Judge Wilson Hugh Gray--a well-respected man who had personally hidden and saved many Chinese men during the massacre of 1849 (there was a massacre in 1871; not sure what Bell meant).

The Lankershim Hotel, all nine stories of it, was completed in 1905 as an imitation of the Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco--far superior to any other hotels in L.A. at the time.

It had 200 servants, 250 rooms, and 160 baths.

Seismic studies apparently finished the hotel before its 80th birthday. In the mid 1980s, the order was signed to bring down the top seven of its nine floors. No one had lived in them for years because they'd been deemed unsafe since the 1971 Sylmar quake.

None of it's real

A quote from the HereInVanNuys blog:

What kind of a city would LA be if it had $450 billion to spend on public transportation, law enforcement, open space preservation, fine schools and health care?

$450 billion being roughly the amount budgeted for the Defense Dept in the 2006 budget. It's actually $453 billion, which coincidentally is the exact same number that the US has spent on the Iraq and Afghan Wars, combined, according to the National Priorities Project.

And to take your mind off that, here's another LA County Fair picture. Because budget critiques go so much better with cotton candy.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Los Angeles Submerged

If the sea rises by a meter over the next hundred years (as scientists predict it will), how does that affect Los Angeles?

A report from Arizona University's Dept. of Geosciences has kicked off a flurry of news stories. Accompanying maps show how coastlines around the world will be affected by the one meter rise.

At first glance, Los Angeles appears to be off the hook, but zoom in closer. The red areas indicate low areas that will be submerged by a one-meter rise in sea level. White areas show the population density.

Instructions for reading the map are intimidating, and the map takes forever to load.

If you're interested, the Netherlands is soggy toast. Better go see Amsterdam while you can.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Nobody Walks in L.A.

Los Angeles has 6,500 miles of street--did you know that?

Emily Gabel-Luddy is now head of L.A.'s Urban Design Studio.--not a museum, gallery, or home decor business, but a division of the city's Planning Department tasked with creating more appealing public outdoor spaces. Read a Q&A with Gabel-Luddy in The Planning Report.

Christopher Hawthorne's "Stepping Out" article in West Magazine (L.A. Times) describes her job concisely: "to make Los Angeles work for pedestrians."

In addition to a L.A. Public Works Walkability Questionnaire that walkers are encouraged to complete online, The Times/West also maintains links to a Walkability Checklist and an accompanying explanation. It's long-winded but makes sense: Buildings should be interesting to walkers, with views inside, or landscaping, or murals, rather than plain brick walls. Trees, street lighting, sidewalk-level entrances=good.

Thoroughfares are not about moving traffic any more. We seem to running out of feasible choices and smack into a brick wall there.

Hawthorne wistfully proposes:

"The only way major boulevards are going to work for the L.A. of the future is if the city makes them dramatically less efficient—at least as automotive arteries. Once the cars slow down, the walkers will come."

I wish. Re-engineering the city of Los Angeles, after decades of designing for motorists who simply want a parking structure near their destination so they don't have to walk, is a huge project.

But one element is not highlighted in these articles: Long term commitment.

A pedestrian-friendly Los Angeles has been proposed before--not yesterday, but over the decades. It becomes a trendy thing to talk about for awhile, then is dumped the next time an election flips the city management. All the PR in the world is not going to put plans into action if those plans are discarded by the next mayor/city council/appointee.

There are so many examples of pedestrian areas that work. Beach cities throughout the county are wonderful places to walk. So are many shopping centers with fountains, and large parks. Go to Claremont, Hermosa Beach, Pasadena, even Westwood. These places work now for the same reason they worked 50 years ago: long-term ideas about how the cities should be built and rebuilt.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Lakewood: Baby Boomer City

In the mid-80s, the Lakewood Mall was a fun place to shop and eat. I haven't been back in decades, literally, but a press release announces that Costco is about to move in as the Mall's anchor store, filling in a vacant former Macy's--which I suspect was originally the May Company, built in 1951 and pictured at right.

The new Costco will be at the southeast corner of Lakewood and Del Amo and should look like this:

Per the City of Lakewood, this is the first Costco in SoCal to affix itself to a neighborhood mall, although there are many such Costco stores in other states. It will make the Lakewood Mall "the largest enclosed shopping center in the Los Angeles-metro area." At least for a month.

The picture below at left, btw, is of the year before--1950--when no mall, and no Lakewood, existed. The picture looks west--I think from the mall site.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary a few short years ago, the city has gathered a lot of personal histories from residents, some handwritten, and put them on its website as pdfs.

Lakewood was a fully-planned postwar city. In 1949, it didn't exist. By 1954, it did.

THE BOOK on Lakewood is Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir, by D. J. Waldie. Holy Land won awards when it came out in 1996, and has been updated.

It was written by a Lakewood city official whose parents bought a tract home in the 1950s.

Here's a last picture: Wanna-be suburbanites walking through the model homes of "Lakewood Park" tract in 1951. All these pictures and more are part of the city's website.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Pole Dance at Bunker Hill

Dragon Wars . . . It may be the most gawd-awful movie since Godzilla Versus Megalon, but this is a cool picture! (double click for bigger view. . . is that slime on the tower?)

Old Pictures of Los Angeles

Todd Gish's editorial "We've always been dense**" in the L.A. Times, points out that Los Angeles proper has always packed residents into apartments--since the late 19th century anyway. Gish has a PhD in urban planning from USC, so he certainly knows his stuff.

He says that census figures, pictures, and other records show that Los Angeles consisted of 50% apartments from 'way back. Sometimes, very crowded, nasty, blighted apartments. His point is that recent plans to "Manhattanize" the downtown area are nothing new.

Gish inspired me to go looking for some old pictures. USC has some wonderful panoramas of the city. This first one was taken in 1868, and looks southwest from Broadway and Temple:

The tallest building is the old courthouse, which has a clock tower. Looking out from the same corner today, City Hall would be in back of you (I think).

The next pictures was taken in 1905, and is one of eight panoramic shots taken from the roof of the Lankershim Hotel. This shows the southeast corner of Broadway (with banners strung across it) and 7th. Double click on it to see a larger version:

The Lankershim Hotel is also in this picture:

This is from one of the "Visit to Old Los Angeles" pages of Brent C. Dickerson, which are indexed here. Dickerson says:

We get a rare look at the rough edges of Spring Street in a state of transition. This view is probably from the roof of the Pacific Electric Building back on Main Street, looking over the soon-to-be-replaced backyards, small buildings, and houses on the east side of Spring Street to take in the western face of the 600 block of Spring, which runs left to right in this picture. The large tripartite building slightly deeper in the picture and to the left of center is the Hotel Lankershim at the corner of Seventh and Broadway, which we shall be coming to in due course. Note the little house at the northwest corner of Spring and Seventh Streets, just this side of the Lankershim.

** Minor vent: Why does the Times change its titles between webpages and print editions? The printed opinion piece has one title, the web has another. This creates a big problem when trying to locate a piece online--you may have the EXACT TITLE, but it doesn't come up on a search because some power-mad overlord has rewritten the title. I resent that. End minor vent.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Santa Anita Racetrack

If you love Hollywood history you must love this place.

It's Seabiscuit-land! As in Seabiscuit (Full Screen)

It's where the Marx Brothers spent A Day at the Races. Think of . . .

1937'sA Star Is Born

1954's A Star Is Born

Charlie Chan At The Race Track

National Lampoon's Vacation (20th Anniversary Special Edition)

Magna Entertainment Corp. announced that it would "explore" selling Santa Anita Racetrack, along with many other properties. (The company might also issue stock, though I wouldn't buy any. Magna is up to $700 million in debt.) All this is in the L. A. Times, which speculates that developer Rick Caruso may buy part of the property.

The LA Conservancy (link at right) is concerned mostly with Caruso's efforts to build a new shopping center in the racetrack's parking lot, but they present this bit of historical trivia:

"In addition to its architectural significance, shaped by noted architect Gordon Kaufmann, and its associations with racing history, Santa Anita was the largest Assembly Center for the Japanese-American internment in World War II.

"About 20,000 Japanese-Americans lived at the racetrack during 1942, in temporary housing in the stable area and in barracks constructed on the site’s parking lot. The racetrack was determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 2006."

In fact, the picture above is from a National Parks website documenting the detention.

With that in mind, here is a picture of Santa Anita Racetrack from the USC Library Special Collections' Regional History Center, dated 1942:

From 1942 to 1944, the racetrack was "Camp Santa Anita," an army post.

Village Profile hosts an excellent, brief history of Santa Anita Racetrack.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

County Fair Pictures

This is Chavez Ravine (before the Dodgers, obviously) by Millard Sheets, one of the dozens of pictures on display in the Fine Arts Building. More information is in this post, which includes links to other works.

As for the piggies. . . who could resist? Just don't think too analytically about the pulled pork sandwich you ate for lunch.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Ink Well, Santa Monica

Adrian Shields says that when he was a kid in the late 1930s, he used to swim at the Ink Well in Santa Monica. On some nights, he could just barely make out the lights of Tony Cornero's gambling ship, the Rex, anchored three miles from the beach. According to Adrian, the older kids would dare each other to swim out to the Rex and try to sneak aboard. None of them ever managed this feat--the Rex had bouncers and they shooed the swimmers away.

From the 1920s to the 1950s, the Santa Monica beaches were segregated. In fact, so were most Southern California beaches. The Ink Well, around the western ends of Bay Street and Pico Blvd, was roped off, and was the only place were African Americans were allowed to swim and play. By the 1940s, some were surfing as well.

The City of Santa Monica has published their proposed language for a bronze plaque that will acknowlegde the 200-ft. strip of beach called the Ink Well, and gives a bit of history about Nicolas Gabaldon, Jr.--the first African American surfer, who graduated from Santa Monica HS and learned to surf at the Ink Well.

Nicolas was killed at Malibu Beach in 1951, when he hit a pier piling while riding swells of up to ten feet. I found two accounts online about his short life: at and had a short piece, with this picture of Nick.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Demolition Hollywood

Speaking of Hollywood Heritage , the LA Weekly reports on the ongoing fights between the preservation agency and the Los Angeles City Council in this article.

These lovely before and after pix of a 1920 house on Whitley were taken by Ted Otis.

In April, Hollywood Heritage sued the Community Redevelopment Agency and investors , charging that Los Angeles' City Council exploits loopholes to allow destruction of buildings, presumably to clear the way for projects favored by City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, Councilman Tom LaBonge, and their cronies. Now the officials won't even talk to the LA Weekly. Seems like the snarling watchdogs at the Times aren't their only enemies.

You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet

Celebrate the 80th anniversary of the first talkie The Jazz Singer over the October 5-7 weekend. There will be special screenings of The Jazz Singer and other Jolson movies, and other entertainment.

Scroll down on the Hollywood Heritage website for information. Sunday's screening will be at the Egyptian Theatre.

PS: Like Esotouric (described here on Sept 5), Hollywood Heritage offers a Raymond Chandler Tour of the area--in this case on October 20 and 21. (bus leaves from the Hollywood Heritage Museum at 9 am)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Belasco link

Drool over the beautiful Belasco theatre here, at Blogdowntown. I copied only one of the pictures. Photos showing the intricate details inside the building are at the original post. Here's a copied paragraph:

"The Belasco Theater opened in 1926 with a run of the play "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," by Anita Loos. One of the operating partners was Edward Belasco, but the theater was actually named after his more famous brother, the stage producer David Belasco. The building was in the Churrigueresque style, and most of the building's amazing detail has survived well to this day."

Angel's Gate Park, San Pedro

This must be the week for public use meetings. Last night is was the VA in Westwood, and on Saturday (Sept. 8, 1-3 pm) it will be Angel's Gate Park in San Pedro, at 3601 S. Gaffey Street, Building H.

According to the Daily Breeze, “the Los Angeles city park that is already home to the high-profile Korean Friendship Bell, the Angels Gate Cultural Center with artist studios and galleries, a military museum and a youth hostel. . . . ” will hear proposals for a bark park, swimming pool, sports fields, and cultural centers.

This is the second of 3 planned meetings; the third will be at 10 am, Sept. 29.

San Pedro's website describes the Korean Friendship Bell:
“This massive[17 tons] and intricately-decorated bell and pavilion was donated in 1976 to the people of Los Angeles by the people of the Republic of Korea to celebrate the bicentennial of the U.S. independence, honor veterans of the Korean War, and to consolidate traditional friendship between the two countries. The bell is patterned after the Bronze Bell of King Songdok, which was cast in 771 A.D. and is still on view in South Korea today.”

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Veterans Administration Land

The LA Times reported on community resistance to the idea of privatizing parts of the land of the VA Campus in Westwood. The objections are legion: other uses of the land might impede service to veterans, circumvent public scrutiny, increase traffic, promote secret deals, etc.
Here's the official government VA site with all the backup material, press releases, and reports.

Related to all this was a budget bill, sponsored by Senator Feinstein, prohibiting commercial development at the VA Campus. An attempt to remove that prohibition was shot down on September 5. (news story here )

There's plenty of non-objectionable use of the site. A group called the Veterans Park Conservancy just signed an agreement with the VA to develop a 16 acre memorial park on the land, rent-free. And in July, Governor Schwartzenegger spoke at the groundbreaking for a 400-bed veterans' home to be completed by 2010.

The VA Campus was started in 1887, when the men who founded Santa Monica--Senator John P. Jones and Colonel Robert S. Baker--donated 300 acres and $50,000 to build a National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. The original building was designed by Stanford White--an architect later murdered in one of the most scandalous crimes of the early 20th century (PBS has a good website about that.) More about the history of the VA Campus is here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Bukowski Bus Tours

Esotouric “Bus Adventures into the Secret Heart of LA” debuted a tour of Charles Bukowski haunts in August, and will now offer it on a regular basis.

“'Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski’s Los Angeles' focuses on Bukowski’s great passions: writing, screwing and Los Angeles." (per Esotouric's website.)

The tour covers the Postal Annex Terminal, his De Longpre apartment, East Hollywood liquor stores, the Central Library, locations from Barfly, and the restaurant Musso & Frank’s, where Bukowski’s favorite bartender will serve drinks.

The big news? The tour co-host is John Dullaghan, director of the documentary “Bukowski - Born Into This.” The next tour is October 27, at a cost of $55.

Other upcoming tours include:

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

City Walks: Los Angeles

Many of my "Walk /Tour L.A." type books have become out-dated, so here's a new one to replace them:
Like other City Walk books, the walks are on cards so you don't have to take the entire book along when you walk. Maps are great and up to date, as you can see by the cover. And I have it on group-mail that the first author took every step hisself.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Mann's may be selling Grauman's Chinese Theatre, as the L. A. Times reports, but at least the chain is maintaining its web page on the historic place.

As for what will happen next, the Times says that CIM Group--the new owner--is a major landlord in the revitalization of Hollywood. I'd like to believe the best, but after checking out the company's 'Strategy and Philosophy' on their website, I can only say they are masters of meaningless doublespeak.

Which may make them the ideal Hollywood landlord.

Want trivia? Even in 1927, the construction of the Chinese Theatre was a Hollywood event. Movie stars Norma Talmadge turned over the first spadeful of dirt, and Anna May Wong drove in the first rivet.

Sid Grauman himself stumbled into wet cement and left his footprints there, according to one story. After being chewed out by his chief mason, he got the bright idea that footprints in cement could be fun. He called the theatre's co-owners Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, and had them put their footprints in the sidewalk a month before the grand opening. That's Grauman on his knee, with the power couple.

More trivia? I've got tons. Besides footprints, the cement outside the theatre displays the imprint of a leg (Betty Grable’s), a fist (John Wayne’s), a nose (Jimmy Durante’s), Al Jolson's knees, Harold Lloyd’s eyeglasses, Sonja Henie’s iceskates, and Harpo Marx’ harp. Cigar impressions are courtesy of Harpo’s brother Groucho, and friend George Burns.

Tony, Tom Mix’s horse, was the first animal to leave hoofprints. Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger and Gene Autry’s Champion also stepped into the wet cement.