Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Heritage Square and LA Heritage Alliance

If you've seen this building off the 110 but never bothered to exit and explore Heritage Square, now's your chance to redeem yourself.

This is the Hale House, built in 1887 on what is now Figueroa. Bessie Hovulsrud Hale, a waitress at the Pico House , bought it, turned it into a boarding house, and mortgaged it several times to finance other properties. She sounds like a forerunner of Conrad Hilton with a dash of Nellie Cashman.

From noon to 4 pm on Sunday, March 2, the public is invited to tour the museum at Heritage square and view the eight historic buildings moved there. Exit the 110 at Avenue 43, and go to 4800 Homer St. The cost for the afternoon is $10 ($5 for children); more info at the website.

Besides inviting us all to enjoy Los Angeles Heritage Day, the event is also a kick-off for LA Heritage Alliance. What's that? Well, LA Heritage Alliance would combine all the Historical Societies, Museum groupies and organizations like the Los Angeles Conservancy, into a big alliance with more clout than all the little groups. That way, they'll have more impact in their fight for historical preservation.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Stan Laurel at Forest Lawn

The picture at left is of Laurel & Hardy in The Music Box, a film in which the duo moved a piano up a 133-step stairway at on Vendome Street, just across from Del Monte Drive. The steps are still there.

On February 26, 1965, this chapel (The Church of the Hills at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood) was the site of Stan Laurel's funeral.

Dick Van Dyke delivered the eulogy. People like Hal Roach (Sr. & Jr.) and Buster Keaton were there, as well as big names of the 1960s, and lots of movie folks we never hear of. Wikipedia reports that Laurel wrote his own epitaph: "If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I'll never speak to him again."

Van Dyke said that during his last hours, Laurel said to the nurse who cared for him at his Santa Monica apartment, "I wish I was skiing."
The nurse said "Oh, do you ski, Mr. Laurel?"
"No, but I'd rather be skiing than doing this."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Agricultural Park

Before Exposition Park, Los Angeles had Agricultural Park, at the same spot. Right here.

This picture (from lapl.org's photo collection) is undated, but it had to be taken before 1913, maybe several years before. The Agricultural Park had been around since 1876.

In 1909, plans were nearly complete for the building of the Natural History Museum (only then it was the Museum of History, Science, and Art) and a state armory. Bids were solicited. The next year, the site changed its name from Agricultural to Exposition park.

The old Agricultural Park had a racetrack for cars that was moved during the construction so that the sunken rose garden with a central fountain could be planted between the two buildings--the museum and armory. Long range plans, even in 1909, called for a memorial statue at the fountain to celebrate the bringing of water to Los Angeles from the Owens River.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

Things I never knew about the stained glass dome atop the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles:
  • The great-grandson of the designer of this dome is now president of Judson Studios in Highland Park--which made the original skylight. And Judson Studios is handling all the cleaning and restoration.
  • The dome stands 57 feet above the floor and contains 3,200 pounds of glass.

Other tidbits about the building:

  • Once carpet was ripped aways, the original stairways between the first and second floors in the north and south galleries were found to be made of "battleship" linoleum back in 1913, the most expensive linoleum available.
  • The outside dome of the building has 1,866,000 ceramic tiles on it. All of them have to be removed so that cracks in the concrete dome can be addressed. Then all 1,866,000 will be resealed onto the dome.

The Los Angeles Times ran a story about the 3-year-long renovations (now at the midpoint) on Sunday, 2/17.

The Times includes this picture in its photo gallery of the renovation. Let's hope they keep the gallery up for awhile. Besides photos of the stained glass panels in the dome, there are photos of the building from the 1920s. The Museum itself has a series of photographs on display in the ground floor hallway, showing how the building was constructed and changed over the years.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Los Angeles' 1958 Flood

This time 50 years ago, torrential rains turned many Los Angeles streets into rivers (what, again?) Nothing is new under the sun. . . or the clouds, in this case.

The first picture was taken at Sepulveda and Centinela on February 20, 1958. The man wading through water is Hank Pilgian, and his car had just been swept away.

It's too dark to see a freeway overpass, so the orientation of the photo is not clear. Just kidding; I don't think the 405 existed in the area until 1961.

The day before, downtown flooded as well. Boulders and debris tumbled onto the Pasadena freeway from Elysian Park, blocking three onramps. A million dollars was the estimated damage as February 19th drew to a close. The Times reported that a storm drain broke at the Standard Oil farm in El Segundo and ran pictures of a waterfall tumbling over broken Grand Avenue.

Families were evacuated from homes in pockets of Gardena, Torrance, Hawthorne & Lawndale, Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan Beach, and Bellflower. Gaffey St. in San Pedro was underwater. Schools closed in the San Fernando Valley.

In Los Angeles, Wilshire between 6th and Alexandria was 6 feet deep in water when a storm drain backed up. A hundred employees of the Richfield Oil Company on Mariposa at 6th St. had to leave their flooded basement offices through the windows. Telephone company offices on Vermont and the Chrysler Corp. building at Eastern and Slauson had to close down and sent everyone home (wonder how that worked? If you building is flooded, what are the odds of 3500 people getting into their cars and driving away?)

So there you have it. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria.

Weather forecasters said there was only a "1 in 5 chance" of rain on the 20th; they erred.

This last picture is of Ballona Creek, taken from Overland Ave. in Culver City, Feb. 20, 1958. As usual, the pictures are plundered from lapl.org, the Los Angeles Public Library online photo collection.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Monorail Proposal, 1937

Fifty years after the monorail was first suggested as the answer to Los Angeles' traffic woes in 1887 (see the post), the idea came up again.

January 21, 1937: Joseph B. Strauss, designer of the Golden Gate Bridge (which was still under construction) met with about 40 business leaders in Los Angeles to propose an elevated rapid transit system for the city. Good ideas just never die . . . but in Los Angeles, they never quite come to fruition either.

It all looked pretty promising for awhile, until, as you know, nothing happened.

That's why this statue of Strauss is in San Francisco, not L.A.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hedda Hopper for Valentines Day

Valentine's Day was the anniversary of the happy union between gossip queen Hedda Hopper and the Los Angeles Times . That's Hedda on the right, and Louella Parsons on the left, in 1939. A larger version of this picture can be seen at IMDB.com.

Hedda's column began running on February 14, 1938, mainly to tap into the market share of Louella Parsons. Parsons, published in Citizen Hearst's Herald Examiner, had a head start of 25 years on Hedda, but the pair of them had Hollywood studio's and stars by the throat for a long time. There's a thorough and fascinating bio about Hedda and rival Louella at TimesOnline.com, here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tongva History in Playa Vista

The Daily Breeze ran a front-page story on reburying the bodies of hundreds of Tongva people--bodies found while excavating and leveling ground for Playa Vista, four years ago. Here's the link, though I don't think the Breeze keeps its stories up very long. This picture, taken by Sean Hiller of Tongva spokesperson Robert Dorame, accompanied it.

The Tongva, or Gabrielino, have no reservation. When California became a state back in the early 1850s, 18 treaties were signed with different tribes granting reservations. Those treaties were sent east, where Congress never ratified them. Instead, they locked them in a file cabinet, and went out for brandy and cigars.

Ok, lying about the brandy and cigars. They did lock the treaties in a file cabinet though, and the Superintendent of Indian Affairs at the time took the land promised to the Tongva/Gabrielino and made it his own private ranch. Sweet.

This picture is from Mayor Villaraigosa's inaugural back in 2005, credited to Al Seib of the Los Angeles Times. (The only thing I could find at their site when I searched on Tongva.)

Anyway, back to the piece in the Daily Breeze. Hundreds of bodies and grave goods were unearthed during Playa Vista's construction, and apparently archaeologists expected to find such remains. Most dated from the late 1700s, when the local populations were most vulnerable to diseases and abuse brought by the Spanish, according to the Breeze--OTOH, an expert from UCLA's Fowler Museum is quoted as saying that this cemetary spans several thousands of years.

The president of Statistical Research, the company handling the archaelogy of the site, says his firm "identified 386 burial features in total," accroding to the Breeze. Burial features? Does that mean bodies? Or not? In context, he seems to be talking about bodies--bodies that living Tongva people would like to have back. What a disgusting and dehumanizing way to refer to human remains.

Reburial was delayed because by contract, scientists get to study and analyze bones first. Why is that, and how would you feel if it were bones from, say, Holy Cross Cemetary (or wherever your grandma's interred) that were being "stored securely" and analyzed for as long as a bunch of strangers wanted?

Grrr. But at least, thanks to a lot of effort and interventions, the bodies will be reburied in June 08, which is better than June '10, or June-whenever-I-feel-like-it.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Los Angeles Monorail 1st Proposed in 1887


So reads a February 22, 1887 headline from the Los Angeles Times.

The paper detailed a porposal to build an elevated train to run from Pasadena to the coast--either Santa Monica or Long Beach. Electric cars would run on tracks that stood 14 to 16 feet high.

"In this system a single line of posts supports by means of brackets at right angles to the road, an open lattice girder four feet high. On top of this girder is the carrying rail; on the bottom is the steadying rail. Upon this girder runs the little motor, with two wheels on the upper and two on the lower rail."

This wondrous new design would alleviate the traffic problem, caused by 45,000 residents, many of whom rode horses through the streets of Los Angeles. Some worried that the clearance of 14 to 16 feet would not be high enough to avoid the tops of hay wagons.

The project, estimated to cost $25,000 to $35,000 per mile, was put before the Board of Public Works in April 1887. Many officials liked the proposal, but it seems one board member blocked it.

Even then, Los Angeles was an innovative city. The first monorail actually built appeared in Germany in 1902.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Lining Up to Vote

You want lines? I'll give you lines!

November 1952. 39th Street School.

That, dear heart, is a line.

Some of these fine people had to wait an hour and a half to vote. Only two machines were in operation (no, not InkAVotes) and of the 629 voters, half had voted by noon.

Another fine picture from the Herald Examiner Collection online from the Los Angeles Public Library.

For the record, I worked at a voting site today. Everyone should do so once in a while. Just so you can be smug about it, even if everything went wrong. . . which, sadly, it did.