Monday, September 29, 2008

Vandalism. . . or just a frustrated customer?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Broadway Hollywood Condos

How many fancy-pants lofts can claim to have been in a Charlie Chaplin movie? The Broadway Hollywood at Hollywood and Vine can--here's the blog entry on that. (That tidbit is also mentioned on the Broadway Lofts of Hollywood's history page.)

Saturday's Los Angeles Times details some of the perks of living in this historic building (Charlize Theron or Ivana Milicevic as a neighbor may entice some buyers, even in this market.)

The Times thoughtfully included a photo spread online, of three custom-designed lofts. The picture at right, btw, is from the National Archives Main Streets of America series and was taken in 1945.

A related story describes the loft of Dave Navarro (of Jane's Addiction), also in the building. The snakeskin dining room table is stunning.

Loft living is not for everyone, clearly, but seeing the old trappings of the Broadway itself must be a bonus. Maybe the Times will do a piece on that sometime.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Graveyard Tour at Angelus Rosedale Cemetery

In the same week that Spike Lee's movie about WWII Buffalo Soldiers is released (Miracle of St. Anna), a local history tour of a graveyard will feature the life of a real Buffalo Soldier.

Capt. Edward Lee Baker, Jr. fought in the Spanish American War with such heroism, rescuing another soldier by running through heavy fire, that he won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Capt. Baker died in 1913 and was almost forgotten until one Don Morfe, who has tracked down the graves of 2,800 Medal of Honor winners, found this grave and had a new marker placed over it. Read more about Capt. Baker's life in the Los Angeles Times article of Sept. 26.

Should you want to know about Morfe and his obsession, read this.

Since the West Adams Heritage Association holds their annual graveyard tour of Angelus Rosedale Cemetery this Saturday (every 25 minutes between 9 am and noon), Capt. Baker will be brought to life once more by re-enactor Albert Edmund Lord III. Other resurrected spirits include a radio actress, a beauty queen, a silent film actor, a mid-19th century photographer, and a founder of USC. A donation of $30 is requested. The cemetery is at Washington and Normandie. Ooops--the website says advance registration required, so go there.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Real Estate for Eternity

Timing is everything in humor--and likewise, I think, is placement.

The Los Angeles Times put this in its Sunday Real Estate "From Our Blogs" section, in between a piece on foreclosure law and one on new home sales statistics:

"For $750,000, it's yours for eternity."

The story? A real estate agent, bless his shameless little heart, is offering a mausoleum (sleeps six forever) at Forest Lawn in Glendale for three-quarters of a million dollars.

A selling point: your neighbors are Hollywood's biggest stars...though, they're dead so it's not like you'll be invited over for a party.

BTW, the 1932 entrance gates to Forest Lawn Glendale, according to their website, are "the largest wrought iron gates in the world. " That should make you feel better about spending $750,000, right?

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's Fair Time!

The Los Angeles County Fair and deep-fried pop tarts go away in a week. Do not miss it. Since this blog stresses history, here is the history site of the fair, at

The show stared as a merchant's expo--with a tent and a carnival--near the Southern Pacific RR Station in Pomona in 1921. For the following year, Pomona bought a 43-acre beet and barley field from Ricardo Vejar, incorporated the Los Angeles County Fair Association, and began building. They put up the racetrack and grandstand, two cattle barns, a livestock barn, two livestock buildings, and an admin building.

The first official Los Angeles County Fair ran from October 17th through the 21st, 1922, and it drew 49,461 visitors. "Harness racing, chariot races and an airplane wing walking exhibit were major highlights that year," according to the site.

The first fair cost $63,000 to present.

It was such a success that a bond issue doubling the size of the fairgrounds and then some, passed in 1923. In 1925, the event moved to September.

The Depression hit the fair, but didn't stop it. 1932 was the year the new grandstand went up, seating over 12,000 people (it was renovated in 1986). On the day of the grandstand's dedication, California Governor James Rolph Jr. raced--or at least outran--a team of six horses on the track. Maybe Gov. Arnold should consider that, should he get a budget passed by the time the fair closes.

Other feature events on that 1932 day included concerts from high school groups and a boys' harmonica band, a "milking and farmerette contest" (something tells me that Daisy Dukes were not involved)and a drill by aHighway Pratrol team.

Betting at the track was legalized in 1933, which is when the picture above (part of the Herald Examiner collection at the Los Angeles Public Library) was taken.

As you might guess, the Works Project Administration--the WPA--had a hand in raising several new exhibition buildings in the thirties. During World War II, the fairgrounds became a desert training field for the U.S. Army. Fairplex became Pomona Ordnance Motor Base.

In 1942, for a couple of summer months, over 5,400 Americans of Japanese descent were forced to live there.

The fairgrounds served as a POW camp in 1945 through March, 1946, for Italian and German soldiers. After the war, millions were pumped into new buildings and land was bought for the parking lots.

They didn't have soccer-playing dogs (above right) as the current fair does. 1952 saw the Clock Tower and present Flower and Garden Center go up, but the big news in the 1950s is that Frisbees debuted here. Yup, in 1955, and the flying discs, called Pluto Platters, were seen by a couple of guys who owned a manufacturing company called Wham-O. The name Frisbee came along in 1957, but the birthplace was Pomona in 1955.

This last picture of one of the quilts on exhibit at the fair, which are worth the price of admission all by themselves.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Joe Jost's

Peanuts and sausage and beer, oh my!

Joe Jost's of Long Beach, featured in last Sunday's Los Angeles Times (ok, it was their peanut roaster that was the star of the article) has redone their own website and it's too cool for me to describe. They even have a keg cam, so you can see that your beer is chilling properly. Go see, but turn down your speaker volume if you're at work.

I read somewhere that this was the place that Kevin Costner took Whitney Houston to in The Bodyguard. It was definitely in Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, Gone in 60 Seconds (the Nicholas Cage version), and a few beer commercials.

There really was a Joe Jost, too. Read about him on the website; his grandson still runs the place. I've got a sudden craving for liverwurst . . .

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Video of Roundhouse and Railroad Tracks

Here is a video posted at the Los Angeles Times website that ran on KTLA, about the redwood beams and other artifacts found at the site of the 1875 rail roundhouse:

The Times of September 10, 2008 ran some pictures, including the old black and white photo of the 19th cenuty trains, but I haven't been able to to locate that online. You get a glimpse of it in the video though.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Los Angeles' 19th Century Railroad

Redwood beams from Los Angeles' Old River Station--our pre-1939 train station--have been unearthed, per this Daily Breeze article. The location is Spring Street, near Dodger Stadium. River Station was built in 1875 and the first steam engines to use the station arrived in Los Angeles via ship. (Phineas Banning had already built a short rail line from the harbor to downtown, about 22 miles long, so there were tracks for the new engines to ride)

Archaeologists have stumbled upon the remains of a roundhouse. For those non-parents who don't know their Thomas the Train icons as well as they should, a roundhouse is a building that faces a giant turntable. The roundhouse has multiple ports, or service bays, for train engines, and the turntable points those engines to the right service bay. This wonderful picture from Shorpy is of a roundhouse in Chicago in 1942. The service bays are filled with engines delivered by the turntable.

The redwood beams found in Los Angeles were actually part of the massive turntable. The Times has more information; they say that sonar imaging led archaeologists to the finds, which include artifacts from the roundhouse itself, and that finds were made in three locations.

The Times also points out that tracks existed at this spot as recently as the 1990s. The site used to be called the Cornfield but now known as Los Angeles State Historic Park, thanks to a 2001 purchase of the property by the state.

Incidentally, ERHA--The Electric Railway Historic Association of Southern California--hosts a fabu site of Los Angeles' 19th century railroad history. Anything you want to know--more than you want to know--they've got it covered. ERHA even sells coffee cups, mouse pads, bags, etc. with LARy (Los Angeles Railway) logos, here.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Transit Proposals, Part Doo

Want more transit history? Wouldn't it be nice to see, I dunno, Staples or the Convention Center behind that monorail?

My Los Angeles Times article from May 1982 points out that our downtown would have developed differently if we'd had a mass-transit system directing traffic since 1925, when a real system was first proposed. Voters nixed the idea, though--no doubt influenced by the Times, who stood against it. Read more about that proposal here.

Less then a decade later, during the Depression, a very trimmed-down version was floated, with the hopes that the city and county could get federal funding to build it. That flopped too. The 1933 plan predicted ridership into the 1980s, when 1.7 million people (per the proposal) would take the rails downtown each day. Without any such system, the actual number of people coming to downtown Los Angeles in 1980 was 692,338--most in their own cars.

Expensive transit studies were also done in 1939, in 1945, and in 1954. That last study recommended subways and monorails connecting LA and Long Beach. It would have cost $165 million, but such figures aren't really helpful. The system wasn't built so it never overran its estimates, and we can't measure the efficiency of what wasn't there. Dang.

The same company--Cloverdale and Colpitts--conducted further transit surveys for Los Angeles in 1959 and 1962. I suspect they saw LA as more of a mark than a customer by then, don't you?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Transit Proposals ad nauseum

A 1982 Los Angeles Times article listed all the transit proposals the city had entertained since 1911, when civic leader Thomas E. Gibbon (left) said that for years he'd been urging the city to build a rail line from the harbor to downtown. (Gibbons put his money where his mouth was, btw. By profession a lawyer, he did build and operate several rail lines in 19th-century Los Angeles County, including one from San Pedro to LA.)

In the 71 years spanned by the article, a dozen major feasibility studies were completed on Los Angeles transit. The proposed routes, even from the earliest days, often mimic the current freeway system. But because these routes were for rail, no traffic jams were anticipated.

The article says the Big Red Cars were never very efficient because they took up so much street space, but by the 1920s they were causing more traffic that they eliminated. So in 1925 the city and county paid $40,000 for a survey about its transportation needs. That study proposed a subway and elevated rail system that would cost the city up to $215 million to start. It would cover four main lines:

  • A north-south line through downtown, from Manchester to Ave. 64
  • An east-west from Broadway downtown through Hollywood to the Westside, mostly using subways
  • A Valley route running from downtown to Topanga Canyon Blvd., sharing Union Pacific lines part of the way.
  • Another east-west branch connecting Whittier Blvd. with Beverly Hills

Like the ideas? Never got built, obviously, and we've revisited those same routes so many times (look up "Westside Subway" in this week's paper) that transit in LA has indeed become a broken record.

These pictures, btw, are from the Los Angeles Public Library online collection. The second is dated 1946, and shows the "yellow cars" on Broadway.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Los Angeles as Star

"The top 25 of the last 25" is what the Los Angeles Times calls its list of movies made since 1983 (25 years ago) that best reflect the city's complexity and depth--or lack thereof.

The list is full of trivia tidbits, like the fact that the director of L.A. Confidential (#1 on the list), Curtis Hanson, is active with the L.A. Conservancy and got them on board to prevent the demolition of the Formosa Cafe.

Another nugget is that the neon signs and door from the Hollywood Star Lanes Bowling Alley--used in The Big Lebowski (#10) were salvaged when the building was torn down. They now adorn Lucky Strikes Lanes at the Hollywood and Highland Center.

The piece is fun and informal, and I may find my way to forgiving the Times for excluding my personal favorite LA 80s movie, Miracle Mile. Maybe. Let me sulk a bit on that.