Monday, May 28, 2012

Expo Vermont Metro Mosaics

The Vermont station is in the West Adams neighborhood, and artist Jessica Polzin McCoy uses that neighborhood in her 24 mosaic panels. I love the jacaranda trees in this panel.

McCoy, who teaches at Pitzer College in Claremont, took thousands of pictures in the area and created watercolors from them. That's one above. fabricated the mosaic panels from her paintings (below).

Each panel is 8 ft. wide.

The entire collection is called Neighborhood Reconstructed.

This is from the Metro website: "McCoy carefully considered each panel's placement within the gateway arches and inside the station. The gateway arch entries focus on local exterior spaces, such as front yards, windows, fences, porches and doors of historic homes along with iconic LA signage. Panels located above the seating modules feature interior spaces such as private living rooms."

Mosaika and the other fabricators have made the tiles resistant to graffiti and to weathering.

Since we're in the neighborhood...this is a good time to mention that the next West Adams Historic Home and Architectural Tour will be June 9 from 10 am to 4 pm. I'll post more details later; for now check out the website.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Examiner Buildings, 1903 and 1914

The Los Angeles Times published a great, short piece by Christopher Hawthorne two days ago, about the long-vacant Herald Examiner building on Broadway and 11th. The Times has a lovely photo of the building against a blue sky, taken very recently. This undated photo from the Los Angeles Public Library shows it--I'm guessing--when it opened, or was about to open, in 1914.

The building was designed by Julia Morgan, California's first registered female architect, who later designed Hearst Castle. (William Randolph Hearst was the owner of the Los Angeles Examiner.) The Los Angeles Examiner building housed the newspaper until 1989, when the Herald-Examiner (the two papers merged in the early 60s) went out of business.

The building's in limbo now. Hawthorne reports that a plan to restore it and bring in a couple of condo towers has been abandoned, thanks to the economic downturn. "As a result it languishes as the most important piece of shuttered architecture downtown, and maybe in all of L.A," says Hawthorne.

True, and here's something the Times didn't have: the OLD Examiner building. I found this in the LA Library's photo archive. It's undated, taken by one Dick Wittington.  The address is clear, and the street is Broadway.

George Garrigues' wonderful site , "Los Angeles in the 1900s," reprints the story of the newspaper's grand opening in LA in 1903, when the Examiner (and Hearst himself) was heralded (no pun intended) as the champion of unions and labor--unlike those miserable capitalists at the Times.

On December 13 of that year, the Examiner printed its first issue and reported that a parade of 10,000 strong , along with bands and fireworks, welcomed the new paper to LA. Folks stood in front of this building and chanted "Hearst for President!"

Now that's an alternative history novel that would be fun to read...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mosaic Monday Returns to Claremont

I'll go back to the metro Expo line next week. Today I'm featuring pictures I took last month of the USBank at Indian Hill and Foothill Boulevards in Claremont.

This is the work of Millard fact, his studio was on Foothill, just a few blocks away.  See the modest little M.S. on this closeup? The mosaic faces south, on Foothill.

Another mosaic, shown below,  ornaments the ATM area across the parking lot. This was added in 1982, by Denis O'Connor.

This was once a First Pomona Federal Savings. How do I know? Well, duh, this mosaic tells me so! 

This one is slightly hidden, on the east side of the building.  Click on it for a larger image, showing all the exquisite detail. Professor Adam Arenson says that a discarded Home Savings & Loan design was used for this bank, and that the first mosaic and the bank name were built in 1969. He also says that in spite of Sheets' initials, some credit the art to Nancy Colbath.

Clifton's Renovations Reveal Old Glory

The renovations at Clifton's Brookdale Cafeteria on Broadway are uncovering many treasures. Rather than repeat all the secrets--including the discovery of what is probably the world's oldest continually operating neon light--I will refer you to this article by Hayley Fox on BlogDowntown.

There's also an LA Times piece from February about the plans for the restoration.

The picture at left comes from the Los Angeles Library WPA collection, taken in January 1938.The phot below is from Wikimedia and was taken in March 2012.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Calabasas Gas Station Mosaic

We'll take a break from the Metro Expo mosaics this week to feature a gas station floor in the northern reaches of the county. This station is off the 101 at the Las Virgenes exit: 4831 Las Virgenes.

Mosaicist Lillian Sizemore, who travels frequently from the Bay are to lead mosaic workshops at places like the Getty Villa, first saw this mosaic in 2006. None of the employees at the gas station have been able to give her any history about why such a work of art is there.

There are a few gas stations on that corner, but this one has a post office. It's the Malibu Canyon Shell station --right where the off ramp from the southbound side of the 101 crosses Las Virgines. Technically it's in the city of Calabasas.

So, a mystery: Who created this piece of art and installed it in a gas station, of all places? Clearly a person with not only a respect and love for mosaic art, but someone who was also aware of Native American symbols.

 credit photo ©2012 Lillian Sizemore,

Monday, May 7, 2012

Crenshaw-Exposition Mosaic

As promised, today's Mosaic Monday features another mosaic from the newly-opened Expo Metro line. The title is "Wanderers."

The artist is Willie Robert Middlebrook, who has a piercing and intimidating stare (seriously. Check out his website and tell me if you disagree.) These mosaics are not the only artwork he completed for the station, but the other pieces are--near as I can tell--murals, rather than mosaics. You can see them here.

This second picture is from the Forbes photo essay I referenced last time, although I've cropped it a bit.

Middlebrook's main focus as an artist seems to be photography, and his blog expresses his artistic philosophy:

It's about the subject!
It's about the subject!
It's always about the subject!

His resume is impressive and far-reaching and I won't try to summarize it. Go read for yourself.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Veterans' Center, 1902

A veterans' center has existed in Los Angeles since 1887, when the Santa Monica Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers was established on 300 donated acres. Private George Davis, a Civil War veteran, moves from New York to become the first to live in the 25 buildings in 1888.

The Sawtelle Chapel was built in 1900--the oldest building on the site today. By then, 1000 veterans were living at the center. Today we call it the Wadsworth Chapel, after Brigadier General James Wadsworth, who was killed during the Battle of the Wilderness in the Civil War.

Want to see more pictures? A gentleman named George Garrigues has a whole website filled with century-old postcards and pictures.

The Wadsworth Chapel is Building #1 in the photo above and is also pictured at left. Today it's called Building 20 at times. Just to throw more numbers at you, it was 21 different types of windows.

When it was built in 1900, it was not painted white but had siding of stained redwood. Inside, it was designed (by J. Lee Burton) as a twofer--a Catholic chapel on one side, and a Protestant chapel on the other. Double-brick walls with 4 inches between them muffled sound so that services could take place at the same time.

The double chapel had to be closed after the 1971 Sylmar quake because of cracks and damage (the foundation is un-reinforced). Sine then, fires have burned holes in floors and pews and scorched the wainscoting, according to a 2007 Los Angeles Times article.

Restoration would cost upwards of $12 million, probably. No one wants to lose the place, but finding donors to fix it was a hard sell five years ago. And that was the last I find a mention.

"Strawberry Flag," has all sorts of historical tidbits about the buildings and history of the Veterans Center.