Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Surfridge, Torrance, Eagle Rock & More

Here are a few stories on Los Angeles history to entertain you while the turkey is roasting:

  • A collection of how LA neighborhoods got their names. I know the LA Times has printed lists like this recently, but this one is from Mental Floss and has a great picture of Eagle Rock (right). Why does that appeal? Because in the 1920s my uncle used to ditch school and eat his lunch while hanging his legs over the rock edge. 

  • From MessyNessyChic, the history of Surfridge, an area of Playa del Rey (or as it was known, in the 20s and 30s, Palisades del Rey). Lots of pictures, but the area is nothing but cracked sidewalks now--a victim of our air traffic.

  • A story about the Uncertain Future of the Lummis House, from the LA Times

  • Like Pictures? Indulge yourself here, with tons o' pictures of the Warner Huntington Park Theater, courtesy of LA Curbed. 

  • Also from LA Curbed, a story of Ye Olde Torrance, close to my heart since I was born and raised there. This tale goes back to 1912 and the planning of the city as a workers' or company paradise, sorta. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Collection of Articles on LA History

My poor, neglected blog . . .

I'm afraid things aren't going to get much more active here, at least until 2015--unless guest bloggers wish to volunteer.

Prospective guest bloggers: I will absolutely upload Los Angeles history-related posts and pictures that are appropriate. If you'd like to contribute, start the ball rolling with a comment, or go to my website,, and use the contact form there.

Otherwise, I am gainfully busy, promoting The Boomer Book of Christmas Memories, available as an ebook and soon--any day now--in print at a new price of $25, an incredible savings! (That's how fast technology moves now--last year, my price as author was $28--now, with a new color printing method, the list price is only $25!)

It makes a great Christmas gift, and my website lists the places where I'll be talking about it. I'm also working on a new book for the new year, so this blog is sitting fallow.

But please allow me to list some of the wonderful stories about Los Angeles History that people have sent me lately. Just because I don't have time to write about them doesn't mean you can't enjoy reading these articles:

  • From CurbedLA, a long, detailed, picture-laden story about Batchelder tiles and The Chocolate Factory on 6th Street between Broadway and Spring. This piece was posted last sumner and is written by Liz Arnold.

  • From LA Observed, an article  by Karen Wada (also with pictures) about a Millard Sheets mural that has been moved from a private home in the Hollywood Hills to the Huntington. Taken down and put on big rollers, because the mural was done on a woven fabric called Sanitas. In future, it will ornament a new boardroom at the Huntington's Visitors Center.

  • Also on LA Observed: Cute pictures and video of a model of the legendary Garden of Allah apartments. This and the Batchelder tile article were sent by Flo Selfman--Thanks!

  • Missing Mosaic Monday? (Me too). Here's a link to the Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon Museum in Malibu, thanks to Lee Gale Gruen who has posted here before. 

  • Do you listen to You Can't Eat the Sunshine, the podcast of Esotouric Tours? Just glance at the list of subjects on the left--Felix the Cat in Hollywood? How could you not want to listen to that?

That's it for now, boys and girls. Let me know if you'd like to do a guest stint here, and I'll try to post more interesting things to read every once in a while!

Monday, September 29, 2014

St Sophia's Mosaics Circle Dome

St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral is unbelievably ornate, so today I am confining the post to the dome. Artist William Chavalas created the 27-foot wide/long picture of Christ--whose head alone is ten feet tall. Chavalas also designed the stained glass windows.

This particular photo is posted on Flickr by Michael Fletcher, who retains all rights to it.

The amazing thing to realize as you look up is this: See those tiny figures of saints, in between the stained glass windows? See them? Those are actually life-sized mosaic figures. If you were to get up there, you would stand about as high.

Now, the dome is a painting. But those 24 saints that look so tiny are mosaics, They were completed in 1989 by artist Sirio Tonelli, who has since installed Byzantine style mosaics in over 100 churches in the US, including St. Paul's Cathedral in Orange County and St. Sava in San Gabriel, which I blogged about. He also created the double eagle mosaic in St. Sophia's plaza courtyard. I believe he still has his studio in Chicago.

In 1989, the "Procession of Saints" mosaics cost $300,000, and were created in Italy then transported to the US. There's actually only 21 saints, two archangels, and one representation of the "spirit" of Christ. They replaced the paintings of angels that had been there since 1952.

There are incredibly detailed and beautiful pictures of the dome and one of the figures in this photostream by photographer John Gaylord.--this to the right is a partial image. It's all I can find of the mosaics!

Seeing-Stars has a write up on this church, as it was the setting for a wedding on NYPD Blue. In real life (what's that?) it hosted the wedding of the same NYPD Blue star, Sharon Lawrence, as well as the funeral of actor Telly Savalas.

Charles Skouras helped lay the cornerstone to St. Sophia's in 1948  after making it very big in Hollywood--as the head of Fox West Coast and National Theaters. His two brothers (all three were poor immigrants at one time) also found success, Spyros as president of 20th Century Fox for twenty years ending in 1962, and George as head of United Artists Theaters.

No expense was spared on this Byzantine-inspired cathedral. Here's a few sentences from a 2003 article on St. Sophia:

With leaded glass from Belgium, England and Germany; marble from Greece and Italy; 17 over-the-top chandeliers from Czechoslovakia, three of which each weigh a ton; 25,000 pounds of copper on the roof; religious depictions everywhere; a dome rising 90 feet into the air and lots of 24-carat gold leaf; St. Sophia is a very visible symbol of Orthodox faith and a translation of Skouras’ belief in service. Built for approximately $2 million between 1948 and 1952, if built today, costs would exceed $50 million.

When it opened in 1952, the church was situated in LA's Greek neighborhood at Pico and Normandie. Not true now, but the big Greek Festival is still held there every year, and in fact just wrapped  up.

Here is a picture of artist Sirio Tonelli, a fairly recent one. The mosaic he's completing is definitely not from St. Sophia Cathedral, though it could be from St. Paul's out in Irvine. But I don't know--the picture wasn't captioned.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Downtown Building Projects and the Hall of Justice

I was going to blog aboaut a mosaic on Monday but my fingertips melted and got stuck to the keys. I managed to knock over a glass of ice to cool and unstick them, but then the ice and water got into the keyboard and you know how that goes.

Making up a more credible story, or making up anything at all, takes too much effort when it's this hot.

However--I did find a splendid list from LA Downtown  News that updates every downtown project you could think of, and then some. Did you know, for example, that the Hall of Justice, so often pictured in Perry Mason, is about to be reopened, twenty years after red-tagging due to the Northridge earthquake? The ribbon-cutting is in three weeks.

Updates on no less than 93 other projects--from Amp Lofts to the Wilshire Grand replacement--are included in the LA Downtown News list.

Did you know further that the Hall of Justice was made of the same stone, from the same quarry, as our City Hall? It is and the stone is Sierra Granite. That tidbit is from D. J. Waldie, who writes at KCET's website that the "inspiration for the hall's tall base and upper stories of columned walls seems to have been the tomb of King Mausoleus at Halicarnassus."

That tomb was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World--it's the one I never remember. Helicarnassus stood in what is now Turkey, but the tomb was destroyed at least 800 years ago. It's middle third (in terms of height) had 36 columns with statues between them--reportedly--and that's the part that may have inspired the design of our Hall of Justice.

No one really knows what it looked like because it's in ruins now. That's one model at left, but there are many more elaborate portrayals.

To me, the building evokes the 1950s, which is silly since it went up in 1926. Blame Raymond Burr.

The KCET article is a fun read, with pictures and a brief history of the building and its famous, though transitory, residents--like Charles Manson, whose holding cell may be a historical attraction when the Hall reopens. Ghosts are mentioned, as are a local whorehouse, and mice that got high from marijuana held in the evidence room of the Sheriff's offices. If that doesn't pique your curiosity nothing will.

County offices--including the Sheriff and the District Attorney will be moving back into the Hall of Justice around the end of the year.

I'm signing off with my name. I've just learned that when this blog goes out to subscribers, the entire post appears in an email. That's great, but since the email does not include the side column showing me or my book (The Boomer Book of Christmas Memories) or picture, or any of the other features there, I was advised that I should at least sign my name so that people associate the post with me. So until next Monday--Adieu from Vickey Kall.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mosaics of Pompeii in L.A.

It rhymes!

Finally made it to the Pompeii exhibit at the California Science Center. And the artifacts from Pompeii--including the ash shells of victims of the volcano--will be in L.A. through the end of the year (until January 4, 2015, to be exact), so there's plenty of time for you to go, too.

And if you go, I strongly urge you to watch this hour-long BBC documentary first. Really, I wish I had--I would have gotten more out of the exhibit. The link goes to the Science Center Pompeii History page--scroll down a bit to the video, titled "Pompeii--A Mystery of People Frozen in Time."

Made only last year, it tells of the latest discoveries about Pompeii, including how those people died in such a way as to leave a shell of their body. I had picked up a lot of misinformation over the years and found this program fascinating.

At the exhibit, you are allowed to take pictures! Seriously, so many places do not allow photos, even with the flash off, and I've never figured out why. The folks at the California Science Center are more enlightened than most, I guess.

And they're all incredibly nice.

This first mosaic is a floor from the villa of Publius Fonnius Synistor, Boscoreale--near Pompeii. It's dated 1st century B.C., and since the eruption that buried everything was  in 79 A.D., it was well over 100 years old then. No dimensions were listed, but it was not large--five or six feet square, I think.

The Pompeii exhibit--except for the very end, after the bordello room--focuses on the everyday found objects that reflect life in a wealthy Roman town of 25,000 people during the first century A.D. Most of the objects are in display cases with little signs identifying what they are; a few have codes for the audio program description so that you get a lot more detail and context.

And the audio program is COMPLIMENTARY. 
Another laudable innovation!

Smallish rooms house the exhibit, and in the corner of each room is a wide-screen TV, mounted and playing in a continual loop some informative trivia that helps us understand the objects in the room. One told us all about the layout of a typical Roman home, for example, with video showing the atrium and impluvium. Another room, loaded with amphora and cooking equipment, used a mural and the video to give us a feel for the commercial food vendors of Pompeii, as well as the enslaved kitchen staff.

The next mosaic is the sign of a fish sauce maker--a very successful fish sauce maker.

Fish sauce was called garum, and I learned that it was pretty much the french fry of the Roman world. Everyone made their own version and sold it (I also learned there were over 300 garum-snack-selling vendors throughout Pompeii, selling from small booths to folks who stood to eat or took their food with them).

The sign next to this mosaic--which is about 12 or 14 inches wide--says that this was one of four mosaics that "decorated the corners of the impluvium in the atrium of the house of Aulus Umbricius Scaurus, Pompeii's leading producer of garum, Scaurus acquired great wealth through making and trading the famous fish sauce.

"The inscription reads: "The flower of Scaurus' mackerel garum from the factory of Scaurus.""

An impluvium was a sunken section of the home's atrium--set in the floor, it sat directly under a roof opening that allowed rainwater to fall and drain in, right into the impluvium-pool. The impluviam could be marble, but it was paved in a way to let the water run out of it, into gravel and eventually into an underground cistern, where the fresh rainwater could then be used for the household.

Since it was raining here in San Pedro an hour ago--the most welcome, beautiful sound in the world--I can't help but wish that I had such an impluvium in my condo.

So if I read this right, these four mosaics were in his house, not his factory or his shop. They weren't advertising, really--the mosaics were more like trophies.

The mosaic is made of white limestone and black slate.

Next up is a table.

I learned that there were no dining rooms in Roman homes--no rooms designated for dining, I mean.

Instead, tables were brought in and positioned next to couches or benches whenever the rich person wanted to eat. Food was laid out on the tables.

There are actually two in this photo--the mosaic table in front, which most have been incredibly heavy, and the wood-topped table behind it. A mural which didn't make it into my photo shows the Roman gentry reclining and eating.

Presumably, there was never any shortage of slaves to move the heaviest tables around.

I just found it fascinating that in Roman homes, rooms really weren't designated for specific purposes (except kitchens, of course). A room was just a big square place whose purpose was determined by the furnishings in it, and those could be moved easily. Sleeping chambers were simply wherever you put the bed, and dressing rooms were where you put the chest of clothes.

Overall, the Pompeii exhibit was well worth seeing. It takes only an hour to go through--and you are right if you read into that time frame that it is not a comprehensive presentation. I could definitely wish for more context--film of the actual excavated city, for example. But the BBC documentary provides that; another reason to watch it before visiting the California Science Center.

The last little mosaic picture was of the California Science Center itself.

I wish I could tell you who designed it and what the reflective tile is made of, but so far I haven't found any information on that. Sorry--maybe this post will be amended later.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ace Hotel and United Artists Theatre--and Schultheis

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times described new tax benefits to owners who restore buildings that are on either the National Register of Historic Places or the California Register of Historic Places. The benefits are mostly for businesses, but some residential buildings could earn their owners tax breaks as well.

It's all very interesting but what really drew me to the piece was this incredibly lovely picture of the 1927  United Artists Theatre, which ran with the editorial. This refurbishment shows how well the new law will work (though it's not in effect yet) because the 1600-seat theater is part of the Ace Hotel complex in Downtown Los Angeles.

The Ace Hotel IS the United Artists Building and Tower. It opened earlier this year (Valentine's Day) at 929 S. Broadway, (or is it 933? I think that's the original address) and preserved all the outward beauty of the building while creating minimalist, functional hotel rooms of varying sizes on the inside, as well as a few meeting venues.

Here's the Ace's theatre website with pictures, info, and a calendar.

Percy Walker and Albert Eisen were the architects of the 1927 building, and they got around some local height restriction ordinances by creating the 50-foot "dummy" tower that still sits atop it.

At the end of this post are some "then and now" photos, the oldest from the Los Angeles Public Library's online photo collection.

From the beginning, most of the offices in the building were leased out to oil companies. First it was California Petroleum Co., then later the building became known as  the Texaco Building. In the 1990s, it was the home of Dr. Gene Scott's University Cathedral.

But this post is focused on the movie theater, not the entire building. Isn't it gorgeous? Divine decadence is the phrase that comes to mind.

The vaulted ceiling--to me, it looks like a dome but the site refers to it as a vaulted ceiling--has thousands of tiny mirrors, and the palace includes a huge (2300 sq ft), ornate lobby.

The new lighting and sound systems are state-of-the-art so that concerts and private presentations can be staged here.

When the interior of the theater was designed by C. Howard Crane, the decor deliberately imitated the 16th century Catholic Cathedral of Segovia, Spain.  You can really see that in the image below left, which accompanied LAWeekly's review of the grand re-opening.

As for the original opening in 1927--the theater's first feature was My Best Girl starring--of course--Mary Pickford, one of the founders of United Artists (along with her husband Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin).

The picture above, btw, came from a 2012 article in the Nomad Lab. There I learned that the 12-story UA building was the city's tallest privately-owned property until 1956.

The 1937 picture below left, with the car in the foreground was taken by Herman J. Schultheis, a gentleman who immigrated to the US from Aachen, German. He came to LA in 1936 after marrying (he was 36--the same age as the century, which makes it easy).  His collection of photographs of his new hometown made in 1937 is now held by our library.

And he lived quite a life.

Schultheis was a PhD'd engineer, but he worked for Walt Disney, in films, He's best know for Snow White, BambiPinocchio, Dumbo, and Fantasia.

About Fantasia: There's a short documentary about the special effects in that film based on Schultheis' detailed notebooks, and that short is one of the extras on some Fantasia DVDs. The notebook itself is at the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, and you can read about it here.

Before Disney, he's worked for all sorts of companies back east as an engineer. After Disney, he went to 20th Century Fox for awhile, the Cal Tech, then to a firm called Librascope (which was eventually folded into Lockheed Martin). At every place, he worked on something different--tweaked some old idea to make it better, or introduced new design concepts. Photography, sound engineering, miniature models, cameras, electronics, printing--he had a broad range of interests.

As an amateur photographer, he went all over the world--and he disappeared in Guatemala on his fourth trip thwew in 1955. He had a plane take him to the ruins at Tikal, but didn't show up at the designated spot for his return trip just a few hours away. His remains were found 18 months later.

Monday, September 1, 2014

City Hall Dome of Beverly Hills--and An Amazing Picture Source!

Last week's Mosaic Monday post featured the tiled dome of a church just outside Beverly Hills. It led a friend to mention to me that the dome atop Beverly Hills City Hall is a mosaic, so why not feature that?

Absolutely. See how beautiful it is?

The tower is eight stories high, of reinforced concrete finished with cement plaster and terra cotta, and is part of the 1932 City Hall designed by William Gage and Harry Koerner. The picture at right was taken late that year (the City Hall opened for business in April, with great fanfare and speeches by Will Rogers and William Collier Sr.) and is from the Water and Power Associates' page.

DIGRESSION: That page has dozens of historic pictures! Of the building of the Griffith Observatory and the Times Building, and :

  • The Orpheum Theatres 1 and 4, as well as the Vogue Theatre

  • The Rancho La Brea (Gilmore) Adobe

  • The Wilshire Tower and Silverwoods, as well as Bob's Air Mail Service Station on Wilshire

  • Pan Pacific Auditorium--inside and out, through the years
  • Little Joe's, the Plaza Church in the 30s, Victorian mansions on Main . . .so much more.

  • The Earl Carroll Theatre, including the showgirls

And that's just maybe half of one page. The Water and Power Associates historical collection is like a museum, except that you don't need to drive anywhere, walk, or pay an entry fee. Wow. I'll go back there for future posts, I promise. End digression.

Now, back to the Beverly Hills City Hall, at 455 N. Rexford Drive.

To quote from the city's webiste

"Architect William Gage created the Spanish Renaissance building in typical government style of that era."

I must pause to snort because the statement sounds--sorry--ridiculous. "That era," if I may be so crass, was the beginning of the Depression. Even if it weren't, the idea of an eight-story tower topped by a gold-trimmed--gold!--cupola being typical of any city anywhere else strains credibility.

Which doesn't mean it isn't beautiful! It absolutely is gorgeous, stunning, and a landmark that the city is rightfully proud of. Just please stop saying it's typical.

In fact, the Los Angeles Times said of the building (back in 1932) that it was "the largest and most costly City Hall of any municipality its size in the country,"

Who actually designed the glazed tile dome? Not sure. W. E. Shephard Co. and Heinsbergen Decorating Co. are listed as the Decorating Contractors, so it may be them (there are separate credits for bronze work, special lighting fixtures, terra cotta work, and terrazzo floors).

By the 1930s, Beverly Hills had become the favored real estate of Hollywood's elite. Pickfair and Greenacres sat there--the homes of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, and of Harold Lloyd, respectively. Such a city would spare no expense for it's municipal buildings! The City Hall, even back then, was part of a Civic Center complex that included the police and fire department headquarters, a library, and gardens designed by Seymour Thomas.

The dome was cleaned and the entire building renovated and brought up to current codes and earthquake standards in the 1980s. Ten years later, a new Civic Center was dedicated, with some new buildings, designed by Charles Willard Moore and his firm, Urban Innovations Group. The expanded gardens and complex include tiled arcades that evoke the dome's patterns. The entire package cost $110 million.

More pictures of the dome and photos of the other City Hall fixtures and features, the ceiling, etc. can be seen on the Just Above Sunset blog.

This last picture (at right) is NOT of the City Hall dome. It's from the SmartMeetings blog, and is credited to Bebe Jacobs.

The photo was taken from and of the Montage Hotel on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills, built in 2008, and shows the impact that the City Hall design has had on the city. The "imitation dome"of that luxury hotel is lovely in its own right, the dome and cupola really more of an homage than a copy of the city's 1932 dome.

In fact, Montage's website claims the hotel was inspired by the Spanish colonial architecture of the area, and is "reminiscent of the Golden Age of California." Montage features a Rooftop Grill with a view of the dome (which is not as tall as City Hall's) as well as roof top pools and cabanas.

A picture at the Ohaha Real Estate page shows both domes in perspective, in golden light.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

More to Do and More to Read

It's probably a law of nature that the minute a post is up, one finds more to add to it.

So here are some more suggestions for Los-Angeles-History reading, followed by a few more get-off-the-couch activities:

First, the reads:

Now the get out and go's:

UCLA Film series has two foci this fall: Edith Head and Noir, and both involve screenings of classic films and talks by special guests at the Billy Wilder Theater. Here's a link to the calendar.

  • The Edith Head films start with Sunset Blvd on Sept. 12, followed by a TV interview with Ms. Head and a talk with historian and costume designer Debra Nadoolman Landis. On the 14th there will be two more films

  • The Noir set starts on Sept. 13 with two films (The Blue Garndenia & Whirlpool, starring Ann Baxter and Gene Tierney, respectively), two more on the 15th, and two more on the 19th.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

For Your Reading / Viewing / Visiting Pleasure

Some fascinating stories about Los Angeles and its history are circulating. The picture is of Lake Cachuma, a lake most of us have seen and enjoyed in better years. This photo appeared in the Los Angeles Times in late January (months ago. Is anything left now?)

Here are some articles you may enjoy:

  • The LADowntown blog tracks the oddly curved wall of Senor Fish to its historic roots with the Southern Pacific Railroad.

  • Water Use: KPCC and the Milken Institute hosted a panel of experts on water use in California, and you can either watch excerpts from the session or read about the nine top suggestions for saving water here. (number 1 was rip out all our lawns. Which I'm all for, since I live in a condo and have no lawn to sacrifice.)

  • Related to water use, LA Observed presented a history of the state and how Indians, Californios, and everyone else dealt with its water shortages over the years.

  • A NASA page on satellite data about the drought.

  • Disneyland lovers: Even though it's now inactive, the SamsLand Blog about all things Disney and amusement parkish makes for pretty good anecdotal reading. Author Sam Gennawey put out the featured book at right.

  • OK, this one isn't really about history, but David Hochman has an article in Los Angeles Magazine called "Sound Check: A Study of LA Noise Pollution."  I found it enthralling.

As for events that might actually get you out of the apartment:

Monday, August 25, 2014

St. Timothy's Catholic Church Mosaics

I snapped this picture while driving down Pico and looked it up later--the mosaic dome topping the cupola is part of St. Timothy's Catholic Church. And while I couldn't find out much about the mosaics--inside or out--St. Timothy's itself has a very interesting history.

The church was built in 1949 at the corner of Pico and Beverly Glen. The parish had been in existence for six years, holding services in--among other temporary sites--an ice cream parlor while fundraising for a permanent building.

St. Timothy's website has tons of photos taken during construction, including the one below right showing the cross over the yet-to-be-constructed-and-tiled cupola.

The site says, "The cupola itself is constructed of flat steel bands formed in the shape of the cupola over which the cupola tile was placed."

Was not able to learn if any particular artist or designer was involved with the cupola mosaic, so that's it for the outside.

Inside is another story. There IS a mosaic behind the altar which was not part of the original design but commissioned later by Bishop Ward--probably in the early to mid 1960s, the years, just after Vatican II Council. Vatican II advised churches to do some remodeling so that the priest would face the congregation during Mass. That's when the altar was moved away from the painted back wall (you can see the painting, with rays shining out, below), and that's likely when the mosaic wall was installed.

By the way, the reason Bishop Ward was in a position to change St. Timothy's is that he was also pastor of the church. Why? I don't know, but it's very rare for a bishop to also be a pastor. Still, Bishop Ward was pastor of St. Timothy's for thirty years, so there's probably a tale behind that.

The really interesting story is about the wooden altarpiece itself. Constructed in Spain (date unknown, but likely 17th century), it was shipped to the Yucatan in 1900, but confiscated by the Mexican govenment. Somehow it ended up being auctioned off in the 1920s, and the woman who bought it--supposedly the wife of a secretary of the Doheny Oil Company--had it shipped to Los Angeles.

Her intention was that it be used in an Episcopal church. But she died before that happened, and the altarpiece sat in storage for a couple of decades, until it was put back on the auction block.

At this point, we must mention the church's connection to the movie community in the 1940s. Several of the parishioners worked for Fox Studios and MGM, constructing sets, etc. They were craftsmen, and they used their expertise to help build the new church. For example, the tabernacle--of bronze castings, plated in gold, that house silver statues of the Apostles--was created by MGM's Special Effects Dept, because the Dept. Manager was a parishioner.

Back to the altarpiece. Somehow, folks at Twentieth Century Fox found out about the altarpiece that was up for bids, and they told Father O'Shea, the pastor of this fledgling parish. Based on that information (sight unseen, iow) Father O'Shea sent a man to bid on the altarpiece and some other objects for the planned church, like heavy wooden doors.

So by the time the church was built, there was a small art collection in storage, awaiting placement in the new building.

At left is the altarpiece in the new church. Below is the same altarpiece. I zoomed in on a picture by professional wedding photographer Robert Greer.  The full color, uncropped photo at Greer's website shows so much more of the church--the ornamental ceiling panels (also from 1949), the stained glass windows, and side altars  that were also part of the altarpiece.

Anyway, it is the only good photo I could find of the mosaic that now sits behind the altarpiece.

The statues in those side altars have been in a 1946 movie--"The Jolson Story." They were supposed to be part of St. Mary's Home for Boys, and were later given to St. Timothy's.

One more thing to add--the church website also mentions that the Stations of the Cross in the church are mosaics. The webpage presents a slide show constantly playing, and I did see one of those mosaics flash by there. However, I couldn't find a picture to show here, and it's getting late. If you go into the building, though, be sure to look for them.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I Love LA . . . Especially the Rubber Duck

Nothing says harbors and longshoremen and tattoo parlors like a 61-foot rubber duckie, right?

As its creator, Florentjin Hofman, says, “The friendly, floating Rubber Duck has healing properties: it can relieve the world’s tensions as well as define them.”

Today, I do not analyze, I do not editorialize. Today, I simply marvel at a giant rubber duck in the Port of Los Angeles. In a random world, such things happen.

The picture, btw is from Time Inc.

Fun Blog for Lovers of Los Angeles History

Well, someone's gotta write something interesting, and I have been slacking of late.

So for those missing a fix of local color, you can click here now. You'll get a 21-st birthday salute to the Viper Room, which was once the Melody Room, hangout of Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen. Then it was Filthy McNasty's, then The Central, and finally the Viper--and each incarnation has A History. Alison Martino, proprietor of this blog, has thoughtfully added pictures of the joint through all its varied personas--and she's even included photos of matchbook covers and ashtrays.

I've been following Alison Martino's Vintage LA on Facebook for a couple of years, I didn't know about this website.

There's more, of course, and at the end of every post you'll hear me sigh, "I wish I'd written that!"

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mosaic Monday, Vacation Edition

This week, we're going to Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County, just 15 miles south of San Francisco.

Here's a closeup of  the above, so you can see the craftsmanship.

I can't pretend to know anything about the city of Half Moon Bay beyond what a one-day tourist would see. Half Moon Bay has a charming Main Street lined with galleries, bistros, and boutiques.

That's where I found this 10-foot tall mosaic, created by Sue Prichard, an artist from Montara.

She taught middle school in South San Francisco for years, but by 2001 Prichard had taken early retirement and was focusing on art.

And biography-wise, that's all I can say about her. Couldn't find a website or FB page.

Sue Prichard is also the artist who installed smaller mosaics about a block away, at Main and Kelly, in a small park named Mac Dutra, after a late civic leader. I think it's more accurately a plaza, but it is referred to as a park in most places.

According to a story in the local newspaper, Prichard organized the making and installing of dozens of mosaic tiles in 2001, using funds from grants, including a $4,000 grant from the Peninsula Community Foundation that got the work started.

As she worked, Prichard invited onlookers to help glue in pieces of the mosaic and then sign a guestbook. Eventually, local families and individuals were creating flowers, while Prichard concentrated on making the vines that would link them all together--a nice metaphor for a community art project. Folks branched out, making ladybugs and birds as well.

In the picture at left, you can see a giraffe and the cow that jumped over the moon on the right.

Here's a paragraph from a 2001 newspaper article written by Mark Simon for SF Gate:

Look closely and you'll find a rainbow, a kitten with a green stripe, butterflies, a Brazilian bird and a lizard with an orange tongue made by a young boy who was visiting Half Moon Bay for chemotherapy treatments. There's a bird made by a girl in a wheelchair, a Kachina doll, turtles, snakes, a dark blue octopus and a Wheaten terrier that Prichard named Merlin. There's a turtle with a dime and an abalone shell in its back, a shark, a huge green crocodile with a purple eye, ladybug marbles, a squirrel, two glass dragonflies, a caterpillar, another cat named Goldberry and a half moon.

I think some of those objects--the Goldberry cat. a shark, and a glass dragonfly--may be on the low curb behind the planter, on the right. There's a pony on the  left, next to a ladybug.

The effort took about two years to pull off. That's a picture of Prichard above, in the park, from the paper, and she feels the city has allowed the park to deteriorate.

Which must be true, since the city dissolved its Parks & Rec Dept. three years ago. Rusting picnic benches were pulled out last year. How could things not go downhill from there?

Plans to renovate Mac Dutra Park (which is very small) are worrying the artist. Art has gone missing before, and she is concerned that this may happen again. The article does not say where the $200,000 for renovations will come from.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A blog of the Abandoned, Macabre, and Strange

A year ago, I pointed interested readers to Allissa Walker's blog, A Walker in LA, and an article about Los Angeles' original subway system and Terminal Building. She posted some wonderful pictures from Ye Olde Days Underground, as well as new photos taken during a tour. The tunnels have now been condemned and deemed unsuitable for further tours, but .you can enjoy a new post on the underground that she wrote for Urban Ghost Media, here.

Urban Ghosts has other articles on Los Angeles, including this piece on the Hollywood Museum of Death. Did you know we had such a place? We do, since 2000. And besides relics of our own Black Dahlia and Manson killings, the museum also houses the mummified head of Bluebeard.

The Museum of Death even has an online gift shop, so you can sport a tee shirt or coffee mug with the logo, or even one with a drawing of your favorite serial killer. Real serial killer, mind you, not Dexter.

The Urban Ghost site has its macabre side, but mostly it likes to show abandoned spots, not always giving away the location but featuring intriguing photos. Like this post on vintage fire trucks in our foothills (withdrawn from service, but not abandoned, they say).

Another story presents pictures, links, and speculation about the Great Streetcar Scandal of the 1930s and 1940s.

The pictures are the main thing here; the text is downright sparse. But, oh, the pictures!

The posts cover the world, and they're pretty wild. Detroit's salt mines, decaying toy stores, bowling alleys, churches, theaters--no wonder they are cagey about the locations.

Although not all are secret. Here's the link to photos of the plane crash site at Universal Studios. And here--close to my heart if not close to me geographically--are images of a mosaic park in Pennsylvania. Braddock Park was an empty, abandoned lot before artist James Simon came along--the "abandoned" part is what rated it a place in Urban Ghosts.

There are plenty of posts on decaying motels and leftover jets (jetsam, I gues) out in our deserts, too. All in all, a great place to waste an hour or two.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mosaics at the Dalton, Pasadena

Today's mosaic--you can just see it, next to the parking entry driveway--is on the corner of Arroyo Parkway and Del Mar in Pasadena.

Had I known then what I know now (then meaning the moment on Sunday afternoon when I was stopped at a light, thankful that I had my camera with me even though my stomach was growling) I would have cut across traffic and flipped a U turn worthy of Vin Diesel to get back to that corner.

Why? Well, although the building is clearly a fancy apartment house, the street-level business is a shop called "Flour & Tea."

Flour & Tea, it turns out, makes some specialty bakery items. I was hungry and wondered where I could stop, park for free or cheap, and get something to eat. Had I known that the shop in this photo makes a Nutella Cake with "two slathers of Nutella between layers of chocolate cake," nothing could have stopped me from indulging.

Especially since I wound up with a rather nasty tuna sandwich from a Fresh & Easy instead, possibly the worst tuna sandwich I've ever had. (How can you ruin a tuna sandwich? I mean, seriously? Well, they did. I can only say that I was thankful the pickle overwhelmed the fish. . . and that I didn't get sick.)

You can see the Flour & Tea window in this closer view of the mosaic, which faces Del Mar. I hope that the planter box is temporary because it doesn't seem to belong there.

Oops--just saw a photo from 2009. The planter has always been there, apparently.

Facing Arroyo Parkway, there is another mosaic, this one in yellow (below left). Very 50s.

The mosaics are part of The Dalton, a condominium project erected in 2009. Bob Champion was the developer, and he hired Bob Zoell to design the mosaics.

One of the perks of these condos is that they were built with gallery walls, ready to receive private art collections. Floor to ceiling windows too. The Pasadena Star News wrote about the features here.

Bob Zoell has done mosaic tile pillars for the Wilshire/Vermont Station, Metro Red Line. Here is Zoell's Metro biography:

Bob Zoell’s artwork has been featured in the New Yorker magazine and he has authored and illustrated many children’s books. He has been included in exhibitions throughout the world including the Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona and the Center Georges Pompidou, Paris. His artwork is included in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. 

End quote

His a trip. He's done covers for the New Yorker magazine, and in the 80s did artwork on street and bridge underpasses in LA.. He's also done work for the San Francisco Airport and created the Bubble glass wall at the Castaic Sports Complex Aquatic Center. Most of his art is geometric, not mosaic. I learned there are three mosaic murals at the Dalton, so clearly I've missed one. And I do need to taste that Nutella Cake , , ,

One more thought:

In 2010, I mentioned some old mosaic panels in an old strip of shops off Western Avenue in San Pedro, including a very old barber shop. This is the picture from that post.

That strip of shops is now, technically, Rancho Palos Verdes, no longer San Pedro. Still, can you see the similarities between Zoell's work and this--which, for all I know, was his inspiration?

Maybe the unknown artist who designed the panels did the same for many other shops in suburbs and cities throughout the Southland.


Is it possible that little Bobby Zoell got his hair cut in San Pedroin the 1950s? Just wondering.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Update on Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park

The most noticeable feature at Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park and Lake Machado these days are the fences. Fences everywhere! They may be breeding . . .

The park is technically still open, though, and you can drive into the parking lot, park and take your children to the play areas. You can also stroll around the perimeter.

I saw folks picnicing and gathered around a couple of barbecues, though the view was not so nice. Who wants to lay back and stare at fences, after all?

On the north end, trees have been cut--though not an outrageous amount--and it looks like the fences have pushed some of the homeless into encampments that are visible from Vermont Ave.

There are booms and boats on the lake:

But I have to add that if anything, the lake looks larger than it did before the work started. I'm guessing that has a lot to do with the filtering mechanisms in place and the way they're cleaning it. Not that I understand it at all, but there are Big Thingies at the south end, and hopefully the waterfowl are enjoying the same access--even though the fences keep most of the visitors at bay.

Took lots of pictures of this guy, who had to be one of the biggest ducks I've ever seen, not to mention having a face so strange it's actually beautiful.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Too Hot To Do Anything But Read--

So here are some reading suggestions:

  • Noiring L.A.: The Crimson Kimono and Asian American Sexuality in the Age of the Cold War. Well, it sounds academic, but it's mainly thought-provoking. The Crimson Kimono is a 1959 detective story based in Los Angeles. It stared James Shigeta as a handsome young detective in LA, working with a buddy from the Korean War and in love with a white woman. Ryan Reft wrote this piece, which examines all the politics, racism, paranoia of the time, putting the film story into context. (the poster is from Wikipedia)

  • Zocolo Public Square puts on incredible talks (like this one coming up on Sept. 3: "Is the Digital Age Killing Public Space?"). But Wait There's More! Pertinent articles--already an eye-witness account of the lightning strike at Venice Beach is posted, as well as this story of how the El Sereno Post Office became an art gallery.

  • Catch up on the Sunday Salons put on by LAVA (Los Angeles Visionaries Association) on this blog. There are posts and videos for your enjoyment.

  • If you don't already subscribe to Brain Pickings, consider it. It's a big ol' time suck that will actually enrich your cultural knowledge base and may make you smarter. Or are those the same thing? The newsletter brings long discussions about your favorite people and ideas (not all, not even many, are centered on Los Angeles) and some fun stuff as well, such as this graphic/discussion about the sleep habits of famous authors.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mosaic Monday: An Apartment House in Redondo Beach

Yikes! It's still Monday, barely--so here is a picture.

The mosaic facade is probably from the 1960s--I'm guessing--I suppose I could just say "Mid-Century." You can see the address, 389 Palos Verdes Blvd. It's in south Redondo Beach, just north of Calle Miramar. There's a tiki right in front, and I understand there are more in the courtyard inside.

Just one of those classic buildings you pass but often don't notice.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Adding Word Verification

Like all bloggers, I get a lot of spam.

Lately, a few particular posts--for no reason that I can see--are getting the same spam multiple times each day.

For that reason, I've enabled Word Verification. Now, when someone posts a comment, they'll be asked to type in a random set of letters.

Hope that works.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of the exterior of the Palace Theater on Broadway, shot on a sunny day last spring. I haven't had any excuse to post it before now and I hate to see it go to waste.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Animal Hospital of 1938--Classic Building in Danger

I could really get lost in Twitter. Now that I've figured out how to use groups to filter the  tweets from people I feel duty-bound to follow (mostly because they followed me) from folks I'm really really interested in (like Chris Nichols of LA Mag and Archaeology and Nat Geo and the Onion), I'm finding tons of interesting stuff.

Such as links to Chris Nichols' story about a 1938 Streamline Moderne building that was designed by the same team that built the Pan Pacific Auditorium. This structure, on Santa Monica Blvd., started out as a veterinary hospital and is now threatened with demolition.

The LA Conservancy has highlighted this building for a few weeks now, and the next step in deciding its fate will take place on August 18, at a City Council Meeting. Why is it threatened, when it's such an obviously neat old building? The Melrose Triangle Project will sit right on top of it. And what is being decided on August 18 is the certification of the Melrose Triangle Project.

"Sit right on top of it" is an exaggeration, of course. The original plan did call for its demolition, but once all parties became aware of the historic building, an alternative was proposed that will work around and preserve the old Dog and Cat Hospital.

The City Council could, technically, approve either plan. They could also delay or ask for more studies or whatever.

If you want to learn more about this curvy glass-bricked building, Los Angeles Magazine & Mr. Nichols have put up a story with:

  • Great pictures of the shiny-new building and its rooms in the late 1930s

  • Sad pictures of how it looks today

  • A bio of Dr. Eugene C. Jones, the veterinarian

  • As complete a story of the building as anyone could wish for

A Facebook page has more pictures and updates as well, and promises more photos from the Getty Research Archives. And LAWeekly has more in a story focused on two women who are heading up the drive to save the building.

Two Events: One Serious, One Silly

The city of Torrance is planning a big memorial to celebrate Louis Zamperini's life, on July 31 at Torance High School's Zamperini Stadium. The stadium is off Arlington at 2125 Lincoln, so Mapquest the site (it is not attached to the school).

Much more information is in this Daily Breeze article, which also answers a burning question (well, it's been burning on the "You Know You're From Torrance If..." Facebook page): In the new Unbroken  move, where were the scenes of Louis Zamperini's childhood shot? Turns out, Australia.

Who would've guessed?

The second event I'd like to mention is a big 6-hour school-bus-and-walking-tour of Los Angeles by Charles Phoenix, coming up on August 24. It begins and ends at Union Station and is billed as a Disneyland Tour because Phoenix sees Downtown LA as a giant theme park.

I think he's right, especially when you factor in all the waiting you have to do to get around there . . .

That first link was to the Facebook Event Page, but here is one to that describes the entire tour. Chinatown, Olvera Street, lunch at Phillipe's--sounds like a great afternoon!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mosaics in Seattle, Part 2

If you've ever been to Seattle, you've probably taken the Seattle Underground Tour (Yelp site), more properly known as Bill Spiedel's World Famous Underground Tour. The tour is centered in Pioneer Square and guides you up and down locked staircases, into the nearly-original streets of the city, which are one floor down.

Never been? Well, it's more than fascinating--it's funny. Lots of humor revolving around toilets that turned into geysers at high tide, plus a few set pieces from an old TV show ("Kolchak, the Night Stalker") which filmed an episode in the underground, and an explanation of why the glass in the cement-and-glass slabs has turned purple.

There are no mosaics underground, but this one is from the back hallway leading to the bathrooms of Doc Maynard's, the latest incarnation of the restaurant that surrounds the Underground Tour ticket booth.

Also in the Pioneer Square area, I saw this tabletop mosaic.

'Fraid I don't know anything about it.

Finally, who can go to Seattle without taking a picture of the Space Needle?

It's not possible. But below right is the picture that really caught my eye: the Space Needle fronted by (as the caption reads):


MEASURES 60'  BY 17' 

Horiuchi lived in Seattle, and created this mural--which is really a mosaic--for the World's Fair.

Horiuchi started out with sheets of torn, brightly colored paper and enlarged them--the intent was to evoke the rich colors of the Northwest. Fabricated in Italy, the finished mosaic is made of 54 colored panels of Venetian glass, with 160 color variations.

The Seattle Mural is now the backdrop of the stage of the Seattle Center Mural Amphitheater. It was restored in 2011, just in time for the 50th anniversary of that fair and Seattle Center.

There are tons of pictures of the Seattle Mural on the Internet, some with performers in front of it, some in the fog, some with enhanced colors--but I like the one below, from Art Beat, the best.

Seattle has so many more mosaics! We passed parks, schools, and businesses ornamented with mosaic art, but they went by so fast I didn't get pictures. Public art is a big part of Seattle's vibe, just like music is. That's one reason why it's so much fun to visit.