- Second District
Total voters: 1,359
The most successful means to date of protecting this cultural heritage has been through Mills Act Legislation, which allows local governments to offer financial incentives to private property owners for the restoration and preservation of historic buildings. Then-Councilmember Ridley-Thomas authored the Ordinance that brought the Mills Act to Los Angeles, thereby funding millions of dollars of historic preservation and adaptive re-use investments in the City, and helping to save many landmark buildings. The City of Los Angeles adopted the program in 1996 and since then, hundreds of properties have benefited. The County, however, has had no such ordinance on its books – a step the Board of Supervisors may soon remedy.
On February 14th the Board of Supervisors approved a motion sponsored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael D. Antonovich, directing the Regional Planning Department to develop historic preservation strategies for the unincorporated areas of the County. The department will deliver its findings to the Board this summer, and the supervisors will be poised to take a critical step toward safeguarding the county’s rich design heritage.
In honor of the occasion, we compiled 10 of our favorite architectural sites, and we invite you to upload photos and share your favorites with us as well. Ours are in the Second District, but we welcome contributions from all over the county. Some of our picks strain the definition of “architecture” — they are not buildings. We included them, however, because this preservation effort isn’t just about bricks and mortar. It’s about the inspiring symbols of human creativity, perseverance and skill, ranging from the high art of the Clark Library to the folk genius of the Watts Towers. Our goal is to raise awareness about the features that make our communities recognizable, livable and beautiful.
Click on the audio link below each image to hear Dan Rosenfeld, a noted developer and the Second District’s senior deputy for economic development, discuss the picks on our list. You can click directly on the audio link to add your observations or leave a longer post in the comments section.
We’ll be featuring a new site, with accompanying audio, every month for the rest of the year and posting your submissions in a gallery.
California can almost trace its modern history — as a territory of Spain, then Mexico, and finally as part of the United States — through the family founded by Spanish soldier Juan Jose Dominguez. The 75,000 acres of Rancho San Pedro, gifted to Dominguez in 1784 by Spain, covered most of what today is Compton and stretched to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. His heir and nephew, Don Manuel, built this lovely adobe home for his bride in 1826. Situated on a hilltop in what is now Rancho Dominguez, this “Mission” or “Spanish Colonial” look became the signature style of Southern California and has influenced the design of countless homes and public structures. Its genius lies in the artful use of simple, locally made materials such as fired mud bricks, whitewashed stucco, and curved clay roof tiles. Moreover, the style is sustainable, providing excellent insulation and naturally cool or warm spaces as the seasons change. Don Manuel Dominguez lived California’s metamorphosis, holding positions under both Mexican and U.S. governments: he served as (Alcade) Mayor of Los Angeles, a judge, and Los Angeles County Supervisor. He also was one of 47 delegates to sign the new state’s constitution. One hundred and eighty-six years later, Don Manuel’s home is a museum. Its grounds are often used for parties, weddings, and other celebrations that entwine both the Dominguez family and California’s historic past with the lives of residents today.
Photo: Adam Janeiro
The opulent rooms of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library are a bibliophile’s dream. Home to one of the most comprehensive rare book and manuscript collections in the United States, the Italian Renaissance building was designed by Robert Farquhar (who also designed Beverly Hills High School) and built in 1924 to house the personal collection of philanthropist William Andrews Clark, Jr. The library was named to honor Clark’s father, a Montana copper baron and U.S. Senator. Special touches reflect the family’s history: bookcases in the reading rooms, for example, are made of copper. With a particular focus on 17th and 18th Century English literature, the collection includes works by or about luminaries such as John Milton, Henry Fielding and Jonathan Swift. The Clark is also home to the world’s most extensive collections of works by or about Oscar Wilde. The library hosts poetry readings, concerts, lectures and special events in its drawing room, where murals depicting scenes from All For Love, English poet John Dryden’s retelling of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, grace the walls.
When the Dunbar Hotel, opened in 1928, it was the center of African-American culture in Los Angeles. Originally called the Hotel Somerville, it was built entirely by black contractors, laborers and craftsmen, and financed by black Angelenos. It was the only hotel in Los Angeles that welcomed black guests and as such, hosted many of the era’s legendary entertainers, politicians and civic leaders. Stars of the Jazz age, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, stayed there and then played next door at the famed Club Alabam. The hotel was renamed the Dunbar in 1929, in honor of legendary poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, and was designated a historic-cultural landmark in 1974. It is currently under renovation by local developer Tom Safran. Upon completion, the new building will provide affordable housing for senior citizens.
Home to 200 varieties of roses and 20,000 bushes, the seven acres of the sunken rose garden in Exposition Park are a serene and exquisite oasis in Los Angeles’ urban core. Its beauty makes it a popular backdrop for summer weddings, and no hint lingers of its earthier turn-of-the-century past when gamblers gathered to bet on dog, camel and horse races. Why is a garden on our list? In Southern California our outdoor spaces — patios, decks, balconies and even rusty old fire escapes just large enough for a grill — are extensions of our homes. Just as a superbly designed building is the imaginative but practical organization and use of space, so too is a well-planned, and in this case, beautiful, fragrant, and blooming outdoor rose garden.
Photo: Martin Zamora
The Angelus Funeral Home, designed by noted African-American architect Paul R. Williams, incorporates neo-classical and Art Deco elements often seen in Williams’ work. Williams’ talent was evident early on; he designed buildings while still a student at the University of Southern California School of Engineering and opened his own architecture office at age 25. He designed more than 2,000 homes in Los Angeles, but is perhaps most noted for the swank residences he created for Hollywood stars, including Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lon Chaney and Frank Sinatra. Among his public projects are the Beverly Hills Hotel, Hollywood YMCA and Los Angeles County Courthouse. Founded in 1923, Angelus Funeral Home was the first black-owned business incorporated in California. The name refers to the Christian devotion, taken from the Latin, Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ, meaning “The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.”
“Why I build it? I can’t tell you. Why a man make the pants? Why a man make the shoes?”
– Sculptor Simon Rodia
Was he genius? A madman? A little of both? (Sabato) Simon Rodia, who was born in 1879 in Italy and who emigrated to the United States at age 15, always refused to explain his labor of love. Built over the span of 33 years, the Watts towers are actually 17 dazzling structures composed of steel piles and rods wrapped with wire mesh, coated with mortar are inlaid with broken glass, sea shells, and tile collected by Rodia and neighborhood children. Almost as soon as they began to take shape, however, the towers became controversial. Vandals targeted them relentlessly, and in the 1960s, the City of Los Angeles attempted to have them torn down. Today they are widely recognized as masterpieces of ingenuity and engineering. According to a documentary about the one-time bricklayer, Rodia was in part inspired by the most famous tower in his homeland, the leaning tower of Pisa, where Galileo Galileo dropped two balls in his famous experiment on acceleration. “My God, I say, I’m going to make a tower different than Galileo,” Rodia once remarked. In the historic two-square mile neighborhood from which the towers take their name, that’s exactly what he did.
Randy’s Photo: Thomas Hawk (thomashawk.com) Dale’s Photo: Phil Pasquini
Los Angeles loves donuts: hot Krispy Kremes, towering strawberry donuts, beignets, gut-busting maple-bacon donuts, Danish aebelskiver (apple fritters), and even newfangled red velvet concoctions. Best donut lists and contests are eternal internet favorites, and there is even L.A. art commemorating the donut experience, such as Jennifer Rubell’s donut wall at LACMA. Greater Los Angeles is arguably the donut capital of the world. Although aficionados debate which ones are best, few deny that the region’s most iconic donuts are the towering rings above Randy’s and Dale’s donut shops. Built in 1952 and designed by Henry J. Goodwin, Randy’s Donuts was a part of the BigDoNut drive-through chain and is an example of semaphore architecture, in which buildings visually signal their purpose. For decades, these landmarks have grabbed motorists’ attention in our fast-moving automobile culture, and Randy’s has been featured in movies including Earth Girls Are Easy, Coming to America and Iron Man 2.
Photo: Pann’s Catering website (www.pannscatering.com)
It’s 1958: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration launches Explorer 1 and the space race is on. Drive-in movies are in their heyday, and a group soon to be known as the Beatles has its first recording session. Ed Sullivan and Elvis are in, and the average cost of a house is $12,750. That same year, Greek immigrants George and Rena Panagopoulos open Pann’s Restaurant and Coffee Shop in Inglewood. Some love Pann’s for the food and others the hospitality, but it’s the restaurant’s optimistic architecture that lands it on our list. Googie architecture – the name comes from a now defunct coffee shop in West Hollywood – was popular from the late 1940s to the mid 1960s, when futuristic motifs were the rage. Pann’s was designed by architects Eldon Davis and Helen Liu Fong, and, more than 50 years later, the large windows and tropical landscaping give the site a classic coffee shop look and feel. The restaurant continues to attract a devoted following and has also been featured in hit films such as Pulp Fiction.
Photo: Google Maps
The flowing sweep of the freeway interchange between Highways 10 and 405 in West Los Angeles is an architectural triumph. One of the largest man-made structures in the region, it is also one of the most elegant — a true work of art. Practical, simple and highly sophisticated in its design, like much of the architecture that we use in our daily lives it often goes unnoticed. What further distinguishes this immense structure is that its designer, Marilyn Jorgenson Reece, was the first woman to break the gender barrier in highway design. Including this representative from the road system in our list of heritage highlights seems natural to us. Not only does it underscore the importance of the freeway system in fostering Los Angeles’ rapid growth and suburbanization after the Second World War, it also pays homage to the fundamental importance of mobility in our unique urban character… and let’s face it, we live on freeways.
Photo: Gary Leonard
Can anyone just walk by a Thom Mayne building without stopping to stare and wonder? The Pritzker Prize-winning architect is respected as one of the world’s most aggressively original designers, and the Dr. Theodore Alexander, Jr. Science Center School illustrates why. Built in 2004, a steel-framed lattice addition is attached to the original 1926 cast concrete and brick armory structure. The two story, steel-framed addition contains 20 classrooms, and the main floor supports an 8,400 square-foot garden on its top deck. If you ever pass the intersection of Exposition Park Boulevard and Figueroa Street, you will see Mayne’s linear structure of gridded lattices, bridges and stair extensions pushing upward toward the intersection. The building challenges the eye the way science challenges the mind, inviting students indoors and observers outside to go forth into unexplored territory, always asking: Why? How? What next?
Sir Thomas More published the book Utopia in 1516 and simultaneously gave birth to the enduring quest for the perfect place to dwell. Yes, that’s an exaggeration. The concept of the ideal city far predates More. In antiquity, mighty capitals often were constructed to align with the stars: Machu Picchu, ancient Persepolis and Peru’s Cuzco. So how does Village Green fit into this grand lineage? It too, has utopian aspirations. When construction began in 1941, the former Baldwin Hills Village was one of the most ambitious urban planning projects of its day. The goal was to do the remarkable: balance the tensions between nature and development, privacy and community, individuality and interconnected living. Today. the gardens, parks and courtyards of the condominium complex provide an oasis of greenery and calm in the heart of L.A.’s metropolis, and in contrast to architecture that clamors for notice, the buildings of Village Green almost slide off the eye. Even better, the design minimizes visual evidence of cars — it’s as if the architects knew Angelenos would one day grow to depend on (and therefore to resent) automobiles. Critic Lewis Mumford once said of the neighborhood, “Here every part of the design speaks the same robust vernacular: simple, direct, intelligible.” We couldn’t have said it better.
Hirsz, Aaron, Szmul and Itzhak Wonskolaser – better known in Hollywood as Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack Warner, or simply, the Warner Brothers, catapulted the film world out of the silent movie era into the talkies with The Jazz Singer. One of the Warners’ lasting gifts to Los Angeles, however, is not on film, but on the walls of the grand and graceful Wilshire Boulevard Temple. The Temple, erected in 1929, is masterpiece inside and out. This photograph shows the building as it is most familiar to passersby, with its beautiful Byzantine dome. Inside is another artistic glory. Commissioned by Warner Bros. studio head Jack Warner and painted by artist Hugo Ballins, murals depicting the journey of Jewish people from biblical times to their arrival in the United States, ring the sanctuary. Such depictions, even in a reform temple, were rare at the time, due to a strict interpretation of the Second Commandment’s prohibition against graven idols. Currently, the building, including the murals, is under renovation with an expected completion date some time next year. After that, the Warner Memorial Murals, 320-foot long and 7-foot tall, will once again be on view — a spiritual silent movie telling the story of a people.
The 20 years between 1860 and 1880 were transformative for Los Angeles. The city’s Wild West character was rapidly evolving – civilizing, if you will. The population swelled from 4,400 to 11,000 people; L.A. was connected to San Francisco by railroad in 1876, and four years later the University of Southern California was founded. Stately Widney Hall, now Widney Alumni House, was the newborn institution’s only building, accommodating 53 students and 10 faculty members. For many Angelinos (except maybe Bruins fans) the building is almost as iconic as Tommy Trojan, and over the decades, it has been remodeled, renovated and even relocated several times. Today USC enrolls about 37,000 students annually and has more international students than any university in the nation. Nonetheless, the school also has fostered vigorous community partnerships and programs that support and engage its neighborhood. The Widney’s graceful lines and simple design are a visual testament to USC’s commitment to Los Angeles and its own past, even as its vision is now focused on the future.
In the heart of the Crenshaw District sits lovely Leimert Park. Developed in the late 1920’s by real estate mogul Walter Leimert, the neighborhood was an example of cutting-edge urban planning. Walter Leimert’s other projects included Beverly Highlands in the Hollywood Hills, Sierra Park in Orange County, and Cambria Pines near Hearst Castle. Leimert Park’s quaint shopping district today is an arts Mecca — the hub of Los Angeles’ spoken word, jazz, blues, and poetry community and an important cultural center for the city’s African-American community. The entire Leimert Park neighborhood, however, spans 600 acres and was designed to be a self-contained community complete with a theater, shopping center, and town square. The residential areas are dominated by craftsman and colonial-style homes that sit on shady streets lined with giant Magnolias, Eucalyptus, Maple and Pine trees. Designed to promote pedestrian traffic, the community was laid out to take advantage of the main mode of transportation of the 1920s: the yellow trolleys of the Los Angeles streetcar system. The streetcars are long gone, but construction of the new Crenshaw-to-LAX light rail line is slated to begin next year, and once again, the train must stop in this iconic location.
Built in 1947, the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza was the first open-air mall in the nation. Originally called the Broadway-Crenshaw Center, the mall was a 550,000-square-foot retail wonder. Anchored by The Broadway and May Company stores, it was also home to that fixture of the American marketplace: a Woolworth five and dime. (Woolworth had distinguished itself decades earlier by becoming one of the first American retailers to let shoppers handle wares without the help of a sales clerk. Also, its famed lunch counters, in some respects, were the precursors to the modern food court). The photograph here has been altered – a palm tree originally blocked the view of The Broadway. We thought it worthwhile, however, to capture the feel of the original mall and offer a glimpse of what would be unthinkable today: 13 acres of parking. The magic of the mall, however, was not just its size and retail offerings. It was and still is the gathering place for a community. It was redesigned, expanded, and enclosed in the 1980s, and purchased by Capri Capital Partners of Chicago in 2006. Capri has given it a $35 million-makeover, with new shops, a new movie theater, and new restaurants — most notably, the upscale Post & Beam. With glowing reviews and an already ardent following, the new dining spot bids fair to build on the tradition established by its predecessor, the popular Golden Bird restaurant. When the new Crenshaw-to-LAX light-rail line begins service to the mall, there really will be no stopping the resurgence of this iconic city meeting place.
Photo: Candice C. Montgomery
Bullocks Wilshire Department Store opened its doors on September 26, 1929, and instantly set a new standard for opulence. Never had Los Angeles, or the rest of the country for that matter, seen a store whose stylish exterior so perfectly matched the luxurious shopping experience indoors. With its 241-foot copper-topped tower, terracotta tiles and decorative copper panels, the five-story Art Deco building was an instant L.A. landmark. The interior was equally elegant, with marble walls, travertine floors and a Herman Sachs ceiling mural that paid homage to transportation, with images of steam trains, ocean liners, planes and giant blimps. The ambience was one of restrained gentility: the store featured live mannequins, and sales clerks wrote slips by hand to minimize noise. Strategically located three miles from downtown – far enough then to be considered suburban but close enough to wealthy Hancock Park – Bullocks catered to Hollywood. Katherine Hepburn was said to have bought her men’s trousers there –as were Cary Grant and Clark Gable. For six decades the store reigned over its stretch of Wilshire Boulevard, finally closing its doors in 1993. A year later, Southwestern Law School purchased the building and invested $29 million in a terrific restoration and renovation. It now houses a law library and other accoutrements of its academic mission. Although the building has been repurposed, we love Southwestern Law School’s Bullocks Wilshire. Los Angeles has lost irreplaceable architectural gems in past years, and it’s wonderful to see Bullocks Wilshire still thriving. No, a modern-day Mae West can’t pull up out front and have clothes brought to her car as the legendary movie star did, but 83 years after it first opened, Bullocks Wilshire is still going strong.
Hidden in plain sight, on a tree-lined street in Baldwin Hills, is what could be the oldest building in Los Angeles: an adobe building dating from the late 1700s. Archival materials date the Sanchez Adobe, located on Don Felipe Drive, to as early as 1791, meaning the South Los Angeles building likely surpasses the Avila Adobe on Olvera Street, the city’s acknowledged title holder, by 20 years of age. We say “hidden in plain sight,” because it has long been known that the Sanchez Adobe, is centuries old. Recently, however, its current owners, the Consolidated Board of Realtists, spearheaded research into the adobe’s past, and a closer look at the building hinted at its record-holding status. Little about the building calls the eye in way of decoration or adornment. The Sanchez Adobe is a plain, somewhat weather-beaten structure with numerous additions and alterations. But its history is romantic as one could wish, with residence or ownership by a colorful cast of characters and organizations that truly evokes the Los Angeles’ Wild West, multi-ethnic layers of history. It has been home to Mexican dons and Anglo entrepreneurs. Once the residence of Vicente Sanchez, the adobe later belonged to Irish-American businessman Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin. Now it belongs to an organization of African-American real estate professionals. (Incidentally, it was Paul Williams, one of L.A.’s most noted architects, who urged the Realtists to purchase the building). Freed African slaves worked there after the Civil War, as did Chinese laborers – all brought by Baldwin to the property, according to the Realtists. After Baldwin’s ownership, the adobe passed to the Catholic church for a time, and later was home to a golf course and a women’s club, when the surrounding neighborhoods were mostly Anglo. Standing inside the adobe today and looking out over Los Angeles, one can only imagine the breathtaking sweep of hills and dells, the splendid solitude and wondrous views of earlier times. Like many Angelenos, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas had been to the Don Felipe Drive building many times but was unaware of its tremendous historic value and legacy. He recently toured the adobe with architectural preservationist Peyton Hall, of Historic Resources Group, to gain new perspectives on its hidden heritage. Hall, who wrote a report on the Avila Adobe in 1992, said he was shocked to learn of a building that likely predates that one. Many in his field, architects, historians and preservationists, have no idea the building even exists, he said, and a detailed study of the structure is the immediate next step toward establishing its place in L.A.’s architectural history. The Supervisor agreed. Sanchez Adobe is a building at once familiar and yet unknown, he said. “To think that right here in the Baldwin Hills is perhaps the city’s oldest building, is just wonderful. There is a tremendous story to tell here, and now our task is to tell it.”
Click here to read the Los Angeles Times Editorial published September 4, 2012.
There’s something about Los Angeles and cars. Even as public transit becomes an increasingly important and popular option for residents, there will always be something about L.A. and the role of the it’s car in its growth: the car grew with L.A., and L.A. grew with the car. Thus it is only fitting that we have the world’s most noteworthy shrine to the automobile, the Petersen Automotive Museum. Inside is a car-lover’s dream (classic cars, vintage cars, rare cars, and even television star cars: Adam West’s Batmobile is on permanent display). The outside of the Petersen, however, is what lands it on our list. The sleek, sharp fenders across the front make the whole building looks as if it could spring free of its foundation and zoom down Wilshire Boulevard. It is a fine example of classic modernism — or perhaps, modern classicism evoking neoclassical columns.The style is less literal than the Forum, but still a terrific modern riff off the Parthenon. Architect Scott Johnson, took the idiom of Roman Classicism and with one simple gesture, the addition of fins, repositioned the building. And how fitting that it sits in the Miracle Mile on Wilshire — a road designed at the turn of the 20th century to accommodate not the horse and foot traffic of the day, but the transportation methods of the future. The museum was founded in 1994 by Hot Rod and Motor Trend Publisher Robert E. Petersen, and is housed in what was once the old Ohrbach’s department store. In addition to hosting special exhibits and programs, it is a popular place for swanky receptions and — for truly hardcore automobiliphiles — weddings.
Even for those who’ve never gone inside, however, the Petersen is unforgettable. It powerfully captures the eye. Too often, repurposed and renovated buildings lose the integrity of their original structures, becoming a mishmash of times, eras, styles and egos. But here, Johnson’s slight tweak of the department store had marvelous results: it announced the building’s singular automotive purpose to all driving by, and gave Los Angeles another landmark.
Photo: Courtesy of Loyola High School Loyola High School by Dan Rosenfeld
Founded in 1865 as St. Vincent College, Loyola High School is the oldest educational institution in Southern California and possibly the oldest high school in California. Located two miles west of downtown Los Angeles, the private all-male, Catholic high school sits on 15-acres in the Harvard Heights neighborhood. Designed by Albert C. Martin, Loyola’s beautiful buildings are in a style called Collegiate Gothic — an architectural tradition more commonly found on Ivy League campuses. Yale and Princeton universities, for example, yearned to exude the ancient, slightly weather-beaten and look of, say, Oxford and Cambridge universities, and therefore were built to look old, or rather, pedigreed. At Yale, architectural Anglophilia was taken to an extreme, and newly-built stone buildings were given broken windows and reportedly were doused with acid to add a patina of ancient heritage. Loyola’s grace is not contrived, deriving its beauty from stained glass windows, slender columns, free-standing sculptures, entrances with vaulted ceilings, and gabled rooftops accented by spires, pinnacles, and finials. For more than 140 years, the school has inculcated values of stewardship and community in the young men, and the school is renown for its diversity, admitting students from more than 225 zip codes across Los Angeles County. Located in close proximity to Hollywood, Loyola has appeared in a number of films, including: Coach Carter (2005), Donnie Darko, (2001), Fat Albert, (2004), and Thank You For Smoking (2005). A.C. Martin’s contributions to Southern California extended beyond Loyola. His firm worked on Los Angeles City Hall, the downtown Department of Water and Power building and many other local landmarks; it is still owned and managed by his direct descendents.
Photo: Courtesy of Eric Staudenmaier. (www.ericstaudenmaier.com)
Photo: Courtesy of Compton City Hall
Photo: Courtesy of John Paul ‘Boomer’ / discoverlosangeles.com & Gail Parker / John C. Argue Swim Stadium