Episode #120: Boyle Heights Blossoming: Everything’s Different at Ray & Roy’s Market


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Join us this month for an episode dedicated to the vibrant, historic and soulful neighborhood of Boyle Heights, centered on the southeast corner of 4th Street and Camulos. We’ll talk with Yolanda Diaz, who recently purchased Ray & Roy’s Market, which was founded by a Japanese father and son after internment. Yolanda has a fresh new vision for this community hub, which includes inviting 15-year-old Isabel Peinado to create an ambitious, hand-painted mural about female empowerment on the market’s long west wall. What won’t change? The vintage walk-in freezer, which famously serves the coldest beer in Boyle Heights!

We’ll also discuss: the pending revival of Angels Flight Railway, East L.A. roadside attraction The Tamale back on the market, Downey’s neglected band-owned Rives Mansion to be sold, the rededication of Victory Memorial Grove in Elysian Park, concerns about Onni Group’s out-of-scale Afton & Vine project, another suspicious fire on the historic southern campus of Rancho Los Amigos, the awful new Bringing Back Broadway-funded LED lighting scheme on the Bradbury Building and Los Angeles Magazine only tells part of the story about the troubled Gage Mansion in Bell Gardens.

Introducing The Cranky Preservationist, who loves Los Angeles and HATES what you’re doing to it. Catch all the rants on Facebook or YouTube and RSVP to attend his LAVA Sunday Salon in search of lost Art Deco.

Angels Flight is coming back, and soon will have a tall, shiny neighbor. But how will the new tower treat the past?

Back on the market: the world’s biggest tamale, delighting travelers along East L.A.’s Whittier Boulevard for nearly a century.

Victory Memorial Grove: after a lot of elbow grease, a neglected corner of Elysian Park is once more a place of honor and reflection.

Afton & Vine: Hollywood development aims to move historic bungalows around like pawns on a chessboard, demolish 1930 Deco market.

Downey finally does something to protect its National Register Rives Mansion, which badly needs an owner who cares. It will be listed for sale shortly.

More suspicious fires at Rancho Los Amigos. We’re as sad to lose historic buildings as we are that our homeless neighbors aren’t housed in them.

Los Angeles Magazine takes a look at the Gage Mansion preservation problem, but fails to cover all the drama of our ongoing public access battle. We have been visiting, and more recently being denied access to visit, the Gage Mansion for the past decade on our twice-yearly South Los Angeles Road Trip tour. The preservation and public access problems are even more dramatic than this piece suggests, and it’s important to note that, while surrounded by private property, the historic house is held in the public trust. To get the scoop, join us on the bus in February

The awful new Bringing Back Broadway-funded LED lighting scheme on the Bradbury Building facade. (Corner view. Third Street view.)

Bullwinkle J. Moose lets it all hang out on the Sunset Strip

Once upon a time, in a sillier city, Jay Ward thought it would be fun to open a store at 8200 Sunset Boulevard, next to his animation studio at the eastern terminus of the Sunset Strip.

From 1972 through 2004, Dudley Do-Right’s Emporium was the place the find oddball items in the likeness of such timeless cartoon characters as Superchicken, Boris and Natasha, Snidely, Nell, George of the Jungle, Shep, Ape and Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Was it really a retail shop, or an elaborate, conceptual advertisement for Jay Ward’s animation services? When I lived half a block down on Havenhurst in the early 1990s, it was exceedingly rare to see an “open” sign in the window. And even in 1972, Jay Ward’s son Ron admitted to the L.A. Times that “we all like to take off early sometimes and go to the racetrack.”

Even before opening the store, Ward took advantage of his studio’s prime location along one of the world’s great advertising boulevards. The wonderful, and only recently removed, 14’ statue of Bullwinkle and Rocky parodied a long-forgotten Sahara Casino Hotel showgirl sign.

And then there was Jay Ward’s own low-rise billboard.

At first, Ward used the sign to poke fun at a competitor: a familiar, if moose-horned, rodent with the text “Mickey Mouse Wears A Bullwinkle Wristwatch.”

Tired of litigation threats, in summer 1972 the billboard was changed to parody Burt Reynolds’ April Cosmopolitan centerfold, a taboo busting, and career making, image that presaged a whole genre of exhibitionist celebrity nudeniks.

And now, in its only internet appearance, you can see this rare, delightful and rarely photographed artifact of Sunset Strip advertising culture. Just like Burt, but twice as hairy, Bullwinkle J. Moose is confidently sprawled across a bearskin rug with a chunky glass ashtray conveniently close, should anyone require a post-coital puff. “Eat Your Heart Out Burt Reynolds!” says the moose. If he ever saw this amazing thing, I bet he did.

Now here comes the mystery: this photograph was discovered loose in a largely uncatalogued collection of Los Angeles-related images at UCLA Special Collections. A handwritten, penciled notation on back identifies the location (legible), date of 11/72 (legible) and the photographer (not legible).

Is it Eudra Bohew? Eadie Bohein? There is a pair of tickets on the regularly scheduled Esotouric bus adventure of your choice for the first person who correctly identifies the artist. Update July 27: reader Lisa Lazoff has deciphered the name on the back of the photo as that of screenwriter-producer Endre Bohem. Congrats, Lisa, and see you on the bus!

Thelma Todd’s Beach Cafe is ready for its autopsy

Hello there, lover of old Los Angeles and the colorful places where grim fate sets its traps. Have you wondered what’s doing with Thelma Todd’s Beach Cafe, recently sold for a lowball $6 Million and its future uncertain? We sure have.

We stopped by this week, and found the old gal stripped to the studs, with a crew on the roof putting down a new crop of red Spanish tiles. Banners on the facade advertise Creative Office + Ocean Views +/- 15,000 RSF. Interested? Call CBRE (310) 550-2639.

Happily, the vintage details that we know from past visits with longtime in-house curator, Father Frank Desiderio of Paulist Productions, appear mostly intact, from the rusted iron gates to the gay tiled arch to the yellow glass paneled doors that led into Joya’s, the mobbed-up nightclub on the second floor.

This bodes well for a respectful revamp of this lovely landmark, which is unprotected by any historic preservation ordinance. But any savvy developer knows these jazz age relics are priceless.

Here’s how she looked on a muggy morning, stripped to her bones for perhaps the first time since the Castellammare development was carved into the shaky hillside, almost a hundred years ago. She’s a beautiful thing with a lot of life left in her, even though there’s no place to park.

Will an illuminated Marciano Art Foundation sign be allowed on Millard Sheets’ Masonic Temple?

File under: when a “landmark” isn’t actually landmarked, property owners can make some pretty big changes.

Last month, we blogged about the newly opened Marciano Art Foundation, which has radically transformed the interior of Millard Sheets’ Scottish Rite Temple on Wilshire Boulevard.

Because the building was never made a protected Historic-Cultural Monument, there were essentially no restrictions on the changes that could be made to the building. But with the exception of some regrettably removed decorative lettering on the west facade, the magnificent exterior is largely as Sheets intended it.

Maybe not for long, though. This morning, our pal Joseph Hilliard spotted a notice of public hearing taped to the base of one of the huge braziers on the Wilshire side: the Marcianos are seeking approval to install a 16 square foot illuminated sign on Wilshire, as well as a 1.5 square foot unlit sign on Lucerne.

According to the posted notice, the matter was discussed yesterday afternoon at a meeting of the Los Angeles Planning Department, and it’s unclear if any decisions were made there. If you’re interested in the architectural integrity of Millard Sheets’ great temple, keep an eye on DIR-2017-2270-DRB in the city’s workflow. And if you’ve been meaning to photograph the grand old pile, get cracking.

Touring CalEdison, the Art Deco landmark formerly known as One Bunker Hill

Welcome to the fifth in a series of 3-D explorable tours of historic Los Angeles spaces, created by Craig Sauer using cutting-edge Matterport technology. And what cooler space to explore than the lobby of the newly rebranded CalEdison, an Art Deco masterpiece that was L.A.’s first air conditioned, seismically safe tower?

Photo: Julius Shulman, October 1980 (Library of Congress)

You might know the building as One Bunker Hill, a name given it in 1972, when Edison moved its offices to Rosemead and sold its namesake tower. Hopes were still high that the Bunker Hill Redevelopment Plan would yield a thriving, live-work community where young professionals contributed to the tax base 24/7.

It didn’t exactly work out that way—a heartbreaking tale of scorched earth public policy hubris documented in Gordon Pattison’s family story and on the On Bunker Hill blog— but in seeking to make the aging, low rent building more appealing to new tenants like the US Postal Service, ceilings were dropped, old fashioned spaces reconfigured, and the long, open patios enclosed with glass. And so it remained, for four decades.

Today, under new, preservation-focused owners Rising Realty Partners, these insensitive upper floor additions are being peeled away and the building marketed to creative tenants who appreciate its machine age aesthetics and are keen on downtown. It only took two generations!

But the grand T-shaped lobby was never “updated,” and it’s this extraordinary space you can explore through Craig Sauer’s 3-D photography.

Craig Sauer shooting CalEdison

But first, a little history: In 1931, Southern California Edison’s opulent Art Deco corporate headquarters was erected at the foot of Bunker Hill, on a prime 175’ x 175’ corner site kitty corner to the Biltmore Hotel (Schultze and Weaver, 1923) and opposite Central Library (Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, 1926).

Architects Allison and Allison designed the 12-story height limit tower with its bold, geometric stepped facade and cutting edge mechanical innovations. P.J. Walker Co. built it. Constructed at a cost of $2,500,000 and boasting 250,000 square feet of office space, its all-steel frame was meant to withstand fire, hurricane force winds or the most powerful recorded earthquakes. And when the devastating 6.4 Long Beach temblor struck on March 10, 1933, the Edison Building just shrugged.

That unshakable frame was beautifully wrapped in sober granite and terracotta facing, with a rainbow of stone finishes within. The exterior rotunda’s relief sculptures representing the “Generation,” “Distribution” and “Utilization” of electricity are by Merrell Gage. The central lobby mural, “Power,” is by Hugo Ballin, with Conrad Buff and Barse Miller gracefully handling the narrow frieze paintings above the elevators, also on an electrical theme.

Elevator frieze by Conrad Buff

As befit a tower housing a modern electrical utility, the ventilation systems were powered, with windows that opened and closed automatically to control internal temperature. And today, the building is newly LEED certified. Also, fans of Los Angeles literature will note that the prime corner site was declared John Fante Square a few years back (reader, we nominated it).

But enough background: the lovely lobby awaits your exploration. Click here to begin.

Take your time and zoom at will, noting the ultra-high resolution of the newest Matterport camera. [To make your virtual tour a little more exciting, the first person to find the Esotouric flier and email a description of its location to us will win a free seat on any of our regularly scheduled tours between now and September 30, 2017. Happy hunting! – update: congrats to Paul T., who first found the flier.]

If you enjoy Craig’s CalEdison tour, we also recommend our previous collaborations: Angels Flight Railway, The Dutch Chocolate Shop, Barclay Hotel and a folk art tunnel along the Los Angeles River. What will be the next Los Angeles landmark to get the 3-D treatment? All we can say is, it’s a doozy, so stay tuned!

A LAVA tour of Downtown L.A.’s Subway Terminal and Tunnel

 

 

Subway Terminal tunnel on LAVA tour June 2017 by Kemal Cilengir

                                                                                                                                       photo by Kemal Cilengir

Yesterday’s free (with RSVP) LAVA Sunday Salon and walking tour focused on the holy grail of Los Angeles mass transit history: the sealed-off streetcar station and tunnel located beneath the Subway Terminal Building.

How eager are Angelenos to see this storied space? The waiting list was a thousand names long! For those who couldn’t join us on this time travel trip, below you’ll find some photos to tell this complex and fascinating tale.

We began our LAVA Sunday Salon program in the basement of Grand Central Market where downtown historian Nathan Marsak (nice tie!) let us know what to look for in the Subway Terminal, and our own Richard Schave explained how the Bonaventure Hotel footings severed the tunnel in 1976. Plus, Bunker Hill native son Gordon Pattison previewed his July 30 Sunday Salon talk about his lost Victorian neighborhood and the short-lived Second Street Cable Car Rail Road.

Then, after strapping on headlamps and double-knotting boots, our well-prepared and somewhat giddy group made the short walk down Hill Street to the Subway Terminal Building for a rare tour of the historic passenger concourse, train platform, offices and yes, that remarkable decommissioned tunnel, complete with a growing collection of stalactites and stalagmites! We’re grateful to our gracious hosts at Metro 417 for welcoming us into the Los Angeles landmark beneath their apartment tower.

Will there be another Subway tunnel tour? Only time, and the LAVA newsletter, will tell.

Happy, dusty explorers emerge into the light – Photo: J. Scott Smith – see more