Episode #132: Illuminating Los Angeles: Elmore Leonard & The Triforium



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Join us this month as we visit with Gregg Sutter, who for 33 years was the researcher and assistant to writer Elmore Leonard, to learn about the motivations behind the new Esotouric bus adventure, Elmore Leonard in Hollywood.

We’ll also talk with Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans (members of the band Yacht), Tom Carroll (Tom Explores Los Angeles), Carmen Zella (creative director of Now Art LA) and legacy systems software engineer Doug Dunn, about their long, shared road to restore and reactivate The Triforium, Joseph Young’s polyphonoptic 6-story interactive multimedia installation, dedicated in 1975 at Fletcher Bowron Square in the heart of the Los Angeles Civic Center.

Plus a reprieve for the endangered Pickle Works, re:code LA goes rogue and long, a stealthy announcement for the Civic Center Design Guidelines public meeting, the tragic demolition of Parker Center begins, Wilshire Boulevard Temple gets a tilted neighbor, celebrating the bicentennial of Redlands’ zanja irrigation system, city to open a women’s shelter in Julia Morgan’s Hollywood Studio Club, demo permit sought for landmarked Lytton Savings, Bob Wolfe’s California voter guide, newly landmarked CBS Television City sold and classic comedy lover Chris Bungo spreads the word about Councilman Paul Koretz’ campaign to save the Our Gang house on Motor Avenue.

So stay tuned.

URLs for Interviews

LAVA Sunday Salon: Preservation in L.A.’s Civic Center – Joseph Young’s Triforium & Topographic Map & Richard Neutra’s Hall of Records (October 2017) – video link

Elmore Leonard in Hollywood Bus Tour (debuts November 10)

Triforium Project website

Now Art LA Triforium page

Curbed L.A. reports on activating the Triforum

Friday’s Triforium concert (ticket link)

Upcoming Events

Forensic Science Seminar: Arson & After

Closely Watched Trains

The Pickle Works is saved!

Re:code LA update: 948 Pages of Power Grab – City Planning Commission hearing

There is no official URL for the Civic Center Design Guidelines Public Meeting happening November 8th at 6:00pm (project link, meeting notice image, take the survey)

A long goodbye for a very fine building: Parker Center, deconstructed. Los Angeles, you shouldn’t have!

OMA-Designed expansion to break ground at Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Redlands’ zanja irrigation system turns 200 with tours coming in March

Women’s homeless shelter to open in 1920s Hollywood landmark designed by Julia Morgan

Townscape Partners files papers seeking to demolish the Historic-Cultural Monument Lytton Savings. They didn’t even have the class to offer the community an opportunity to move it somewhere else, or at least salvage the art, stained glass and other valuable elements.

Our friend Bob Wolfe, who drafted the brief that helped knock the destructive Proposition #9 (splitting California in 3) off the ballot, weighs in with a very detailed California voter guide.

File under: this is why we landmark. CBS Television City reportedly selling to Hackman Capital for over $700M. But this Pereira (previously) in Peril is partially protected by its recently obtained HCM status.

Help save the Our Gang Tabor House on Motor Avenue: send an email to Councilman Paul Koretz, who nominated the demolition-threatened charmer for protected landmark status. We did!



Pickle Works Locked Up and Condemned to Die by Carlton Davis

This is a guest post by Carlton Davis, who was the proprietor of The Art Dock drive-in gallery in the historic Pickle Works building in Downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District in the 1980s. We interviewed Carlton about this extraordinary, endangered landmark in 2013 for Episode #18 of our podcast You Can’t Eat The Sunshine: Peeling Back The Layers of The Arts District.

What a tragedy that the City of Los Angeles is actively erasing the history and culture of the Arts District, a neighborhood that no longer supports working artists, while capitalizing on their reputation. God save the Pickle Works! The final decision on its fate will be made at the Regular Metro Board of Directors Meeting on Thursday, October 25.

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Art Dock and Doorways, Citizens Warehouse aka Pickle Works, Los Angeles, CA, August, 2018

Steel bars, angles, and heavy mesh imprison the Art Dock, all the ground floor openings, and doorways of the Citizens Warehouse. No trespassing signs declare violators will be prosecuted for parking on the street. The once vibrant artist residences and studios are vacant and have been since the city of Los Angeles purchased the building in 2000 for construction of the Gold Line light rail extension into East LA. A 60-foot section of the old warehouse next to the First Street Bridge was demolished for construction staging. The destruction was needless. In October 2018, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) eagerly awaits planning permission to demolish what remains of this 1880s brick warehouse with its hand-hewn redwood columns and beams, oak plank floors, and pickle vats in the basement. The Division 20 Environmental Impact Study (DEIR) declared it necessary. This is after MTA’s promises to preserve the building; after passionate historic preservationists’ and art community leaders’ requests that the Citizens Warehouse be saved.

The MTA lied for almost 18 years about its intentions. It made promises to save the building. Community pressure caused LA City’s engineering department to “restore” the south end of the building, which they had left as a plywood-covered eyesore, as a supposedly good faith effort to save the historic structure, which is one of the few, if not the only remaining, brick warehouses dating from the 19th Century, and a significant remnant of the flourishing art community in downtown Los Angeles from the late 1970s to 2000. The Potemkin Village reality that hid the true intentions of the city’s transportation planners is obvious from what was ultimately created on the south end of the structure. The wall was given a plaster veneer, and bolted to the wall were sheet metal images of windows with shutters flanking and flower boxes below included part of the imagery. The phony windows became curled and bent from the sun because of the shoddy method of their installation. The few bolts attaching the painted sheet metal resulted in a strange tableau of twisted metal like crushed pieces of chewing gum slapped to the façade. It is comical, but revealing.

The proclivity of Los Angeles development is to disregard the past as impeding process to the future. While mass transit is desperately needed in a city choked with traffic, it too often comes with the price of bulldozing the city’s existing context. This is nothing new. The fate of the Citizens Warehouse follows the honored stance of development over everything else. Now locked up inside steel bars the empty building seems haunted by the ghosts of wild spirits it once held. The warehouse/pickle works is condemned to death for being too full of creative energy. Once an important element of a burgeoning art community, the lost lofts become a metaphor for the lose of the art community in the Los Angeles Arts District. A neighborhood of rambunctious energy turns into a tame zone of cell phone-preoccupied and latte-sipping crowds of wannabes.

Designated the Arts District by the city, the area east of Alameda celebrated and declared Los Angeles’ rise to be a world class center of multi-faceted culture. More than just a cinema capital, LA matures into an art Mecca rivaling New York, London, and Paris. The Arts District, however, is no longer a realization of art’s importance in LA; it is a very profitable real estate venture. The district has become a developer’s dream. Cheaper land close to the government and business centers of the metropolis invited capital investment in new apartment buildings replacing the low density lofts. A few lofts remain, but the square foot cost rose from 12 cents paid in 1980 to an estimated 2 dollars or more currently. Artists can no longer afford to live in the Arts District. Many of the loft warehouses have morphed into restaurants and chic shops. Others warehouses have been demolished or soon will be. This is the fate of the Citizens Warehouse. The change is inevitable.

In New York City, what was once a viable loft scene, affordable live/work spaces have become the habitats of the rich. Soho has galleries and fancy restaurants, but not many working artists. Galleries pander to the acquisitive desires of the well-off who can afford the rents. Artists have dispersed into other boroughs and cities. In Los Angeles, artists scattered to other neighborhoods. The Arts District became attractive. Where there once few restaurants, the area has some pretty expensive eateries. Internationally renowned gallery Hauser & Wirth established itself on Third Street in the heart of the Arts District. It is the punctuation mark on the change that is and will become the icon of another reality about art zones. It’s all about money and who gets it. Except for a few, most artists don’t get the money, but many artists attract the money to where they were. Culture evolves from creativity to financial gain.

The Art Dock installations in the 1980s. Karen Kristin’s Wolf at the Door (above) and Drew Lesso’s and Neal Taylor’s Pile of Leaves in the dock and coal in the street (below)

A Virtual 3-D Tour of Mitchell Caverns, Southern California’s Only Show Cave

Welcome to the tenth in a series of 3-D explorable tours of off-the-beaten-path Southern California spaces, created by Craig Sauer of Reality Capture Experts using cutting-edge Matterport technology.

We’re passionate about all of these virtual tours, but this one is pretty special: seven months in the making, comprising the largest, most ancient, most collaborative and most geographically remote scan in the series. (It also comes sprinkled with a smattering of mystical fairy dust.)

There we were, celebrating Kim’s birthday with a private guided tour of the newly-reopened Mitchell Caverns show cave, high in the Providence Mountains near the Arizona border.

Dedicated State Parks ranger/interpreter Andy Fitzpatrick unlocked the gates and took us on a trip back and forward in time, from the limestone cave’s violent geological prehistory, its fossil deposits, ritual use by the native Shoshone people, reinvention as a Route 66 roadside attraction, vandalism by Oliver Stone’s The Doors crew and amateur jackasses, then down into the dust by the side of the pathway to dig the miniature current inhabitants (Niptus beetles and pseudoscorpions).

He even turned out all the newly installed LED spotlights, allowing us a moment in the complete darkness at the center of the earth, then switched on a black light to reveal delicate streams of bat urine on the cave walls. It’s quite the “gross… but cool!” show stopper that nicely echoes the showmanship of the roadside attraction era.

There’s nothing we enjoy more than exploring a completely unique environment with someone who knows and loves it intimately, and you can hear Andy talk about these amazing caverns in episode 126 of our podcast, You Can’t Eat The Sunshine.

And to learn more about the wacky, bush wacking roadside attraction days, check out the posthumously published Keepers of the Caves: A True Account of Twenty Years of Modern Pioneering by Jack Mitchell, a weird and wonderful tale of an iconoclast and his incredibly tolerant wife in Depression-era Southern California.

Like all good roadside attractions, the Mitchell place had a novelty building, a nifty stone hut meant to suggest an igloo, and traditionally offered to honeymooning guests.

The sonic qualities of the curved interior are said to be… amusing. Take a virtual tour of the space here.

That evening at the caverns, as the sun slipped behind the mountain and the wide desert plain and historic stone houses purpled, Richard had an idea. “Hey, Andy–do you think our friend Craig could do a 3-D scan of the cave?” And as is Richard’s way, he was already phoning Craig before Andy had a chance to reply. And this is where the fairy dust sparkled.

As Craig tells it, “The morning before Richard called me (from the Caverns!) I had been taking with my barber about the especially cool places I’ve scanned, including JK’s Tunnel and Jergins Tunnel. When I got home, I sat down at my computer and Googled ‘Southern California caves’ and up popped Mitchell Caverns, which I had not heard about before. I learned that they had recently been reopened and thought how amazing it would be to get access to them. But then I saw how far away it was and how unlikely it would be for me to convince someone there to let me scan it. Not one hour later, I got the call from you and Richard, standing there with Andy!”

Apparently, whatever happy spirits inhabit Mitchell Caverns are eager to spread the word.

It took a little fiddling to get approval from the state and coordinate a block of scanning time, but soon the project was a go. Craig’s colleague Michael Asgian joined him in creating the digital file, each starting from one end of the caverns. In addition to the speedy Matterport camera, they used the new Leica BLK 360 camera, which records 3D data with a laser scanner, and better captures the vast open spaces in the caves, as well as the sunny entrances.

While the public can once again book a tour of Mitchell Caverns, the remoteness of the site and limited capacity makes it a difficult place to explore. But thanks to new 3-D scanning technology and a lucky collision of interested people, you can virtually visit at your convenience.

Just click the cave entrance below and prepare to be humbled by the awesome power of water, wind and time. Along the way, you’ll find some pop-up windows, offering information about some of the curious creatures who have been captured by the trail cameras, notable mineral formations and stories from the caverns’ history.

The results are truly astonishing, and we’re thrilled to be able to share Mitchell Caverns with you.


Episode #131 : Happening at The Huntington: From Architectural Artifacts to Zen Buddhism

Chinatown Central Plaza: Y. C. Hong Law Office (Webster & Wilson, 1939)

Chinatown Central Plaza: Y. C. Hong Law Office (Webster & Wilson, 1939)

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Join us this month as we meet some of the interesting people working at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. We visit with Tsuha Roshi, an 86th generation Zen Master at the newly established Fusho Zen Institute, who uses music as a tool to help understand and realize human potential. We also talk with Erin Chase, assistant curator of architecture and photography at The Huntington, about her upcoming jewel box of an exhibition, Architects of a Golden Age: Highlights from The Huntington’s Southern California Architecture Collection, our November bus tour about the show, and the history of the collection, which parallels the rise of the historic preservation movement.

We’ll also discuss unexpected threats to historic rent-controlled buildings under L.A.’s new transit density policy, Alhambra’s Fosselman’s Ice Cream Parlor gets a new look for the company’s centennial, Alan Hess advocates for William Pereira’s Chandler Wing at Times Mirror Square and our landmark nomination for Times Mirror Square wins a unanimous yes vote from the Cultural Heritage Commission, Peter Adum’s new novel about pre-redevelopment San Pedro, our State Department invitation to speak with journalists from 20 nations about this podcast, change comes to Monterey Park’s Venice Room and an update on the Arts District’s derelict and endangered 19th century Pickle Works building.

So stay tuned!

URLS for Interviews & Upcoming Events

Fusho Zen Institute (upcoming events, Zen and Music)

Richard’s Birthday Bus for 2018

Exhibition: Architects of a Golden Age: Highlights from The Huntington’s Southern California Architecture Collection

Forensic Science Seminar: Arson & After

Closely Watched Trains

Are older rent-controlled buildings in trouble under LA’s new transit density policy?

Fall Exhibition: Architects of a Golden Age: Highlights from The Huntington’s Southern California Architecture Collection

Alhambra’s Fosselman’s Ice Cream to get new look for 100th birthday

Op-Ed: It’s time to recognize Pereira’s LA Times building

Landmark effort for Times Mirror Square breezes through cultural heritage commission

A New Day Yesterday by Peter Adum

Is this the end of the Venice Room as locals know it?

Pickle Works update (Division 20 Portal Widening & Turnback Facility Project Final EIR)

Group photo after our talk to the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles



Episode #130: Once Upon A Time At Times Mirror Square

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Join us this month as we talk with Harry Chandler about his family’s newspaper empire and our upcoming Historic Cultural Monument hearing seeking to landmark the Los Angeles Times compound. We also visit with Carolyn Strickler, who was company historian and manager of the Los Angeles Times History Center from 1979-1990, for a crash course in the personalities and powers of the postwar L.A. newspaper world.

We’ll also discuss the Tower Theatre’s new chapter as an Apple store, possible redevelopment of Langer’s Deli, a partner files suit to force a sale of the L.A. Weekly, new life for Chinatown’s Golden Pagoda / Hop Louie, a shakeup at the Gamble House, memorializing Parker Center on the eve of its likely demolition, City Controller observes L.A. has little to show for $1 Billion in developer tax incentives since 2005, In Skid Row SRO news The Baltimore Hotel is purchased and the King Edward’s stained glass is being restored, Tail o’ the Pup isn’t a museum piece after all, Los Angeles Times Globe Lobby emptied of historic resources ahead of landmark hearing, PLUM Committee rejects four recognized landmarks clearing the way for a huge Hollywood redevelopment project, renovation work visible at West Adams’ Fitzgerald House, ASU leases Julia Morgan’s Herald-Examiner Building, and “True Love / True Crime on an American Bus” receives the Special Jury Prize at the Sidewalk Film Festival.

So Stay Tuned!

Upcoming Events

Chester Turner Forensic Science Seminar

Closely Watched Trains

Derelict Tower Theatre on Broadway leased as an Apple store.

Troubling rumblings from Langer’s Square suggest the historic deli may not be around much longer, despite the owner’s attempt at positive spin.

Those of us who have been boycotting the L.A. Weekly suspected much of this, but this week’s lawsuit by one of the previously anonymous owners lifts a rock concealing a whole lot of sleaze. Legalized weed attracts such lovely people.

The spirits of old Chinatown are smiling: the Golden Pagoda / Hop Louie, closed since 2016, is coming back to life!

After 28 years, Gamble House director departs over unspecified “differences of approach” with USC.

Controller: L.A. has OK’d $1 Billion in tax incentives to developers since 2005. That assistance needs more scrutiny.

As demolition began pending a judge’s determination on preserving the building, our Richard Schave went on Take Two to talk about what made Welton Becket’s 1955 Parker Center such a progressive LAPD HQ. (interview starts at 40:00). See also, this history lesson.

As the half-empty Skid Row landmark Baltimore Hotel is purchased by the Healthy Housing Foundation and reactivated, come take a time travel trip through a site packed with weird history. The L.A. Times Bomber, Tiger Woman and Rolling Stones were here! (Across the street at the King Edward, the stained glass is being restored.)

When Tail o’ the Pup was donated to Valley Relics—a San Fernando Valley museum with no connection to the Hollywood landmark—we felt blue. Now 1933 Group has acquired the iconic storefront, and is looking for a place to install it. A little confused how it went to a non-profit, then to a business, but happy the Pup is coming back to town.

Los Angeles Times Globe Lobby emptied of historic resources ahead of landmark hearing.

The Cultural Heritage Commission determines which Los Angeles buildings merit preservation designation. City Council’s PLUM Committee (somewhat mysteriously) makes land use decisions. But last week, PLUM played judge, jury & executioner for four recognized landmarks, clearing the way for a huge Hollywood redevelopment project.

The Cranky Preservationist, who loves Los Angeles and HATES what you’re doing to it, returns! Episode 16: Fitzgerald House Blues, in which a wrecked West Adams landmark finally get shown a little love! (On YouTube and Facebook)

The short documentary about our L.A. history tours and preservation activism, “True Love / True Crime on an American Bus” (directed by Nicholas Coles) received the Special Jury Prize at the Sidewalk Film Festival! We hope to be able to invite folks to an L.A. screening soon.


The Baltimore Hotel, Empty No More


The Baltimore Hotel opened in 1910 with all good intentions, a first-class reinforced concrete, fireproof structure just across Fifth Street from John Parkinson’s handsome 1906 King Edward Hotel.

The owner-builder was T. Ashton Fry, and the architect Arthur Roland Kelly, whose later commissions include the William S. Hart estate and the Arthur Letts, Jr. estate (better known as the Playboy Mansion).

There were 215 rooms and apartments, and the style was said to be Spanish Colonial (we don’t see it). Today there are 202 rooms, but only 76 residents, which is a troubling statistic for a building that is legally bound to operate as low-income housing for decades to come. But as at the King Edward, tenancy declined precipitously since it was purchased out of bankruptcy in 2012. Neighborhood reporter JD Kelly (Universal Network News) documented the hotel’s habitability crisis, but the city just let it slide.

But that was then.

The Baltimore, like its neighbor King Edward and Charles Bukowski’s beloved Madison deeper East in Skid Row, has now been purchased by the Healthy Housing Foundation of AIDS Healthcare, and will soon be filled with formerly homeless and chronically ill Angelenos in need of a place to call home. In addition to housing people, and restoring decaying historic elements of these landmark buildings, HHF is trying to make a point: adaptive reuse of SRO hotel facilities is much cheaper and faster than building new ground up housing, and should be part of L.A. city’s and county’s policy for dealing with the homeless crisis. As preservationists who care about our homeless neighbors and fiscal responsibility, we think it’s an idea worth talking about.

To celebrate the purchase, The Baltimore will be open for tours today from 10:30am-12:30pm.

Here’s just a taste of her fascinating 108-year history:

When she opened, Angelenos called her the “New” Baltimore, to distinguish from the hotel’s original location at 7th & Olive. That was such a prime piece of downtown real estate that in 1907, the Los Angeles Athletic Club bought the turreted 1896 hotel for $450,000 with the intention of demolishing it; its new, million dollar clubhouse was erected on the site in 1912, and still stands.

The New Baltimore, a more modest establishment than the original, was completed by fall 1910. Among the first guests to check in was a union fellow from back east, just stopping briefly in Los Angeles to place a dynamite bomb against a wall of General Otis’ open shop Los Angeles Times. 21 people died. (Yes, we have a bus tour about it.)

And the Baltimore, which in its old digs had regularly featured in the society pages as a site for banquets and social shindigs, seems to have adopted a deliberately low profile, perhaps reasoning no press was better than “visit the New Baltimore, favorite stop of terrorist bombers.”

Civil War Musicians in a Memorial Day parade, Los Angeles Street, between 5th & 6th Streets, looking north, Los Angeles, ca.1915 (USC, California Historical Society Collection)

Upon completion, T. Ashton Fry had leased the hotel out to operators C.W. and E.E. Hatch. This arrangement immediately went south. In May 1911, Fry sued the Hatches in superior court for $8587 in unpaid rent, and $5000 in damages. In addition to stiffing Fry on rent, the Hatches had permitted contractor J.H. Proper (aka The Human Mole) to illegally excavate a west-leading tunnel beneath Werdin Alley, through which sewer, hot water and steam pipes were run between the Baltimore and the Conda and Renne hotels on South Main Street. Proper’s network of Downtown service tunnels, all dug in violation of city law, came to light when one connecting the Alexandria Hotel and Chester Williams Building caused a cave-in of Fifth Street.


Later managers avoided such controversy. But the world was changing fast, and the solid Beaux Arts travelers lodgings of 1910, with modest lobbies and simple accommodations, couldn’t compete for the travelers’ dollar with air conditioned, modern hotels, with their cocktail lounges, swimming pools and marketing budgets.

The hotel’s ads, when they bothered to run them, spotlighted the good food in the trendy, cafeteria-style dining room. Patrons liked visually confirming that their meals would be agreeable, and saving money on tips; these show-me lunchrooms became so popular that one wag nicknamed Los Angeles “Sunny Cafeteria.” But a good cafeteria wasn’t enough to bring in the tourist trade.

Downtown’s energies migrated westward. Fifth Street had once been the way into town for visitors arriving at the various train depots near the river, and grand East-facing rooftop and wall signs welcomed them. But when arrivals were consolidated at Union Station, The Nickel lost its luster.

In time, The Baltimore became a residency hotel, offering rooms by the week, weeks turning into years. And when the Rolling Stones made Los Angeles their base for portions of their 1970 American tour, Robert Frank brought them down to pre-redevelopment Skid Row to shoot some promotional film for the Exile on Main Street project (yes, it’s L.A.’s Main Street!) in which the Baltimore’s awning has a brief cameo above Charlie Watts’ shoulder.

Over on Main Street itself, a little logo inspiration was found at a dirty picture house.

But back to Baltimore and its 108 years at the center of the action. A spin through the newspaper archives reveals a house of sorrows and occasional flashes of mirth.

Christmas week, 1911: as oil driller Frank Miller attempts to slash the throat of his common law wife Josephine Swift on the sidewalk in front of the Baltimore—her teenage daughter wrestled the razor away—Marie Pinson, aged 18, is discovered semi-conscious and despondent in a 3rd floor restroom. She tells manager E. H. Hess that she’d run away from her home in Los Angeles intending to join a motion picture company, but had lost her $100 stake and couldn’t find work. Happily, Miss Pinson was only drunk and not poisoned.

July 1914: the hotel is the site of a weird, locked door mystery. Elwood Beaver, a Philadelphia railroad man on a cross-country tourist jaunt, checked in on a Sunday afternoon. He went to his room and was not seen again. The chambermaid knocked daily, but got no response. On Tuesday afternoon, concerned hotel staff broke his door down and discovered Beaver gasping on the floor, near death. The room was spattered with blood, and Beaver’s skull and arm were fractured. It would be reasonable to presume the visitor had been attacked, but nobody had heard a fight, and the room still contained Beaver’s cash, watch and other effects. After the dying man was carried away, detectives examined the scene and determined that Beaver had suffered a violent attack of tuberculosis, spraying blood and injuring himself while trying, in vain, to call for help.

September 1916: suffering from depression relating to the impact of the Great War on his numerous international investments, Canadian real estate and mine owner J. Anson Wheeler, 54, slipped away from his bride Isabelle in their apartment in the Bryson overlooking Westlake Park and spent nine days brooding in a room at the Baltimore. Then he checked out, for good. Detectives hired by Mrs. Wheeler conveyed the grim news that when Wheeler had shot himself in his hotel room, he had in his hand her newspaper photograph announcing their recent wedding, on which he had written “Darling wife, please forgive me.” He was buried at Monrovia, with the first Mrs. Wheeler.

July 1916: Miss Christine Buist, until recently Mrs. Dr. Horace Pierce of Santa Barbara, doggedly worked the Baltimore’s serpentine telephone exchange. She was the daughter of a millionaire, and her former husband’s people were rich, too. But her pride was such that she needed to earn her fare back home to New Jersey, and so had refused alimony from her estranged spouse and would not ask her family for help. The lady’s public complaints must have been particularly humiliating for the Pierce family; having failed to secure $100,000 in an alienation of affection suit against them, perhaps that was payment enough.

August 1922: When she checked in under a pseudonym to rest up from an exhausting day, she was a nobody. But soon Clara Phillips was the notorious Tiger Woman, on the lam after crushing the skull of her husband’s mistress with a hammer. That no-account husband parked Clara “Jackson” at the Baltimore while scheming how to get her out of town, and his hair. When asked later about her stay, Clara claimed to have suffered absolute amnesia from the moment of the murder—which she blamed on her pal Peggy Caffee—to when she woke up in her room. There’s another marketing line never used: “The Baltimore Hotel: You’ll Sleep Like A Baby, No Matter What You’ve Done.”

Let’s leave the Baltimore’s back pages with a sweeter sort of tale. In 1971 and again in 1972, the great Los Angeles Times columnist Jack Smith wrote about his friends Bill and Maggi Bender, the hotel’s managers who lived on the 6th floor with their pet iguana, Heathcliff. The Benders “prefer an iguana to a dog because an iguana requires more imagination, which is why they prefer old radio to contemporary television.” The couple, young actors who loved their colorful neighborhood, were hardcore collectors of old time radio air check tapes, and welcomed friends like Smith to sit for hours in the heart of Skid Row, eyes closed and listening to golden age recordings of Jack Benny, The Green Hornet, Lum n’ Aber, Fred Allen and scores more.

The Benders were special people, as Smith observed. Where business interests saw a slum worth wrecking filled with dirty, useless people, the Benders saw a great place to call home, packed with interesting architecture and colorful characters, like Porno Bill who ran the bookstore and Frank the hallelujah man. And Dodger Stadium and the Music Center were each only 12 minutes away (“we saw ‘Man of La Mancha four times!'”).

Time has a way of flickering in and out of focus at the corner of Fifth and Los Angeles Streets, and bringing interesting people into port. Why not come by some time and see what the Baltimore has in store for you? Here are some of the gems you might see.

Episode #129: Preserving Dynastic Los Angeles County Landmarks in the 21st Century: The Chandlers’ Times Mirror Square & The Bixbys’ Rancho Los Cerritos

Atrium Pereira Times-Mirror HQ

Atrium Pereira Times-Mirror HQ

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Join us this month as we talk with architect and historian Alan Hess about the ongoing Pereira in Peril campaign and our work together seeking to landmark Times Mirror Square, which from 1935 until just last month was headquarters of the Los Angeles Times. We’ll also talk with Alison Bruesehoff, director of Rancho Los Cerritos in Bixby Knolls, Long Beach, joined by her colleagues Tessa Cavenah (Annual Fund Manager) and Sarah Fitzgerald (Historical Curator), to learn about their recently launched “Open Doors” campaign. This campaign aims to raise six million dollars over the next three years to increase public access to the historic 1844 adobe home and gardens; present new exhibits; preserve archives; and raise additional support for educational programs that weave history, social sciences, arts, and STEM-focused initiatives for the 6000+ students it serves every year.

We’ll also discuss how Times Mirror Square landmarking nomination clears first hurdle, new plans for Downtown streetcar see costs rise to $300 Million, the ugly forced closure of historic Ports O’ Call Restaurant has taken a tragic turn, proposal for West Hollywood hotel project would obliterate Route 66 roadhouse Barney’s Beanery, the “preservation settlement” with The Committee to Defend Roosevelt High and Councilman Gil Cedillo is a demolition, Hollywood’s Silent Movie Theater gets a remodel, “Peace on Earth” sculpture is moved as part of Music Center Plaza remodel, the City of Los Angeles wants to hire a Tourism Czar, Cerro Gordo, the ghost town in eastern Sierras is sold, LACMA’s Michael Govan update on progress for fundraising on Peter Zumthor’s proposed museum redesign.

So Stay Tuned!

URLS for episode

Alan Hess’ website

Pereira In Peril

City commission will consider bid to declare Los Angeles Times buildings historic-cultural monuments

HCM application Times Mirror Square

Rancho Los Cerritos

The Virtual Tour of the Children’s Room at Rancho Los Cerritos

Rancho Los Cerritos Kicks Off “Open Doors” Fundraising Campaign

Upcoming Events

Chester Turner Forensic Science Seminar

Closely Watched Trains

Pereira in Peril status report: Times Mirror Square landmarking nomination clears first hurdle, as historic resources are removed from the Globe Lobby. Also, Curbed L.A. published a list of the most endangered buildings in L.A. which included several of our Pereira causes and stated “Led by groups like the Los Angeles Conservancy, the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, and Esotouric, LA has a strong community dedicated to historic preservation.”

New plans for Downtown streetcar see costs rise to $300 Million

The ugly forced closure of historic Ports O’ Call Restaurant has taken a tragic turn, as the general manager takes his own life. Shame on the Port of L.A. for treating the legacy tenants so shabbily. Peace to Jim Ryan and those who loved him.

Proposal for West Hollywood hotel project would obliterate Route 66 roadhouse Barney’s Beanery

The “preservation settlement” with The Committee to Defend Roosevelt and Councilman Gil Cedillo is a demolition, which is why no legit preservation group seeking to save Roosevelt High School’s landmark Building R has signed off on it

Hollywood’s Silent Movie Theater gutted as owners attempt to rebrand the venue, which became toxic after Cinefamily staff spoke out about abuse. It’s not a protected landmark, so there’s no requirement to preserve historic resources

Jacques Lipchitz sculpture “Peace on Earth” is moved as part of Music Center Plaza remodel

CIty of Los Angeles wants to hire a Tourism Czar

Cerro Gordo, the ghost town in eastern Sierras which funded Los Angeles’ growth in the late 19th century is sold

The Department of Public Works envisions the Los Angeles River in 20 years

LACMA’s Michael Govan weighs in on progress for fundraising for Peter Zumthor’s proposed museum redesign