Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I'm a person who is fascinated by history and the story of what came before us,
What something was in it's glory day's and the tale of it's demise or in the odd case it's restoration
Downtown Los Angeles for many years had slowly descended into one very large decaying and decrepit city with pockets of places that were kept up for the Art culture and the downtown elites. Other than that the city of angels wore a rather tattered gown
In recent years the downtown area has seen a great resurgence in development and restoration and I for one have been happy to see this happen.
For instance the old Banking District is now the Art District and there is a wonderful Art Walk that happens there the second Thursday of every month, something I would strongly suggest any native Angeleno, resident or tourist attend.
Downtown Art Walk
Another area that has seen some progress in re-development is on the street Broadway,
This grand avenue was once the most glamorous place in the world and it was the center of the golden age of Hollywood, the many stupendous movie palaces that lined Broadway were the launching pads of the greatest movies of that era.
The movie premiers were attend by the brightest stars of the time and were seen on newsreels around the world, the glamor of Hollywood and the city of Los Angeles never shined brighter.
The day before the 4th was like a holiday here and it seemed many people were off work the day before our national independence day holiday.
I decided to take my camera and go downtown for a walk and hopefully some good photo opportunities. There still is a dark grittiness to many parts of downtown along with the new lofts and condos that have been built.
Some of these are in new buildings and some are in the beautiful old vintage buildings that still stand.
Walking down Broadway you will encounter all of the above along with the various forms of humanity that live, work or visit downtown LA
Traveling south on the 101 freeway I got off at Silverlake Blvd. and the first thing you see as you wait for the light to change is the old Western Exterminator sign
As I headed down Beverly towards downtown, what you notice as you drive along the street is the blending of ethnicity's in the various neighborhoods you pass. They invariably will be predominately one ethnic group and then you start to see the lines blur so for instance in this photo you have a Mexican market with Koren signs on the side of the building
It's all part of the continuing melting pot of humanity here in LA
As I parked on Broadway I had an idea of the sort of things I wanted to take pictures of and that primarily was the old Movie palaces that line this street.
These former shrines of Hollywood's glory days are for the most part in bad shape and sadly many are simply gone, only a few retain their former brilliance
The first movie palace I happened to walk by was the Roxie Theater
The Roxie was built in 1932—the last of the movie palaces built on Broadway and had a seating capacity of 1,600 when it opened and was noted for its Art Deco or Zigzag Moderne style, including its stepped roofline and angular grillwork
There are all kinds of run down retail stores selling crap you probably wouldn't want mixed with the new ventures that someone has opened mixed with the remaining movie palaces, it's an odd juxtaposition of things on Broadway
And you see the working poor, the homeless the have's and the have not's
it's all there..... even some wack nut wearing a bunny costume muttering some kind of nonsense only he and his imaginary friend can understand
One of the great theater's to see a resurgence is the Palace theater
Built in 1911 as part of the Orpheum vaudeville chain (Houdini, W.C. Fields and the Marx Brothers played there), it is now the oldest remaining Orpheum Theater in the United States built in a replica of a Renaissance Florentine palace It seats 1,167
recently they have been trying to book concerts and other live performances, and the new owner plans to spend millions on a major renovation over the next few years
The State Theater was built in 1921 by MGM and it it offered 2,450 seats, making it the largest of all the Broadway theaters, The interior is a mix of medieval, classical, and Spanish design. It was unfortunately converted into a church. and as such, it is now off-limits to the Saturday morning Conservancy tours they have for the downtown Broadway movie palaces
The Tower Theater opened in 1927, constructed in a long and narrow fashion to accommodate its unusual real estate parcel, the Tower Theater's innovative design and exterior is now scarred by street vendors. Its famous tower has been shortened and its marquee has been modernized over the years. But it still is one of the wonderful movie theaters still intact in downtown Los Angeles
Opened in 1917 by J.M. Quinn, Sid Grauman took it over in 1919 and gave it a remodel using William Woollett as the architect and for awhile it was known as Grauman's Rialto.
For many years this theater's lobby was used for a retail store and that was finally closed in 1988, so here it sits....there have been a few proposals in the last few years to renovate and make it into a restaurant/bar/live music venue.
Beside the architecture on Broadway there is always the unique street art here and there if you look for it
Like this dark menacing face peering down from above
Or Nosferatu with some added graffiti
And you can still see quite a bit of old signage still lingering on the sides of the old buildings
The next theater I came to was the United Artists Theater
The downtown United Artists Theater was opened in 1927 by its founders Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford; who needed the massive Spanish Gothic style movie palace as a venue for world premieres of their movies, it featured a domed, mirrored ceiling, and offered 2,141 seats. Its walls still have murals of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks in historic poses. It has been wonderfully restored, but is now used as a church, the good news is this is one of the theaters you can visit on the conservancy tour
Up the street from the United Artists theater is one of the greatest examples of Art Deco architecture ever built and that is the Eastern Building
Here is the grand Art Deco entryway for the Eastern Building on Broadway, this amazing building opened in 1930 and is considered by many to be the most beautiful of Los Angeles' historic buildings, as well as one of the finest surviving example's of Art Deco architecture in the world
And the lobby
Across from the Eastern Building is another Jewell in the crown of movie palaces
And that is the Orpheum Theater
Built in 1926, the Orpheum Theater is another Broadway theater that has been wonderfully preserved - from its crystal chandeliers to its grand staircase, right down to its mammoth, original Wurlitzer pipe organ (which is still played, on occasion). Open over 70 years now, the Orpheum is still a spectacularly beautiful theater. Its ornate, gilded ceilings soar nearly five stories above its 2,190 seats. Its lavish Paris Opera architecture features large balconies, opera boxes, even a marble lobby which is decorated with fine sculpture, gold/copper leaf, and 20-foot-high crystal chandeliers. In 2001, the Orpheum reopened after a $3 million make-over, including the addition of air conditioning, a new orchestra pit, refurbished dressing rooms, and the theaters re-lighting of the rooftop neon sign (which hasn't worked since WW2)
Here is the beautifully restored and maintained marquee
And if you happen to be downtown and in need of a cool libation the very trendy Broadway Bar is right next door
Another LA landmark is Cliftons Cafeteria at 7th and broadway
Opened In 1935 this redwood forest themed restaurant has served millions of customers, unfortunately for me it was closed for the Holiday Weekend
so all I got was this tasty neon sign in the window
Now feeling a pang of hunger after passing Clifton's I ducked into this joint for a quick snack
Moving onward after my repast I came across the Globe Theater
Opened in 1913 this theater was conceived not as a vaudeville house or nickelodeon, but as a elegant dramatic play house, In 1987, concrete was used to level the floor from the lobby to the stage, so that a permanent indoor swap meet could supplant what had once been the first serious playhouse in Los Angeles....... now the theater is used as a downtown nightclub
And last but not certainly the least is the granddaddy of all the movie palaces
The Los Angeles
Built in 1931 in the French baroque style of Louis XIV, it was a virtual Hollywood cathedral. Famous for its huge crystal fountain in the lobby, the Los Angeles Theater was considered at the time one of the four or five finest movie palaces in the world.
Well I had now arrived at 4th and Broadway and I decided to check out one of my favorite little places downtown and that is The Museum of Neon Art, it's a rather small museum but they do have a great collection of vintage signs and are always restoring and finding new pieces. MONA
They were having a poetry reading and Jazz concert that evening and Kim the gal that runs the museum was kind enough to let me take a few pictures
Walking past the Hotel Barclay I headed back to my truck
As I started to make my way homeward I stopped briefly by one of the new Los Angeles landmarks the Walt Disney concert Hall
Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and it's a pretty cool building to see day or night
I reflected on my evenings adventure, seeing the old and the new with the changing Los Angeles identity.
I hoped that the usual destruction of our LA landmarks will not be the norm as it's been now for many decades, but that a renewed appreciation of our rich history will be left standing for other generations to appreciate.
Too many times all we are left with is a photo of what was and will never be again