A Sweet Side of LA Architecture

Sye Gutierrez, Photo Collection

With sugary talk of Halloween treats in the office air, I was inspired to satisfy my archival sweet tooth with a hunt for some tasty images that I could share with you. Hopefully the assortment I put together is more treats than tricks, so grab your trusty plastic pumpkin pail and let’s hit the road.

Just down the street from Central Library on 620 South Broadway is the former Schaber’s Cafeteria. Built at a cost of $400,000 between 1927 and 1928 it was designed by architect Charles F. Plummer in a mix of styles ranging from Art Nouveau to Spanish Colonial Revival. The cafeteria stated it could serve up to 10,000 hungry customers a day with a great selection of sweet and savory items. Though the cafeteria’s motto was, “A good place to eat, a good place to meet” I think the best spot for doing both was located just to the right of the cafeteria’s entrance at the See’s Candy Store. The See’s family had opened their first candy store seven years earlier in 1921 near present day Koreatown at 135 North Western Avenue. By the middle of the 1920s, the See’s family had twelve stores in operation and continued to grow their success to thirty locations during the Great Depression.

Security Pacific National Bank Collection. view original

Over the years the cafeteria along with the adjoining store fronts changed names and owners. Later tenants included a Carl’s Jr fast-food restaurant and a Foot Locker shoe store. The building unfortunately had the distinction of being the only downtown structure destroyed during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The building was looted and nearly gutted by fire, with only the mezzanine and façade surviving. The owners had a long family history with the building and couldn’t let it be demolished, so they spent around $2.5 million on its restoration. Though mostly a recreation of the building, some of the original decorative wrought iron elements were restored and reused. Currently the closed building will see the return of a previous tenant when Foot Locker returns with an Air Jordan shoe store projected to open sometime this year. The new store will feature retail space, a VIP lounge, fitness room and roof top basketball court complete with bleachers and a snack bar.

Sye Gutierrez, 2018.

A quick stroll north to 540 S. Broadway between Fifth and Sixth Street and you’ll find the Arcade Building. The Arcade Building was built in 1924 by architects Kenneth McDonald and Maurice Couchot and is comprised of two twelve story towers connected by a glass-roofed three level arcade. Inspired by 19th century European shopping arcades, it’s said to be primarily based off of the Burlington Arcade in London. The Arcade Building was designed with Spanish Renaissance elements for the lower floors and Beaux Arts flourishes for the upper floors.

Security Pacific National Bank Collection. view original

The candy store is long gone, but luckily many of the building’s decorative elements still remain.

Sye Gutierrez, 2018.

Our next stop will need a little imagination, as our archives are sadly without any images of the next candy shop. At one time accessible from inside of the Arcade Building, the shop’s doorway was bricked up about sixteen years ago so the only way in now is through the original main entrance at 217 West 6th Street. Here we find Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #137, The Batchelder Dutch Chocolate Shop. Long closed, this former chocolate shop has to be mentioned due to its well-deserved strong fan following amongst Angeleno architecture buffs. Before the door was bricked up, I was able to see the chocolate shop when it was an assortment of stalls each selling various items from clothing to toys.

The four story building in which the shop was located in was built in 1898, and the shop was added to the first floor in 1914. Then it was a soda fountain simply called “The Chocolate Shoppe.” What made this shop unique was the chocolate brown and Dutch-themed floor-to-ceiling tile work created by Pasadena tile artist Ernest A. Batchelder. This shop was one of Batchelder’s early large projects and one of his best. For the windowless interior, he decorated the walls with 21 bas-relief murals depicting scenes of life in Holland. The low, groin-vaulted ceiling gave the shop a mini-cathedral look, while keeping the space very warm and soothing like a hot cup of cocoa. The store was supposed to be the first in a series of shops with different European country themes also done in tile, but became cost prohibitive as the tile work was very pricey.

Sye Gutierrez, 2018.

Over recent years, the shop has tried to reopen in some capacity but without it being brought up to modern day safety codes the space has limited use options. So I think it is well worth it to do an internet search for interior images of this architectural hidden gem as it may be a very long time before it has any more visitors. Batchelder’s other main notable work is coincidentally chocolate related, as his tiles are found in The Hershey Hotel in the land of chocolate Hershey, Pennsylvania. Below we see kiln foreman Harland Attlesey showing Ernest Batchelder a large statue.

Security Pacific National Bank Collection. view original

For the next leg of the journey let’s head south to 6600 S. Avalon Boulevard. Here we can find the Art Deco building that was once home to Hoffman’s Candy Company. Today the building appears to be vacant but still remarkably intact and hopefully can be restored and repurposed in the future. The most notable candy that Hoffman’s created during its time was Cup O’ Gold that still can be found today, now manufactured by the Adams & Brooks Candy Company.

Security Pacific National Bank Collection. view original

Finding our way on to Wilshire, we will head towards the beach to see the former sight of MacFarlane’s Store that sold some awfully fresh candy and nuts. While Wilshire Boulevard has plenty of architectural treasures to choose from I chose this photo because it was taken by Ansel Adams and it includes the still existing Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Around 1940 when this picture was taken, Adams was commissioned by Fortune Magazine to take photos relating to aviation history in Los Angeles. For his assignment he captured 217 images ranging in subjects from everyday life to business to street scenes.

The Fortune article, titled “City of Angels,” published only a few of Adams’ images and the rest of the images were filed away and forgotten. After twenty years Adams rediscovered the images in his home and contacted the Los Angeles Public Library asking if they would be interested in the collection. Adams didn’t particularly care for the series citing the poor weather at the time and said if the library saw no value in the photos to please incinerate them. Luckily for us the library didn’t do that and we still have the 135 contact prints and 217 negatives.

Ansel Adams Fortune Magazine Collection. view original

Though MacFarlane’s is now a parking lot its 1929 neighbor the Wilshire Boulevard Temple is still there to visit. The 135 foot high domed building is designed in a mix of Byzantine and Romanesque styles with its interior modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. The 320-foot-long interior mural depicting moments in Jewish history was painted by Hugo Ballin (who also painted Griffith Observatory’s mural) and was donated by siblings Jack, Harry and Abraham of Warner Brothers Studio fame. Other movie studio notables who helped in the construction of the temple were Universal Studios founder Carl Laemmle who donated the bronze chandeliers and MGM head Louis B. Mayer who donated the east and west stained-glass windows. The seating in the temple is missing the typical center aisle to mimic the layout of a movie theaters.

Security Pacific National Bank Collection. view original

Up next we head west to 450 N. Canon Drive in Beverly Hills to see the former location of the Mission Candy Company. The building’s Art Deco exterior still stands mostly unchanged today with the exception of a modern glass addition to the corner facade. I especially enjoy looking at photos that include the cars of the time. Speaking of cars, just a block away you can see the Mid-Century Modernist Googie gem the Union 76 Gas Station on the corner of Little Santa Monica Blvd and Crescent Drive.

Herman J Schultheis Collection. view original

Well. we’ve reached the end of our confectionery inspired tour and hopefully no one’s developed any stomach aches along the way. As you can safely guess that was just a small taste of our collection so please check out the rest of our archives for plenty of other amazing treats.

My Name is Aram: William Saroyan, An Armenian Native Son

Ani Boyadjian, Principal Librarian, Research & Special Collections

This year marks the 110th birthday of Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award winning author, maverick, playwright, uncommon storyteller, and humanist William Saroyan.

William Stonehill Saroyan was born in Fresno, CA, to Armenian immigrants Armenag and Takoohi Saroyan on August 31, 1908. At age 26, the publication of his first book, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze (1934), made him a literary sensation. The country was in the throes of the Great Depression, and Saroyan’s unabashedly sentimental style was an antidote to a solemn, often humorless time.

His first major play, My Heart’s in the Highlands, debuted on Broadway in 1939. A year later, his play The Time of Your Life, about a group of lonely drifters in a San Francisco bar, which he had written in only six days, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He was the first writer ever to win the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle award for the same work. Saroyan rejected the Pulitzer—he railed against the commercialization of art, abhorring pomp and circumstance—arguing that “it is no more great or good than anything else I have written.” But the accolades would still come: his novel The Human Comedy (1943), which he dedicated to his mother, was made into an MGM film and won him an Academy Award for Best Original Screen Play.

Saroyan’s themes are timeless and universal: He extolled the innate goodness and equality of all people, celebrating their good humor in the face of abject poverty with steadfast messages of hope and resiliency. In the work Inhale and Exhale, Saroyan writes about his national identity, “I love Armenia and I love America and I belong to both, but I am only this: an inhabitant of the earth, and so are you, whoever you are.”

Saroyan was fiercely proud of his Armenian heritage. His first trip to what was then Soviet Armenia was in 1935 when he was a bright new light on the American literary landscape. In 1976 and 1978, Saroyan, his legacy now cemented, traveled to Armenia for the third and fourth (and final) time. He was accompanied on both trips by local photographer Boghos Boghossian, who took over a thousand black-and-white photographs with fast film, capturing the expressive wonder and awe of a man discovering his homeland again and again as if it were the first time. Boghossian’s photographs capture the impressions of the everyman as he visits ancient Armenian churches and villages. They reveal Saroyan just as at ease breaking bread with the villagers as he is meeting with the foremost authors of the time. He is simultaneously a diasporan outsider and at home in his Armenian heritage, defining and experiencing the world on his own terms in true iconoclast fashion.

William Saroyan died in Fresno, about a mile from where he was born, at the age of 72. His ashes were interred in Fresno, his home, and in Yerevan, Armenia, his homeland, just as he had requested. Five days before he passed away, he issued a statement to the Associated Press in true Saroyan style: “Everybody has got to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?”

The following is a selection of images from the exhibit to mark the 110th anniversary of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright William Saroyan’s birth, featuring images taken by photographer Boghos Boghossian during the author’s visit to Armenia shortly before his death in 1981. This exhibit is in conjunction with a program in the Taper auditorium on September 15, where a play featuring Saroyan’s unpublished works—written and produced by Elly award-winning playwright Aram Kouyoumdjian, and made possible with the permission of Stanford University Libraries—will make its LA Made debut.

Exhibition made possible by the Armenian Museum of Fresno and sponsored by Councilmember Paul Krekorian.

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Unknown Photographer. Armenag and Takoohi Saroyan with their son William in Fresno, 1910. Courtesy Varoujan Der Simonian
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Unknown Photographer. Eleven-year-old William Saroyan in Fresno, CA, 1919. Courtesy Varoujan Der Simonian
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Unknown Photographer. A young William Saroyan on a Bike, Fresno, CA, no date. Courtesy Varoujan Der Simonian
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Unknown Photographer. William Saroyan with Typewriter, no date.
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Unknown Photographer. William Saroyan with James Cagney, ca. 1947
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Unknown Photographer. William Saroyan with his Wife Carol Marcus, mother of his two children Lucy and Aram, no date.
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Unknown Photographer. With his children Aram and Lucy on a Tractor in Fresno, CA, no date.
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Unknown Photographer. Hat and Glasses Study in a Photo Booth, no date.
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Boghos Boghossian. Saroyan with Mt. Ararat in the Background, 1976 or 1978. Courtesy Varoujan Der Simonian
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Boghos Boghossian. In the Highlands of Armenia, 1976 or 1978. Courtesy Varoujan Der Simonian
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Boghos Boghossian. Saroyan Riding a Bicycle in Talin, Armenia, 1976 or 1978. Courtesy Varoujan Der Simonian
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Boghos Boghossian. William Saroyan Poses in Front of a Stone Formation in Armenia, 1978. Courtesy Varoujan Der Simonian
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Boghos Boghossian. William Saroyan Pays his Respects at the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan. During his Fourth and Final Visit, 1978. Courtesy Varoujan Der Simonian
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Photographer Unknown. Portrait of Photographer Boghos Boghossian, no date. Courtesy Varoujan Der Simonian

Valley Times Newsboys invade Disneyland

Sye Gutierrez, Photo Collection

With all the recent Disneyland auction excitement swirling about we were inspired to take a little peek into our photo archive to see what historical photographic Disney treasures we have to share. Even though you may be a bit let down after losing your winning bid on an original Skyway Cab that topped out at $621,000 I still hope you join us on our free virtual nickel tour.

For our tour we will be joining a group of Valley Times newsboys who’s outstanding salesmanship during a five week subscription drive won them transportation, entrance fee, eight attraction tickets and $4 is spending cash to Walt’s original park. Over the years the Valley Times held this contest for their newsboys so we are fortunate to be wandering around during the exciting times of the opening years from 1955 through 1957 to see some rare and extinct attractions.

Valley Times Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)

With a visit to the park, the first place most guests stop to pose for a picture at is right in front of the Main Street, U.S.A. Station. This 1957 dated photo shows an original cattle car parked behind our newsies awaiting its passengers. Before the Grand Canyon Diorama was installed in 1958, guests could stand in the cattle car for the duration of their twenty minute round trip. No seats were placed in these cars to give guests the feeling they themselves were the cattle. But with the installation of the diorama, the cattle cars were altered with bench seating added as well as the removal of the wall facing park side to allow guests a better view.

Valley Times Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)

Well, no trip is complete without a photo stop in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. In this 1955 photo we can see that the castle is missing the stained glass windows we see today. With limited build time and finances, the castle’s interior was left empty until Walt could afford to challenge his Imagineers to come up with an attraction that would fit in the second floor. Once the cats and fleas were evicted, the Sleeping Beauty diorama walkthrough opened in the spring of 1957. This was two years before the animated film hit theaters and was a great way to promote the upcoming feature.

Valley Times Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)

Making our way from the vacant castle, we time travel to the far off future of 1986. Tomorrowland as viewed from a Sky Way bucket, opened with limited attractions, many of which were corporate sponsored showcases due to budget limitations. The icon of the area was the 76 foot tall TWA Moonliner rocket ship. Designed by Imagineer John Hench and German scientist Wernher von Braun who immigrated to this country during Operation Paperclip in 1945. The rocket was created to look like a commercial spaceliner that would be used to take travelers to the moon, hence the name. The TWA Moonliner sponsorship lasted until 1962 when Howard Hughes sold off his interest in the company.

Valley Times Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)

Visible in this December 1955 photo is a rare look at the first permanent attraction to close in Disneyland history. The Phantom Boats originally named Tomorrowland Boats operated from opening day July 1955 to August 1956. The attraction with its futuristic boat design was basically the Autopia but on water. Unfortunately because of design flaws, the boats generated a lot of smoke and the engine would overheat when guests floored the gas for speed. The overheated boats had to be towed back to the dock and the attraction suffered from constant down time. Eventually a cast member would have be seated with guests to captain the ship. The operating cost became too great and the attraction was closed for good. The bonus detail in the background of this photo is another short lived attraction, The Mickey Mouse Club Circus. We can see the striped tents occupying the area around where the Matterhorn sits today. The circus ran from November 1955 to September 1956. The circus had operating issues but mainly closed due to lack of interest as guest’s preferred to enjoy the parks unique attractions. To get another distant view of the circus tents let’s take an unlicensed drive around the Autopia shall we?

Valley Times Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)

Besides the circus tents in the background the other detail I enjoy in this 1955 photo is the shockingly unrestricted open road. In the beginning junior Autopia drivers cruised the open miniature multilane limited access highway of the future in full control until 1965 when thankfully the center guide rail was installed.

Valley Times Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)

Speaking of unique, let’s hop on over to Fantasyland to see if we can find an interesting place to eat. Lucky for us we find The Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship and Restaurant. Here fish lovers could order a variety of things like tuna sandwiches, tuna burgers or even hot tuna pies. The sponsorship lasted until 1969 and with an updated menu the restaurant became Captain Hook’s Galley. Guests could still order a tuna burger but had other non-tuna based food options like clam chowder, chef salad and roast beef sandwiches. The ship was going to be moved closer to It’s a Small World during the 1982 Fantasyland overhaul but sadly over the years the ship’s original rotting wood base was replaced with concrete and couldn’t be moved without destroying it. So the ship was bulldozed and the Dumbo Flying Elephants attraction now occupies the space where this attraction was once docked.

Valley Times Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)

Maybe a little tea will help make that hot tuna pie we just finished settle. In this 1956 photo we can see the early version of The Mad Tea Party before the spiral paint scheme was added to the ride platform. Until the 1982 Fantasyland make over, the teacups spun guests in the spot where the King Arthur Carousel sits today. The shifting of the rides placement was done to help improve guest flow around the castle where traffic bottlenecked.

Valley Times Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)

With tired arms and dizzy heads let’s trek on over to Frontierland for maybe something a bit more relaxing. Here we see in 1955 the Stagecoach Ride which operated until 1959 to make way for the construction of Nature’s Wonderland. You could choose to travel by stagecoach or Conestoga Wagon and enjoy the views along the shores of the Rivers of America and the Living Desert.

Valley Times Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)

Let’s flash forward a bit to check in on that 1956 stage coach replacement the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train. The train took guest to see many naturally occurring desert scenery such as cacti that looked slightly like people waving and rocks that spun precariously overhead ready fall. This attraction lasted until Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland expanded the attractions size to included geysers, waterfalls, more humorous scenes and plenty of new animal animatronics. This attraction lasted until 1979 when Big Thunder Mountain replaced it to give guests bigger thrills.

Well Mouseketeers, I hope you enjoyed our mini-grand circle tour around vintage Disneyland with those newsboys! There are lots more Disneyland photos throughout the years in our archives so make sure you check them out.

The Movie Palaces of Last Remaining Seats 2018: Photographs from the Los Angeles Public Library Collections

Amanda Charles

Every year, the Los Angeles Conservancy presents the Last Remaining Seats classic film series in several historic Los Angeles movie palaces. Most shows in the series also present the opportunity to purchase a spot in a group architectural tour led by one of the Conservancy’s knowledgeable docents. While the tours will give you a rare, up-close view of the amazing design and ornate detail that have survived almost a century, have you ever wondered how the theaters looked when they were new?

Imagine what it must have been like to attend the October 21, 1927 opening night showing of Mary Pickford’s My Best Girl at the Spanish Gothic-style United Artists Theater, with its grotesque gargoyles, stained glass windows, intricate chandeliers, and an auditorium decorated with custom-painted murals featuring the founders of the United Artists in their most iconic roles.

While you can’t travel back in time, you can see historic images of the old movie palaces. TESSA has historic photos of every theater in the series. I’ve compiled a few below.

Loew’s State Theater

The West Coast flagship theater of Marcus Loew’s national chain, Loew’s State Theater was the largest brick-clad building in Los Angeles when it opened on November 12, 1921. Located at the busy intersection of 7th and Broadway, Loew’s State Theater was the most successful of all of Los Angeles’s Broadway theaters for more than half a century (Berger, Robert, The Last Remaining Seats: Movie Palaces of Tinseltown. 1997, P. 31).

The theater was originally styled after a Spanish castle. To capitalize on its excellent location, Loew’s State had two marquees and two entrances–one on Broadway and another on 7th Street. Unfortunately, a change in ownership in the 1930s resulted in several changes to the building, including the removal of the 7th Street marquee, and the replacement of the original Broadway marquee with the large, multi-line neon marquee you can still see today. While it is more visually arresting than its understated predecessor, the “new” Broadway marquee covers part of the row of distinctive arched second-floor windows.

Another change made during the remodel was to add Greco-Roman elements to the decor of the theater. Below, you’ll find photos of the original exterior and interior, as well as a photo of the “new” marquee.

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Loew’s State Theater Construction, under construction, 1921. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library
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Stage view of Loew’s State Theatre, 1921. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)
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View of the “new” mezzanine at Loew’s State Theater, 1938. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)


The Million Dollar Theater

The Million Dollar Theater was originally named after its owner, Sid Grauman, who decided to rechristen it in honor of its supposed construction cost, though Robert Berger and Ann Conser’s 1997 book, The Last Remaining Seats reports it was rumored to have cost twice as much. Whatever its price, the theater, which opened in 1918 and features fantastical Spanish-palace architecture inspired by the fairy tale, “The King of the Golden River,” is truly amazing. It’s at the corner of 3rd and Broadway, across the street from the famed Bradbury Building, and next door to Grand Central Market.

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Original marquee, Million Dollar Theatre, 1918. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)
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Exterior, Million Dollar Theatre, date unknown. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)
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Interior, Million Dollar Theater, 1918. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)


United Artist Theater (Theater at Ace Hotel)

Located at the southern end of the Broadway theater district, between 9th and Olympic, architect C. Howard Crane’s 2,214-seat United Artists Theater opened in December of 1927 with the Mary Pickford film, My Best Girl. According to a Los Angeles Conservancy walking tour guide, the Spanish Gothic theater’s cast-plaster ornamentation is “complemented by a remarkable series of frescoes and murals by the firm of Anthony Heinsbergen. The vaulted ceilings of the foyer are painted to resemble tapestries, and those of the lobby imitate stained glass. In the auditorium, the original United Artists and their co-stars are depicted as characters from their most popular pictures.”

The United Artists Theater was restored by the Ace Hotel chain, and reopened to the public in 2014 as the Theater at the Ace Hotel. You can learn more about the Theater at the Ace Hotel history and restoration in this KCRW post.

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Exterior view of the United Artists Theater, Ca. 1928. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)
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United Artist Theater marquee, 1929. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)


The Los Angeles Theater

The most opulent and most recent of the Broadway theaters, the 2200-seat French Baroque style Los Angeles Theater opened in 1931, and became the Fox Studio’s flagship theater in 1932. The crowning achievement of famed theater architect S. Charles Lee, the Los Angeles Theater construction cost $1.2 million, and featured a number of interesting amenities such as an electric indicator of available seats, blue neon floor lights in the aisles, and sound-proofed “crying rooms” from which parents could soothe unruly infants without missing the movie.

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Los Angeles Theater exterior, 1931. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)
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Los Angeles Theater interior, date unknown. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)
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Los Angeles Theater restaurant, date unknown. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)
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Los Angeles Theater, lower level, date unknown. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)


Orpheum Theater

The fourth of four Los Angeles vaudeville theaters to bear the Orpheum name, architect G. Albert Lansburgh’s French Renaissance-styled venue opened in 1926 as a vaudeville theater, and continued as such for nearly thirty years. Known for its marble and faux-marble foyer, and sumptuous, European-styled appointments, the theater has long benefited from the work of preservation groups like the Friends of the Orpheum and the Los Angeles Theater Organ Society. It remains in excellent condition as an entertainment venue to this day, making it downtown’s longest-operational picture palace.

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Orpheum Theater, date unknown. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)
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Orpheum Theater, date unknown. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)


San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

Since it opened in 1927, the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse has been home to a world-renowned play about California history, a movie theater, and numerous civic events. During World War II, its dressing rooms were converted to apartments to help ease the housing shortage in Los Angeles. Near the end of the war, a citizens’ committee convinced the city of San Gabriel to purchase it, and the playhouse served as the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium until the original name was restored in 2007. 2018 was the first time that this well-preserved historic theater has been part of the Last Remaining Seats series.

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San Gabriel Mission Playhouse exterior, 1938. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)
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San Gabriel Mission Playhouse interior, 1912. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library. (view original)


Read More

If you’re a fan of Los Angeles movie palaces, or just want to know more about them, check out the 1997 book The Last Remaining Seats: Movie Palaces of Tinseltown photographed by Robert Berger and Anne Conser, with an introduction by Stephen M. Silverman.

Resister in Sanctuary: We Won’t Go

Louise Steinman

In one glass case, what first draws my eye is a REMEMBER JOE MAIZLISH bumper sticker identical to the one I affixed to the bumper of my dad’s Ford Mustang in 1968. Yes, I do remember Joe Maizlish. Decades ago, I wrote to him in while he was in federal prison, where he served two and a half years of a three-year sentence for refusing induction to the draft. Joe, now a psychologist and mediator, in present-day, is my neighbor in Silverlake.

Joe Maizlish at Induction Refusal, 1968. L.A. Resistance Collection, Los Angeles Public Library

The item, along with posters in fonts of various degrees of psychedelia, is on exhibit at WE WON’T GO: The L.A. Resistance, Vietnam and the Draft (at the Central Library’s Getty Gallery until August 19). Curated by Winter Karen Dellenbach, an L.A. Resister, together with Ani Boyadjian, Research & Special Collections Manager for the Los Angeles Public Library, this inspiring display of civil disobedience was drawn from the Los Angeles Resistance Archives, acquired by the library in 2014. The collection includes letters, posters, still and moving images, diaries, mimeographed newsletters, draft cards and other ephemera donated by members of the L.A. Resistance and their supporters. Essentially, this is a chronicle of the non-violent anti-draft activities of the L.A. chapter of the Resistance, a nationwide movement.

I recognize a black and white photo of General Hershey Bar, with his signature plastic B–52’s worn as medals. The real General Hershey, a Nixon advisor, was head of the Selective Service, and General Hershey Bar was a familiar sight at anti-war rallies in the sixties. “Fixin-to-Die Rag” (Country Joe and the Fish) cues in my head:

Well, come on all of you big strong men

Uncle Sam needs your help again

Got himself in a terrible jam

Way down yonder in Vietnam

Put down your books and pick up a gun

We’re going to have a whole lot of fun

But what sends my memory into overdrive is “RESISTER IN SANCTUARY,” in bold black letters across a legal size flyer. It’s a manifesto written by Gregory Nelson, then nineteen years old and briefly my high school sweetheart. Greg had openly refused to register a year earlier, as required by law, when he turned eighteen. In the fall of 1968, he asked the minister and congregation of Grace Episcopal Church in South Los Angeles to grant him sanctuary, a medieval tradition, for an act of conscience. His language is simple and direct:

This is a period of deep disunity in our country.

One source of that disunity is the war in Vietnam. I have refused to participate in that war—even to the degree of refusing to register for the draft. Now I am charged with a crime for that refusal. I feel that my refusal is an action consistent with the moral precepts and teachings of my society, an action directed toward ending the present war and healing the wounds of discord. I ask you, a visible guardian of our moral teachings and a main source of guidance to the people of our society, to consider my plea…

I was a junior in high school when I met Greg spring of 1968, through my volunteer work for the Resistance. I’d trade my pastel shirtwaist school uniform and saddle shoes for jeans, denim work shirt, jeans and sandals—then hurry down to the Resistance office in the red brick colonial on Westwood Blvd. There were a few other high-schoolers, but most of the supporters working there were college-aged. They impressed me as energized, purposeful and very cool. Lives were on the line.

I’d join them in stuffing envelopes, or we’d pile into someone’s VW bug and head off to a local draft board with a pile of leaflets, trying to interest those young men who’d arrived for a draft physical in alternative actions, draft counseling. It was my first taste of communal activism and I cherished the palpable sense of “family” among those who planned to take a stand of conscience and those who supported them.

Many Resisters were galvanized after hearing David Harris, the charismatic anti-draft activist and former Stanford student body president (then married to Joan Baez), speak about non-violent non-participation as a way to end the Vietnam War. I’d heard Harris at the Stanford campus, the summer I attended Junior Statesman Summer School there. His was a voice of persuasive moral passion, drawing from the ideas of Thoreau, Gandhi, and King, and Mario Savio. Harris called for young men to resist the draft openly and be willing to take the consequences, that ‘The way to do is to be.’

I hung out with Greg early that summer of 1968. It was the summer after the assassination of MLK in April at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. It was the summer after the assassination of RFK in L.A at the Ambassador Hotel in June the night of the California Primary. It was the summer before Nixon was elected president. The casualty count in Vietnam was rising and the government’s need for more bodies to feed the “Buzz Saw of War,” to use my dad’s phrase from WW2– seemed insatiable. It was also a summer for young lovers to lie entwined under an Indian-print bedspread in a darkened studio apartment near the Venice Boardwalk, to listen to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds twelve times and not care that the needle was sticking; to make midnight runs to Tomy’s Burgers on Ramparts; to dance wildly to the Jefferson Airplane at the Cheetah nightclub on the Pacific Ocean Park pier.

… Since I cannot turn to the courts for justice, I turn to the church. I ask you to lend your church for a role that churches once played. I ask you to grant me sanctuary.

Nelson’s plea was granted by Grace Episcopal Church on W. 78th Street in South Los Angeles. On the day Nelson and his supporters gathered in the church, one of the Episcopal priests, Reverend Harlan Weitzel, was joined to Greg with a length of chain. In my journal from that day, October 2, 1968, I noted that it was Yom Kippur, that the bitter taste in my mouth was less from fasting than from fear and distress.

Resistance founder David Harris was there to speak, to support Greg, and to lift our spirits. Greg said, ‘you sure rap well, Dave, who then yelled amen! Amen! And urged us all to sing’ Two young men burned their draft cards that day, I remember the packed crowd of supporters—including many of those whose papers are now in the archives at LAPL. I didn’t remember, until I read the notes to the exhibition, that Michelangelo Antonioni, the Italian film director, was in attendance that day as well, which made some kind of surreal sense. Oh, of course he was.

In a letter to Joe Maizlish in prison, I described feeling hysterical when I learned what Greg was going to do, and how another, older Resister, helped to calm me. “I stood next to Greg’s mother in front of the church,” I wrote Joe. “… we were passing out flowers. The church was surrounded by federal marshals and police and Greg’s mother wondered aloud, ‘Why all these men for my one small boy who hasn’t even a comb in his pocket?’”

No one who was there will ever forget the approach of the U.S. marshals with their ridiculously over-sized bolt cutters, how they hesitated before approaching the dais, stepping over and even on bodies—to where the slight long-haired young man was chained to his friends and supporters. “I saw Greg, his bright eyes stare the marshal in the face and he said, I will go don’t hurt anybody please. And they still dragged him. They cut the chains and took Greg away and crammed him into a waiting car.”

On a video clip playing on the wall of the Getty Gallery, a grey-bearded Greg Nelson—fifty years later—recalls how the chains were actually so loose he could have slipped out of them; that the church had been locked that day and he’d had to sneak in, in order to get arrested– a fact the uniformed Marshals found amusing.

“Each draft card turn-in was performance art, each refusal to register a brazen repudiation of coercion,” wrote Winter Dellenbach. “It was so much fun, and it was deadly serious, and it had deep consequences.”

The scene in the sanctuary though, was not child’s play, not performance art, it was high drama: the chains; the supporters singing under the cross; the representatives of the State with their weapons; the violated sanctuary; the palpable communal determination to resist.

Greg’s trial was on Friday, Oct 4th, at the downtown Federal Courthouse. When I arrived, I was surprised to see so many reporters. I assumed they were there for Greg. In fact they were covering the more sensational hearing for Sirhan Sirhan, who’d fired the shots that killed Robert Kennedy.

Greg represented himself at trial. “All the prosecutor had to do was to prove Greg was 18,” I wrote to Joe Maizlish at Safford Prison,

…That he hadn’t registered. That he lived at 1018 Pacific St. in Santa Monica. Greg didn’t present a defense, but he cross-examined the witnesses: His high school vice-principal who testified Greg had indeed gone to Santa Monica High. Greg started lacing into him for making him salute the flag. (later the judge said he couldn’t blame anyone for getting a chance to get back at their high school Vice Principal.) His father, to testify he’d been born. The draft board lady—to testify she had not received his registration (might you have lost it?) asked Greg. The FBI agent who had warned Greg of the consequences of his action a year ago. The prosecutor was moved by Greg’s muteness on his defense. So was the judge. Greg made one statement—which the judge allowed—on the draft and the selective service system. Quite a natural, down-to-earth speech. And that was it. He was sentenced the same day and when led away said ‘I’ll say hello to Joe for you all.’

….

In conjunction with the exhibit, the library hosted a panel discussion on July 19th with three Los Angeles resisters—Geoff Fishman, Paul Barnes Lake, and Joe Maizlish. All served time in prison. Historian Jon Wiener, host of The Nation podcast, was the interlocutor.

Wiener asked them each why they’d chosen to refuse the draft, what they experienced in prison, how it impacted the trajectory of their lives. How did they make their initial decision to resist?

Geoff Fishman described how, when he was already at the induction center , waiting to be “processed” for the draft, there came a “moment of truth”:

When all were asked to acknowledge allegiance and acceptance into the army, to step forward to accept, I surprised myself. Everyone stepped forward except me.

Joe Maizlish’s decision came in stages, the first revelation in 1965: “I was crossing a street in Berkeley with my brother. We looked at each other and said, ‘There’s no way we’re ever going to be in this war.’ Three years later, he became “completely unable” to send in the form to renew his UCLA graduate student deferment, that “political free ticket,” as Dave Harris termed it, knowing others would be drafted to serve in his stead. “It wasn’t an actual decision,” he said, “it was my whole being—I can’t do this.”

As it was for Joe fifty years ago, our whole beings tell us that children shouldn’t be separated from parents, our whole beings tell us that asylum seekers should not be sent to back to their deaths, that torture is wrong, that the earth itself is worth saving and fighting for.

In these treacherous times of eroding civil liberties and rising authoritarianism, the L.A. Resistance Archive can serve as blueprint to help guide and inspire us. Exhibition co-curator Ani Boyadjian aptly summed up the enduring value of the collection: “It’s the intensity and passion of doing the right thing and it is a thing of beauty.”

So thank you, Greg Nelson and Joe Maizlish and Paul Barnes Lake and Geoff Fishman and all the other Resisters who were willing to give up so much to take a stand against America’s immoral war in Vietnam. And, thanks to the Los Angeles Public Library, for preserving these stories for future generations– who will face such difficult decisions of their own.

Louise Steinman is the author of three non-fiction books, most recently The Crooked Mirror: A Memoir of Polish-Jewish Reconciliation. She has been curator of the award-winning ALOUD at Central Library series for the Los Angeles Public Library— twenty-five years this fall.

We Won’t Go: L.A. Resistance, Vietnam and the Draft on exhibition from June 22 through August 19, 2018 in the Getty Gallery, Central Library.

Lummis Collection: Can We Get Your Autograph?

Rudy Ruiz

Former City Librarian Charles F. Lummis approached the Library Board of Directors in October of 1905 and recommended that a system of collecting autographs be put in place:

There are few intelligent people who have not some interest in distinguished autographs. At a very small expense for stationery, postage, and clerical work, this library could found an autograph department, using uniform sheets to be bound up in volumes. To contemporary autographs, which this institution would readily secure by proper request, important historical autographs could, from time to time, be added by gift and purchase; and with the natural growth of this institution, there would be in time a collection genuinely interesting and of large historical and monetary value.

The motion to put in place a system for collecting autographs was moved by Director Isidore B. Dockweiler and Lummis’s request was approved.

In 1906 the Autograph Collection was instituted. Blank stationary with the letterhead “Los Angeles Public Library Autographs,” an autograph solicitation letter, and a mailing tube or flat with prepaid return postage was sent to “people who count.” Those who count included artists, authors, and statesmen such as Theodore Roosevelt, Booker T. Washington, and Clara Barton. The letter that Lummis mailed asked these special individuals to “improve” the enclosed blank page, and improve they did. Lummis collected roughly 750 autographs that contained original watercolors, sketches, written music, poems and moving sentiments. The library continued to collect autographs after Lummis’s departure as City Librarian in 1910. The post-Lummis collection includes poems from Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps and correspondences from Helen Keller. The combined autograph collection totals 1700 autographs.

Today we are continuing to grow Lummis’ collection, but with an important twist. The library is inviting you to “improve the page” in order to leave your own mark on the city of L.A. Visit a participating library on June 2, 2018, to add your name, drawing, poem or memory to the library’s autograph collection. The library will provide blank stationery that is a replica of the original paper and a few samples of the original collection to help spark ideas.

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An unconventional portrait of Charles Fletcher Lummis by Richard Elwood Dodge, 1907
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Autograph solicitation letter, 1910
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“Shere Khan” by William Henry Drake, 1907
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Cartoon by Edmund Waller “Ted” Gale of the Los Angeles Times, c.1907
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Portrait by Elbridge Ayer Burbank, c.1906
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“America the Beautiful” by Katherine Lee Bates, c.1906
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Painting by Alexander Francis Harmer, c.1907
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Watercolor by Emile Sterns Perry, c.1909
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Cyanotype portrait of John Muir
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“Youth” poem by Langston Hughes, 1935
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“The Daybreakers” poem by Arna Bontemps, 1935
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Correspondence from Helen Keller to City Librarian Althea Warren, 1944

Ex Libris: Bookplates From Around the World

Central Library

During the Middle Ages and the early modern era, owning a book was a rare and precious thing.

Reserved only for the very wealthy, books were expensive, prestigious, and showed a certain status in society. If you were rich enough to own books, you wanted to make sure that anyone seeing them knew the books were yours.

Enter the ex libris (Latin for “from the books of…”), or bookplate. The earliest known examples come from Germany around the 15th century and were designed by famous artists of the time. They were pasted inside the front cover and often incorporated a name, motto, or coat of arms to better identify the book’s owner.

The library’s Bookplate Collection contains over 1,300 bookplates and includes a wide variety of graphic and illustrative styles, both color and black & white, ranging from the formal to the whimsical.



If you would like to learn more about ex libris, we invite you to visit Central Library on Sunday, April 22 at 1:30 p.m. for a presentation on bookplates from around the world by writer and bookplate collector Ruben Angaladian.

The Liberator: Librarians Work to Preserve Early 20th-Century L.A. African American Newspaper

Neale Stokes

The Liberator is an early 20th-century Los Angeles African American newspaper, whose owner and editor, Jefferson Lewis Edmonds, was born enslaved and spent twenty years in bondage before Emancipation. Edmonds was educated in Mississippi Freedmen’s Bureau schools and served two terms in the Mississippi State Assembly before moving to Los Angeles after the end of Reconstruction due to threats against his family.

Edmonds established The Liberator in Los Angeles in 1900 and was an early booster of Los Angeles as a destination for African American migration. While speaking out against racism and injustice in Los Angeles, he also touted the city as a haven compared to the South’s discrimination and violence.

The library has partnered with Jefferson Edmonds’s descendants, Paul and Arianne Edmonds, who loaned their family collection to be digitized through the California Revealed Digitization Program, to make publicly available as many issues of this influential publication as possible. Digitization work will begin in early 2018. We spoke to Arianne Edmonds and librarian Amanda Charles about their work to make sure Jefferson and The Liberator are not forgotten. Watch below to learn more:

Further Reading: