1517-23 W. 8th St.

They won’t be happy until every shingled building in Los Angeles is gone. I mean, they’re kind of obsessed with them. They who? Everybody. Both sides of the political spectrum. Social engineers on their path of well-intentioned apocalypse in concert with the developers who play them for useful idiots, that’s who. I honestly don’t care who. Just stop tearing down all the wooden houses already.

The surface lot next to the Adelphia (Leonard A. Cook, 1913), and two adjoining single family homes, is to be built upon with a TOC project developed by the Nemans.

1521; 1523, left, behind the tree
Poor Adelphia, tallest thing on the block for 107 years, now to have a seven-story building gleefully five-foot side yard all jammed up against your windows

It’s unclear when these two were built; the Assessor doesn’t list build dates and they’re not on DBS, which places them pre-1905. 1521 West 8th is listed as a fine six-room house for rent “to responsible party with references” in November 1902; it is soon occupied by Edward A. Geissler, Vice President of the George J. Bickel Company, who stays through 1906.

Also in the early years of the century, its neighbor 1523 was taking in boarders, and by 1906 you could go to an auction of all their nifty stuff:

Same old story: developers replace two large houses with a piddly few low-income units, and’re therefore given carte blanche to build tall and dense with no open space, and God forbid you have a car

Some will argue, but these aren’t that good. Or important. But I want you to remember them. Because soon there won’t be any of them. There will be nothing but eighty-foot boxes with no open space—just like this project—because that’s what y’all voted for with your Measure JJJ, bless your little hearts.

4201 S. Crenshaw/3600 W. Stocker

Down on Crenshaw there’s The Liquor Bank, which is my kind of place to make a withdrawal. And appropriately named because it is, in fact, an old bank. Look closely, see the ship on the sign pylon?—that’s the USS Portsmouth, erstwhile symbol of Bank of America. (San Francisco B of A founder Amadeo Giannini was enamored of the Portsmouth, as it had secured his city-by-the-bay for America during the Mexican War.)

This Bank of America was built in 1949 and designed by Raymond Raleigh Shaw AIA, with William D. Coffey, Consulting Structural Engineer. Raymond Shaw is best known for his 1920s designs, like the Pacific Southwest Building and San Joaquin Light & Power, both in Fresno.

Shaw did some number of Bank of America branches; he altered the exterior of the B of A in Beverly Hills on Wilshire in 1948 (although that was subsequently redesigned again in 1963 in New Formalist/Brutalist style by Sidney Eisenshtat—which after being deemed eligible for listing on the National Register, was dutifuly torn down by Metro as part of the subway extension). Here is a 1951 example of a Shaw B of A at 8501 Pico—

Still standing, and still a Bank of America, but do yourself a favor and don’t go on Google Streetview to see what’s become of her
Getty

Shaw designed banks across the southland through the 1950s, but received his largest commission when he was hired, again using Coffey as engineer, to produce the Corporate Modern Banco Hipotecario in San Salvador in 1958. He retired soon after and died in 1967.

In any event, back to our pal at Crenshaw and Stocker: it’s 1949, and 1949 was smack in the thick of the Great Age of the Late Moderne. Late Moderne was born to Southern California and defines Southern California as well as—no, better than—any other architectural style. What is this Late Moderne, you ask? The sleekness of Streamline, and the ribbon-window rectangularity of International style, melded in the late 30s, and flowered in the mid-40s, to produce a new vernacular. You know it when you see it: warm materials form large simple volumes locked in asymmetrical sculptural compositions, with irregular angles and curves, punctuated by certain ornamental motifs—egg crate sun shades, grills, bezeled windows, tapered and punctured fins, canopies, and of course large sign pylons with bold neon. Well, that’s a lot of words; it’s those buildings what look like this.

The style was short-lived, though, as Modernism went another way and the likes of Lautner and Eames and Armét & Davis began to explore the structural expressionism of trusses and cantilevers. Thus every Late Moderne is a treasure, and some are preserved, like Wayne McAllister’s Bob’s Big Boy, while some just hang on, like Stiles Clements’s Windsor Hills Shopping Center, yet some are criminally demolished, like Clements’s Mullen & Bluett.

In any event, Shaw’s bank is not long for this world. Or at least what’s left of it; in all honesty, half of it has already been removed. As you can see, the structure once ran all the way to the corner, but had a chunk of its front removed in September 1976 when it became a liquor store, and Liquor Bank hired Van Nuys architect Andrew F. Gutt to design a new facade.

via USC Digital Archives

What I find additionally sad about losing this cool pylon-sign is that it’s just down the street from one of the great pylon-signs in all Los Angeles, the 1947 Albert B. Gardner/Edward W. Carter-designed Broadway Department Store, which has the greatest Moderne façade that ever was. Read more about the Crenshaw Broadway here and here. Fortunately, the Broadway and A. C. Martin’s May Company are being worked into the mall’s current redevelopment (ten-story office tower; eight-story, 400-room hotel; thousand condos and apartments; the whole bit). If Capri Capital can work those historic buildings into their mall redevelopment, maybe developer Axiom will incorporate the Liquor Bank!

Uh, probably not. Let’s take a look at another one of Axiom’s projects, just up the road at 3831 Stocker. This was a hospital built by Lester M. Morrison in 1953, using architects Riener C. Nielsen and Gene E. Moffatt. Axiom has razed everything and it’s to be 127 market rate units (or so says their website; according to this, though, they’re only allowed 74 units even with the density bonus).

The firm of Nielsen & Moffatt designed all over the southland and opened an Oakland office in 1959. They specialized in hospitals, medical-clinical buildings, homes for the aged, and similar institutions
Ooo, check out the concrete sunscreen
Gosh, didn’t even leave a tree
I suppose we can expect something vaguely like this for the Liquor Bank site

Postscript—if you dig Late Moderne and want to learn more, no, there isn’t a book about it, and yes, there should be. Best I can do is point you to here where you may read about Late Moderne in general (pp. 36-37) and the great Rowland Crawford in particular (pp. 43-46; see accompanying images on pp. 70-81.) More importantly, there is a book that discusses Late Moderne, and better yet, in relationship to its rarely-studied expression in residential construction. I can’t recommend it enough, and you should buy it now.

4629-4651 W. Maubert Ave.

Here’s something that came over the transom, not in the form of some Planning Department notice, but via social media. The properties in question are three apartment buildings at 4629-4651 West Maubert Avenue:

Looking east from 4651Maubert toward Rodney Drive toward 4629, center-right
Looking west on Maubert, 4629-35, right; 4637-43, center; 4645-51, left
A bracketed cornice, corinthian columns, friezes of urn and garlands—why, it has the hallmarks of architecture! No wonder they want to tear it down.

Five matching sets of flats, 4613-4615 W. Maubert, were designed and built in the spring of 1920 by developers Wright & Hogan.

The great Crossroads of Los Angeles!

Ben O. L. Wright was a tireless promoter of East Hollywood. In 1920, he was 31 years old, and living with his wife, daughter, mother and brother in the home he designed and built in 1919, a few blocks north at 4626 Melbourne (demolished for a parking lot in 1969).

For example, we all know our beloved Vista was designed by Lewis A. Smith, and run by Bard (being Lou Bard’s Hollywood before its renaming to the Vista in 1928), but do you know whom we actually have to thank for it? Wright & Hogan, that’s who.

But back to our Wright & Hogan flats on Maubert. The other day this popped up:

STEALTH ATTACK ON LOS FELIZ?

LAST MINUTE ADDITION OF MAUBERT PROJECT TO COMMITTEE AGENDA RAISES QUESTIONS.

Late last week an additonal item was placed on the Planning & Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee agenda. The PLUM Committee will review a report related to the project proposed for the 4600 block of Maubert at the southern edge of Los Feliz, near Barnsdall Park. The proposed project is an 8-story residential structure containing 153 dwelling units. The PLUM agenda says that the new building will set aside 17 units for Extremely Low Income Households, but it doesn’t mention that demolishing the existing structures will erase 14 rent-stabilized units. In other words, there will only be a net gain of 3 units that will be accessible to Low Income households. The City wants you to believe it’s trying to address LA’s housing crisis, but the only people City Hall is really interested in housing are the folks who make six figures or more.

This could be bad news for Los Feliz. As a TOC project, this is already on the fast track, and the fact that PLUM is considering making it a Sustainable Communities (SC) project means they want a quick and superficial environmental review process. Like many of the homes in the Los Feliz area, the buildings to be demolished are nearly 100 years old and potentially historic. The fact that this was slipped onto the PLUM agenda during a holiday week when many people will be out of town could indicate that the City is trying to avoid public scrutiny. Will this be their strategy for other projects in the area?

With the City’s tangled approval process, it’s hard to say where this project stands right now, but if you’re bothered by all of this, you could send an e-mail to City Hall to let them know you’re concerned. Among the areas of concern are….

> Net gain of only 3 units accessible to Low Income households.

> No notification has been sent to the surrounding community or the neighborhood council.

> Loss of potentially historic buildings.

Please use the following subject line:

4629-4651 Maubert Ave., Case Nos. DIR-2019-3760-TOC-SPP-SPR, VTT-82654

Send your e-mail to:

Kevin Keller, Deputy Director of Planning

kevin.keller@lacity.org

And please copy:

jenna.monterrosa@lacity.org

jason.hernandez@lacity.org

terry.kaufmann-macias@lacity.org

And if you’re wondering what, exactly, the developer intends to do, it is this:

And from this post came a flurry of shocked responses. But more than that. Informed responses. Good to see the neighborhood folk on social media having, or gaining, a good working knowledge of the forces at work in their neighborhood. The same folk who voted for JJJ out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re seeing TOC turn their neighborhood into a developer’s paradise not because it will do any good for the poor, but because it ups the tax base for City. Their neighborhoods are marketed as “TOC Development Opportunity!” meaning zoning goes out the window: no green space, no setbacks, no parking, increase the height, increase the units—and to hell with community input, design review, neighborhood councils—and the Planning Commission says their hands are tied because of JJJ.

And of course, people are writing emails, and reporting that they’re being bounced back with notices that their reps are out out of town/out of touch for the holidays.

Don’t let that stop you. Make twice the calls, write thrice the emails.

I’m kind of digging this social media thing now. Makes me wonder, had the pensioners of Bunker Hill been so supplied back in 1956, as City Council was considering the redevelopment project, if things could have gone another way.

1529 N. Winona Blvd

Just a quick post, didn’t want this gorgeous 1913 G. L. Synder-designed Hollywood home to fly under the radar.

Tearing this down and building a three story building is, literally, intended to conserve the scale of the existing neighborhood:

And you thought I was kidding

933 S. Gramercy Pl.

This seven-room, 1,840sf Craftsman bungalow was built in the spring of 1912, in the Country Club Park tract, by the contracting team of Peter J. Schulte & William J. Wisler. Wisler was the owner.

There are precious few Craftsmans left in this part of the world; they’ve been nearly exterminated east of Wilton. It is especially noteworthy to find one that has not been stuccoed, windows changed out, porches enclosed, etc.

Look closely at the expressive use of brick in on the chimney and porch.

Then, one day, she is put up for sale:

Sold in November of ’17 for $1,390,000

Interestingly, when 933 was listed, they stated “it can be demolished to create 8 to 9 new condo or apartment units”—

It should surprise no-one here that they intend to build twice that:

Sixty-seven feet? Nearest thing that tall is a half-mile north on Wilshire.

One last look. This time with boarded-up windows.

This is why we can’t have nice things.