Photo: Bill Counter / Los Angeles Theatres
I didn't know I was going to a theater.
But then I looked up.
Once I examined the facade above and the sidewalk below...
It was clear that that's exactly where I was: Jensen's Melrose Theatre from 1924.
I thought I was just going to the Ukranian Cultural Center...
...but as soon as I walked into the door...
...I knew I had stumbled into someplace special.
It turns out that the Melrose Theatre was one of several ventures that brick maker Henry C. Jensen was involved in. You can still recognize the Jensen Recreation Center building on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park by its restored rooftop sign.
This theater primarily was meant to exhibit films...
...though now its ornately painted proscenium (with its recently restored plasterwork) surrounds a small stage which hosts occasional concerts and other live performances.
The floor has been leveled, too, to allow for community events like craft fairs, food festivals, and dancing.
Though the Melrose Theatre was owned by a German immigrant brick maker with materials from his own brickyard, the Ukrainian Cultural Center has occupied it since 1961.
They walled off the balcony to create upstairs classrooms (also used as dressing rooms for live performances), creating a small booth for the sound and lighting board operator.
The theater abuts Los Angeles City College, and – located just south of Little Armenia, east of the 101 freeway and west of Silverlake – is in an area that doesn't feel very "Hollywood" right now.
But how glorious to walk into and around a building like that...
...and be able to recognize the irrefutable evidence...
...that this once was a movie theater!
For some cool before and after shots of their restoration, visit the Ukrainian Cultural Center's Facebook page.
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