June 21, 2022

Photo Essay: A Peek Into the Millard Sheets-Designed Bank That's Becoming Chabad of Beverly Hills

A couple of weeks ago, I joined Hollywood Heritage on a bus tour of some of the Millard Sheets-designed bank buildings in the Los Angeles area. 

I'd already been inside several of them (including the closed Santa Monica location and the to-be-landmarked Sunset and Vine location)—but I was interested in what our guide, Adam Arenson (who literally wrote the book on Millard Sheets and his banks), would have to say. 

Since our tour took place on Memorial Day—a bank holiday—I assumed we'd only be able to admire these structures from the outside and peer through the windows. 

But then we got to the former bank on Wilshire Boulevard and Oakhurst in Beverly Hills—which I'd driven by many times.

June 20, 2022

Photo Essay: The Only Surviving Home from the Demolished Desert Inn Country Club Estates, Vegas

I'd been waiting since 2019 to return to Nevada Preservation Foundation's annual Home + History tour—and one of my top destinations this year was the nationally-landmarked Morelli House by architect Hugh E. Taylor.  

June 16, 2022

Photo Essay: A Victorian Home Built Like a Ship Is Permanently Moored at Heritage Museum of Orange County

Formerly known as both The Discovery Museum of Orange County and the Centennial Heritage Museum, the Heritage Museum of Orange County in Santa Ana, California is home to many local artifacts and educational exhibits... 

...but its centerpiece is the H. Clay Kellogg House, designed and built in 1898 by Hiram Clay Kellogg and relocated from 122 Orange Avenue (now a parking lot) to the museum grounds in 1980. 

June 10, 2022

Photo Essay: Dodger Stadium, Home of The First Sports Arena Botanic Garden In the U.S.

LA's newest botanic garden isn't in the mountain foothills or on the grounds of some grand, historic estate. 

It's at Dodger Stadium—the first sports arena in the country to qualify for botanic garden accreditation (which took five years). 

June 05, 2022

Photo Essay: Santa Barbara's 'Queen of the Missions,' Never Abandoned

After visiting all of the other Southern California Spanish missions—including some of the sub-missions (or asistencias)—over the course of my 11 years living out here, I finally got to Mission Santa Barbara (in the Central Coast city of the same name). 

Founded in 1786 by the "forgotten friar" Friar Fermín de Lasuén—successor to Junípero Serra—as the 10th of 21 Franciscan missions, it's the only continuously operating mission in the California system. Even after secularization in 1833, the Franciscan friars were allowed to stay—helping this mission avoid the neglect and vandalism that plagued the others that were abandoned. 

It became known as the "Queen of the Missions"—a title it has retained, having never fallen into ruins.  

June 04, 2022

Photo Essay: The Oldest Hotel in Vegas, Golden Gate Hotel & Casino at 1 Fremont Street

I've been feeling a sense of urgency to visit all the Vegas hotels and casinos I can before they get imploded. I've seen too many disappear already—some devastatingly before I ever had the chance to visit. 

I still rack my brain trying to remember what the Strip was like when I first stayed there, at the Stratosphere, when I was too sick with the flu to really explore or appreciate it. That was before I knew everything would go away one day. 

Now I know. And it tortures me. 


May 31, 2022

Photo Essay: The Historic Railroad Attraction Along the Tracks That Helped Build the Hoover Dam

One thing I'd wanted to do in Boulder City, Nevada since I first visited there in 2011 was to ride the Nevada Southern Railway at the southern outpost of the Nevada State Railroad Museum (its main outpost being in the state capital of Carson City, and the Nevada Northern Railway being in Ely). 

May 24, 2022

Photo Essay: Glendale's Stone Barn, Once Burned and Flooded, Reopens As a Nature Center

Georges Le Mesnager was an immigrant French winemaker who arrived in Southern California in 1885-6 and purchased land in the Dunsmore Canyon area of La Crescenta—formerly known as Las Flores Canyon, now known as Deukmejian Wilderness Park.

At the time, the canyon was wild and steep—but nevertheless, Mesnager tried to develop the land, planting vines and growing wine grapes there. 

In 1905, his son Louis began building a stone barn primarily to be used as a stable and a storage facility—not only for vineyard equipment but also to store the grapes that would be shipped off to the family's winery at Main and Mesnager Streets in Downtown Los Angeles, a couple of hundred feet away from the west bank of the LA River. 
And now, over 100 years later, the stone barn is the site of grape-growing once again—and is home to the newly opened Stone Barn Nature Center. 

May 22, 2022

Photo Essay: The Resurrection of Verdugo Hills Cemetery, Upon Its Centennial Celebration

The Hills of Peace Cemetery (later renamed Verdugo Hills) was dedicated in 1922 to serve the areas of Sunland and Tujunga, California—in the Crescenta Valley region of Los Angeles. 

The most recent headstones you see are from, say, 1972. There's one crypt in the mausoleum dating back to 1977. 

That was before the torrential rains of February 1978 washed away many of the hillside graves.

And until recently, the only thing almost anyone ever remembered about it was its grisly history—not only natural disasters, but also vandalism and remains that were improperly disposed. It was so bad, some families actually moved their loved ones from their crypts.  

The cemetery finally closed to the public in 2002—after which family members of those interred could visit by appointment only (despite it being declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 2009). The only other time it was open was for occasional historical tours. 

But thanks to the efforts of Friends of Verdugo Hills Cemetery (led by the "undertaker," Craig Durst)—which held monthly and then weekly volunteer cleanup days—the cemetery was prepped and beautified for its centennial celebration on April 23, 2022. 

May 19, 2022

Photo Essay: A Wartime Recreational Facility and Dormitory in San Diego, Reborn As The Guild Hotel

With the Navy Bridge Run starting at 8 a.m.—and me having to come down to San Diego from LA—I needed to book a local hotel room for the night before. Ideally, one that would be either walking distance or a trolley ride from the starting line (as parking there would either be impossible or just grossly expensive). 

I also needed to make sure I'd get a good night's sleep the night before. I was worried enough about completing the race (even just walking it) and didn't need any extra factors working against me. 

In the past in San Diego, I've stayed everywhere from the budget-friendly Dolphin Motel on Point Loma (literally a fisherman's motel) and Motel 6 to the historic Sofia Hotel and Hotel Palomar and the luxury U.S. Grant. 

And then in my search, I came across one hotel in Downtown San Diego I hadn't heard of before: The Guild Hotel, which opened in 2019. (From 2003 to 2014, the property was home to a hostel called the 500 West Hotel.)

Owned by Marriott and operated as a luxury boutique hotel, it's located in a former YMCA building for the Army and Navy—which made it just seem perfect for a stay on a Navy-related trip