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December 01, 2022

Photo Essay: Julia Morgan-Designed Home of Hearst's Examiner Gets a Facelift For a New Generation of Journalists

The Herald Examiner Building on Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles had always been somewhat of a mystery to me.

circa 1937 (Photo: Works Progress Administration Photo Collection, LAPL)

After all, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner ceased its publishing operations 33 years ago, in November 1989.

November 27, 2022

Photo Essay: The Most Vegas-y Football Stadium Ever Is Now Home to the Raiders (And the 2024 Super Bowl)

Once again, football season has rolled around—and although I took the tour of Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas back in May 2022, I waited until now to post about it.

 
It was purpose-built (on land that's always been a vacant lot, according to HistoricAerials.com) as the National Football League stadium of the Las Vegas Raiders—formerly the Oakland Raiders (1960–1981 and 1995–2019) and, when I was growing up and watching American football with my dad, the LA Raiders (1982–1994). They relocated to Vegas in 2020, although that year they played to an empty stadium because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

November 25, 2022

A Turkey-Free Thanksgiving at a Storied Mountain Lodge Outside of LA

When I was working as a field agent for Atlas Obscura a few years ago, I really wanted to host a dinner at Saddle Peak Lodge—specifically, a game meat dinner. 

I was fascinated with intimidating foods and thought that a communal experience would create a comfort level that I, and others, might not have alone. 

I couldn't get that event approved, so I finally went to Saddle Peak Lodge on my own a few years ago—but I wimped out both gastronomically and financially and just went to brunch. I don't remember the meal, but I'm pretty sure I had eggs (and not, like, ostrich eggs).

So, I've felt like I hadn't really experienced the restaurant—and when the 2018 Woolsey Fire swept through the area, fortunately sparing it, the urgency to return intensified.


I finally made it back yesterday, for Thanksgiving dinner—not because this colonial holiday is important to me (it's not), but because I felt like I needed the excuse of a special occasion to splurge on it. And since it's a Michelin star-receiving establishment, it also charges Michelin star-level prices.

November 21, 2022

Photo Essay: A Rare Opportunity to Visit the Closed Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Upon Its 150th Birthday

Earlier this month, Pescadero, California was the site of a sesquicentennial celebration for Pigeon Point Lighthouse—built in 1871 (one of eight built that year that are still standing) but first lit at sunset on November 15, 1872. 
 

November 17, 2022

Photo Essay: Melody Ranch Movie Ranch Evolves Beyond Its Western Town Legacy

When I last toured Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio in 2014, it was during the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival. But the movie ranch, located within LA's "30-Mile Zone" for filming, no longer hosts that festival—and it's gotten progressively hard to access it at any other time.

 
But Historical Society of Crescenta Valley managed to catch it during a rare quiet time of production, when no filming was taking place and previously super-secret sets from the Westworld TV series were being dismantled (and mostly still couldn't be photographed).

November 16, 2022

Photo Essay: In Search of Terra Firma in the Mojave Desert, Where Earthquakes Cracked the Earth

I'd been following the Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest, California ever since I joined them on a tour of the ancient petroglyph site located within the Navy base at China Lake in 2014.

I knew they hosted other field trips—wildflower walks and such—so I was always hoping for an excuse to return to the area, which I usually just pass through on my way to the Eastern Sierra.

But the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station hasn't reopened to the public since the COVID-19 pandemic—and it's still got $2 billion worth of repairs to make, after two earthquakes in 2019 shook it to its core.

That unfortunate situation opened up the opportunity for Maturango Museum to pivot to other field trips—including one that focused on the visible signs of those very same earthquakes that damaged the naval base so badly. 

So, led by geologist (and former BLM desert ranger) Glenn Harris, we caravanned from the museum to multiple sites that were within striking distance from the epicenters of the 6.4 earthquake in Searles Valley on July 4, 2019 (the "foreshock") and the 7.1 in Trona on July 5, 2019 (the "mainshock").

(Although these quakes could be felt in Los Angeles, and even as far north as the Bay Area, at the time I was traveling in Northern California and Oregon for the Fourth of July weekend—in Lava Beds National Monument and Lassen Volcanic National Park on July 4 and Crater Lake and Klamath Falls on July 5.)

 

November 13, 2022

A Desert Failure, A Desert Victory (Or, A Tale of Two Mines)

The thing that got me really hiking through Joshua Tree National Park back in 2009 was the fact that it was the only way to get to the Wall Street Mill site

Back then, I was in shape enough and confident enough—or stupid enough—to trek out there by myself. 

But my hiking abilities have really declined since my car accident in 2014—and so I've had to curtail my adventures and stick to easier hikes, usually with groups. 
   
So I was excited to join the Desert Institute on a field trip back into the park—this time, near the Twentynine Palms entrance—to explore a couple of lesser-known mine sites. 

November 11, 2022

Photo Essay: World Famous Crochet Museum, Joshua Tree

I think I was close to the World Famous Crochet Museum back in 2012. Or maybe in 2009. I remember staying at The Desert Lily and ending up at some kind of event at Art Queen, the art compound that hosts the tiny museum.
   
But I didn't go in back then. I didn't yet know how to appreciate it.

November 07, 2022

Photo Essay: Oviatt Penthouse, Continuing to Return to Its Original Art Deco Glory

Anyone can visit the Oviatt Building and gawk at its ornate Art Deco cornice from across the street or examine the lovely Lalique glasswork from the front entrance. 

But if you enter the building—probably through Cicada, the restaurant that now lays claim to the ground floor once occupied by Oviatt's men's clothing store—you lose nearly all sense of Art Deco.

That's because the building itself is Italian Romanesque, and the interior was designed in the style of English Jacobian.
 
 
However, perched atop the roof of the Oviatt Building, in the form of the penthouse where James Oviatt himself lived until his death, you'll find an Art Deco masterpiece. 

November 05, 2022

Photo Essay: Palm Springs' House of Tomorrow, Exorcised of Its Elvis 'Sideshow'

Although Elvis did have a house in Beverly Hills, Palm Springs seems like it was more like the West Coast home-away-from-Memphis of our dearly-departed King of Rock and Roll.

 
And that's where there's the modernist home leased for him by Colonel Tom Parker for a year starting in 1966—built in 1960 as "The House of Tomorrow" by architect William Krisel.