Saturday, December 8, 2018

Christmas at the Doctors House, Saved From Demolition and Moved to Brand Park

Some buildings are so historic, so enchanting, that they serve as a touchstone for preservationists to assemble and organize in lasting ways.

Rendering by Edward Alejandre, circa 1981

The Los Angeles Conservancy had Central Library, and The Glendale Historical Society had the Doctors House, a Victorian home in the Queen Anne/Eastlake style built out of redwood, with a square tower. 

Photo: Konrad Summers [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It's named after not one but four doctors who occupied the Victorian house in succession, when it was located on the northwest corner of Wilson and Belmont (at the time, Third and B Streets, where an apartment building stand now).

The first physician to occupy it after it was built in 1888 was a Chicagoan, Dr. C.V. Bogue. In 1901, Dr. Bogue sold the house and practice so he could move back to the Midwest.

His buyer was Dr. David Winslow Hunt, a Minnesotan who owned the first automobile within Glendale limits, while it was still just a hamlet of 300 residents.

The third doctor to take up residence in the house was Dr. A. L. Bryant, who bought the house from Dr. Hunt in 1907 and then sold it back to him in 1908. Some historical records don't even count him and keep the narrative to just three doctors.

Dr. Hunt turned around and sold it again, this time to Dr. Leon H. Hurtt—the fourth and final doctor to occupy the house and the first president of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce.

Although it's been restored as a "doctors house museum," replete with tools and instruments and medical tomes... was actually built by a real estate developer and was occupied by others before and after the four doctors...

...including Canadian actress and animal trainer Nell Shipman from 1917 to 1920.

Reportedly, her onsite menagerie included two bear cubs.

The Glendale streets used to be lined with homes like this when they were fashionable—but by 1979, the Victorian style had fallen out of fashion and a demolition permit was issued for this one, while it still stood in its former location.

The newly-formed Glendale Historical Society mobilized and maneuvered a move to Brand Park in 1980. They opened it as a museum four years later and still conduct tours today. Now, it's only one of  couple Victorians left in Glendale.

The saving of the Doctors House is considered the birth of the preservation movement in Glendale—but 40 years later, it's still got a long way to go (especially judging by its complete neglect of the Rockhaven Sanitarium property the city owns and refuses to do anything with).

How much do we have to lose and subsequently regret before we actually learn our lesson?

How many ugly yet utilitarian apartment buildings have replaced historic structures that provide a looking-glass view into the 19th century (or even farther back in time)?

How many more coalitions have to form to fight the good fight?

When does the fighting stop?

Related Posts:
Halloween at the Dead Doctor's Mansion
Photo Essay: Brand Park Trails
Photo Essay: The Mysteries of Brand Park in Historic Glendale
This House Has a New Home

Photo Essay: The Lautner House Built for Jazz, Made of Rainbows and Tears

The Garcia House isn't as famous as its Hollywood neighbor, The Chemosphere, even though they were both designed by architect John Lautner.

But even though I didn't know it by name—or by its '70s-era nickname, the "Rainbow House"—I'm sure I'd seen at least parts of it before in a movie. (Scroll to the bottom to watch a pinnacle scene from Lethal Weapon 2.)

But I've learned by now that if its part of the Lautner oeuvre, I want to see it.

And the Garcia House did not disappoint.

Built in 1962 for jazz musician, composer, and arranger Russ Garcia and his wife Gina, the house leads you in a dizzying spiral of curves and teardrops that makes you question whether you're inside or outside at any given time.

Vacated by the Garcias in 1966—who sold all their possessions to buy a boat, sail the world, and eventually land in Fiji—it was famously occupied by actor Vincent Gallo and later sensitively restored for the greater part of the first decade of the new millennium.

The original and new terrazzo floors join together both distinctly and seamlessly.

The "Rainbow" nickname came not only from the curved shape of the roof (actually two distinct halves that unite as one)...

...but also the array of colored glass windows across the back facade.

Perched up high in the Hollywood Hills off of Mulholland Drive between Briar Summit Open Space Preserve and the north entrance of Runyon Canyon...'s one of those gravity-defying houses that are both an engineering marvel and a nailbiter to visit, especially while walking past those V-shaped supports in the house's undercarriage.

One of the later additions to the property was actually part of Lautner's original plan—a teardrop-shaped swimming pool that the Garcias couldn't afford to build at the time.

That's where you get the best view of the house—and of Hollywood below.

But inside (which I can't show you, as photos were not allowed and people live there now), Hollywood practically disappears.

The Hills, however, do not.

Since moving to LA, I've had the pleasure of touring lots of homes that would be a dream come true for lots of other people—but not necessarily me. I can barely envision a life outside of my apartment—or, really, any apartment.

But sitting on the L-shaped couch of the Garcia House, I could really imagine myself living there.

Maybe one day I will.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: John Lautner's Sheats-Goldstein Residence, Before Private Becomes Public
Photo Essay: California Dream Homes
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Photo Essay: 1000 Lights (Or More) at Sherman Library and Gardens

This weekend, I went to the Sherman Library and Gardens, a fixture in Corona del Mar, California since 1955...

...but I wasn't researching the Southern Pacific Railroad, Tejon Ranch, or even Newport Beach.

I didn't even know what the research library had in its collection.

I just wanted to see the historical adobe architecture...

...and check out the landscaping and gardens, partially the former home of Norman's Nursery.

There's a small window in December when you can visit the library during normal operating hours during the day and see it decorated for the holidays at night, too.

So, I planned my visit accordingly.

This time of year, the season really takes over the garden...

...but you can still visit the orchids in the Tropical Conservatory...

...including the ones featured in Smell-O-Vision...

...that give off perfumes of fruit and chocolate.

But in the Tea Garden and the Central Garden, the horticultural point of interest flips to Christmas trees.

And the library's mascot otter dons a Santa Hat.

Having been to some of the larger garden light displays around SoCal (including ZooLights), I didn't expect much out of the 2.2 acres that the Sherman Library occupies along the Pacific Coast Highway.

But I was impressed with how the Fern Grotto had been transformed into a Disco InFERNo...

...and how the light tunnel offered a colorful respite...

...from the Santa visits, s'mores station, and selfie wall that surrounded it.

The holiday event at this historic site is billed as "Nights of 1000 Lights"...

...but while I was inside of it, it felt more like millions or billions.

From the Noel Bleu in the Sun Garden, right down to the Rainbow Tree in the otherwise dormant Rose Garden.

Norman's Nursery—and eventually all the surrounding lots in the entire city block—were purchased by Arnold D. Haskell, who named Sherman Library and Gardens after his mentor, Moses Sherman.

While working as a bellboy at the Mission Inn in Riverside, Haskell became Sherman's assistant and then his successor after his retirement.

The library's namesake is the same as Sherman Oaks and West Hollywood, which was once known as Sherman.

Moses Sherman was an Upstate New Yorker who headed out West, penniless. After landing in Phoenix and building a streetcar system there, he began to amass some real estate and some serious holdings in railroad ventures.

And then he moved to LA and did the same thing.

For some reason, I had to go all the way to Orange County to learn about him.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Lighting Up the LA Zoo
Photo Essay: Cactus Lights

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Photo Essay: The Majesty of Chicago's Namesake Movie Palace

"Has anyone here ever been to the Chicago Theatre before?" our tour guide asked us.

I, of course, raised my hand.

After my fellow tourists in our group talked of the movies they'd seen when they were kids, or the live shows of more recent times, it was my turn.

"The Smooth Jazz Awards in the early 2000s," I offered, to which our guide responded, "OK!" (It was probably the year 2000 or 2001.)

In fact I used to stay at a hotel around the corner from the Chicago Theatre all the time when I'd have to travel to the Windy City for work. So I would see it all the time. But only ever at night.

So, when I had to go back to Chicago for work again for the first time in a decade or so, I decided to go back for a daytime tour. That's when I first realized that its terra cotta exterior was modeled after L'Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

I've been to so many historic theatres without having committed their details to memory. You get spoiled, living in New York City, with all the Broadway shows in historic venues and the Times Square AMC being a bona fide movie palace.

I hadn't remembered how the grand lobby ceiling would cycle from blue to pink or that there used to be two chandeliers instead of just one.

Maybe I just never noticed. There was no one to explain it to me there and then.

I had to wait nearly 20 years to figure out that the five-story lobby was meant to evoke The Royal Chapel at the Palace of Versailles.

My favorite times in theatres are those between the shows, when you don't have to worry about the curtain call or the house lights flickering to beckon you to your seat.

So, during our tour, I could just absorb the lobby, the daylight shining through the stained-glass the coat-of-arms of the theatre co-owners (Abe Balaban and Sam and Morris Katz)—two horses holding ribbons of 35-mm film in their mouths...

...and illuminating the staircase modeled after the Paris opera house, the Palais Garnier.

Much of the theatre has been restored since this "Wonder Theatre" first opened.

Other parts have not.

The ushers no longer use the control panel that once showed where still-empty seats were located. Now we choose our own seats ahead of time and simply ask the ushers to point us in the right direction.

Some of the historical renovations of the Chicago Theatre have thankfully be reversed, like when it was redecorated for the 1933 World’s Fair and again in the 1950s.

That's when the plasterwork was deemed "old-fashioned" and covered up and everything else was painted an oh-so-modern white.

Fortunately, it's been returned to its original French Baroque splendor...

...right down to the ATM machine, contributed by presenting sponsor Chase.

The original crystal chandeliers were provided by the premiere lighting fixture company of the time, Victor Pearlman and Co.

Plaster details were created by McNulty Brothers Company, which had made a name for itself having done much of the interior plasterwork for the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

And the architects who brought all that talent together were Cornelius W. and George L. Rapp (known also for their work on the Loew's Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, New York).

The Neo-Baroque French-Revival of the Chicago Theatre became Rapp and Rapp's signature style—and this theatre is the oldest remaining example of it in Chicago.

I seriously could've spent all day starig down at the lobby from its gallery promenades...

...but although I wasn;t there to see a show that day...

...I had to get another look at the auditorium.

The ceilings and surrounding walls are adorned with murals painted by Louis Grell (who once taught Walt Disney at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts).

Michelangelo Studios had provided all the statues at the 1893 Chicago World's Exposition, and it supplied the two identical statues that flank the house of the Chicago Theatre as well.

But the real star of the auditorium is the 26- (now 29-)rank "Mighty Wurlitzer" pipe organ, which came out of Wurlitzer's North Tonawanda Barrel Organ Factory and has called the Chicago Theatre home since 1921.

There are actually two consoles at opposite ends of the stage, for those "dueling" organ concerts between Jesse Crawford and his wife.

A monster of an auditorium capacity-wise, especially compared to Manhattan and Downtown LA historic palaces, the Chicago Theatre seats 3553 from orchestra to balcony...

...and takes up about a half a city block, both wide and long.

The stage is 70 feet wide and 32 feet deep, from the back wall to the lip of the stage.

But backstage is really where it's at...

...where the walls outside the dressing rooms have been signed by the likes of Prince, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Julie Andrews, Johnny Mathis, Kenny Rogers...

...Englebert Humperdinck, Carol Burnett, and hundreds of other performers that time has not been quite so kind to.

These are all the reasons why the Chicago Theatre letters on its marquee—and the "Y" symbol behind it (representing where the Chicago River forks at Wolf Point)—have come to represent the city itself, throughout the world.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Last Chance Look at The Tower Theatre (Lobby, House & Balcony)
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