Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Photo Essay: An Abandoned Silver Mining Castle Along The Loneliest Road

Anson Phelps Stokes was a born New Yorker who found himself in Nevada. Obviously, I can relate.

It was his involvement in the company Phelps Dodge Corporation that got him into mining in the American West in the mid- to late-19th century, still very much the Old West.

Austin, Nevada was experiencing a silver mining boom in the 1860s—and once Stokes arrived, he got deeply involved in both developing mine claims and building the Nevada Central Railway.

In 1897, he completed a summer home he had built for his son, James Graham Phelps Stokes (known as just "Graham"), just out of medical school and the new president of the Nevada Company.

Three stories high and featuring a number of balconies, it's modeled after a tower in the Roman Campagna in Italy, which Stokes had seen in a painting.

Made of hand-hewn native granite boulders that are either wedged together or held by clay mortar, the tower measures 50 square feet around.

Maybe that's why the Stokes sons abandoned it, after occupying it for only a couple of months.

The bedrooms were on the top floor, the living room on the second floor, and the kitchen and dining room on the ground floor.

There were fireplaces on each of the three floors.

It seems to be less of a home and more of a sentinel outlook over the Reese River Valley and the Stokes family mine claim, which they sold off in 1898.

After that, the property changed hands a few times—but it mostly fell into disrepair and has been preserved as a living ruin and an important detour off Highway 50, "The Loneliest Road in America."

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: A Stone Tower Overlooks The Conquered Desert Valley Floor
Photo Essay: San Marcos Mountain Lodge, a.k.a. Knapp's Castle

Photo Essay: Walt Disney's Snow White-Era Family Home

Walt Disney lived on Woking Way in Los Feliz, Los Angeles with his wife Lillian and his daughters Diane (born 1933) and Sharon (adopted 1936) until 1950.

Illustration by Mike Peraza, via

During those years, The Walt Disney Company released such classics as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, PinocchioFantasiaDumboBambi, and Cinderella.

Built in 1932, the 6400-square-foot storybook cottage had been the Disneys' second house and third home together—but they would eventually move on to their Carolwood Estate in Holmby Hills (since demolished).

Its current owner is Russian horror flick director Timur Bekmambetov...

...but the house is so haunted, people say, that he refuses to sleep there. (Scroll all the way to the bottom to see why.)

Source: Disney

The Tudor-style home—with French Normandy elements and a Mediterranean entryway—was essentially designed by Disney himself, with the help of his Disney studio architect, Frank Crowhurst.

With a baby on the way, the home was completed in just two months.

Unfortunately, Lillian miscarried.

After that, the Disneys weren't so sure they'd need all 12 rooms of their new home after all.

But within a year after moving in, Lillian successfully gave birth after a surprise pregnancy (Diane).

Source: Disney

And this home was where Walt thrived as an artist—and became a dad.

Although all the original furnishings are gone, many of the original architectural elements remain, including the circular rotunda with its wrought iron spandrels...

...and stained glass windows...

...which feature scenes ripped right out of the pages of a fairy tale (e.g. what I think are depictions of Robin Hood and his bugle horn).

The art glass was reportedly fabricated by a local LA studio—but as they're not signed, no one's really sure which studio.

In both the rotunda and dining room, Walt commissioned the ceilings to be painted by a graduate of the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts.

That is, unless the ceiling was vaulted with beams, as in the double-story living room (or "grand room") with the overlooking "Juliet balcony."

More leaded glass (this time, painted) gives a peek out to the back patio and yard...

...with its full sun exposure...

...creeping vines...

...bay windows...

...and steeply pitched (shingled) roof.

This is where you get the sweeping views of Downtown LA that are partially what make the house worth more than $3 million.

But this was once the Disney daughters' playground—anchored by the dwarf playhouse cottage Daddy Disney commissioned (now beside a pool that was added after the Disneys left, in 1963).

Source: Disney

Walt used to phone the girls up while they were playing in there, sometimes posing as Santa Claus to get them to come out.

The billiard room above the garage—now an art studio with secret peek-a-boo bar—was once their playroom, too. Though some evidence indicates that Walt also used it as a home gym.

Upstairs are the little girls' former bedrooms and bathrooms, whose fixtures and porcelain I suspect are original.

Some of the hardware is original too, though some doorknobs have been replaced with antiques or period-appropriate new fabrications.

And the doorbell? I was too shy to ask.

You can probably feel Walt's presence the strongest in the private screening room, which was converted from one of the original bedrooms.

That's where he screened his dailies when he got into live-action features. And that's where the family would watch industry-provided reels of feature films, screened by a full-size projector.

Now, about the house's "haunted" reputation.

That may be because the neighboring Griffith Park is also notoriously haunted.

But it could be because of the Manson family murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

The couple was slain in a different house in 1969—but they'd been living at and owned the Woking Way house at the time.

No wonder this house tour came courtesy of a group called Haunted OC.

The Woking Way home is a private residence with a locked, gated entry. Please do your snooping from afar—or, sign up for an official tour like I did.

Related Posts:
The Ghost Train of Griffith Park
Photo Essay: Old Hollywood's Crossroads of the World, Before It Gets Swallowed Up By 'New' Hollywood
Photo Essay: The Dorothy Bembridge Murder Mansion

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Photo Essay: LA's New Angel-Winged 'Cathedral of Soccer'

[Last updated 9/18/19 9:09 PM PT—added Inglewood stadium corporate naming rights announcement]

LA hadn't had a new open-air stadium built since Dodger Stadium in 1962—and thanks to the sacrificial demolition of the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in Exposition Park and the formation of the new Major League Soccer team, Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), now we've got the Banc of California Stadium.

I'll admit—the thing is cool to look at, both inside and out, mostly because of the shape of a special, durable plastic canopy (all 190,000 square feet of it) that's supposed to evoke the image of "angel wings" (in, of course, the "City of Angels").

Apparently we've gotten to the point where we don't even try to honor actual people with our monuments—we just leapfrog right into corporate sponsorship.

But maybe big money up front meant the design team at Gensler Sports could go all out.

Making a big splash was important—not only because it was for a new major league team, but also because it was being built specifically for the sport of soccer (a.k.a. fĂștbol).

LA's other soccer club—LA Galaxy—doesn't even play within city limits, but in the South Bay suburb of Carson (at Dignity Health Sports Park, the former StubHub Center, which it one shared with its former rival team, the now defunct Chivas USA).

So maybe LAFC has got something to prove now.

The new Banc of California stadium broke ground in August 2016 and just opened in 2018—and although I haven't been able to catch a game yet, I had the chance to take an architectural tour of it.

Walking into it is interesting, because the client—the football club, I presume—didn't want it to feel like walking into a stadium or sports complex.

So, it feels a bit more like a luxury hotel.

But then you're out on the field—just a breath away from the natural turf (86,000 square feet of Bermuda grass)—and wow. It's stunning.

You can imagine how nice it is to watch a game there, no matter where your seats are—in the supporters' section, the shady nosebleed rows, or the field club level.

It must feel pretty epic for the home team to play there—and maybe a bit intimidating for the visiting teams.

Fans can enter through the North Gate, right in between the angel wings...

...and proceed to whichever one of the 22,000 seats they can afford...

...whether in the East stands, Midfield Box, East Overlook...

...or the south stand, which has the bonus payoff of a framed view of the LA skyline, looking north.

Fans also have their choice of 35 suites in the stadium, which is being called a "Cathedral of Soccer."

To me, the "place to be" is the the after-party spot, the Sunset Deck...

...a Palm Springs-style upper level club with concrete breeze blocks...

...water features...

...tiled surfaces...

...and shady lounge areas.

Plus the loge boxes give a pretty fantastic view, with a little bit of distance from the game mayhem.

But for those who prefer to hang indoors—and don't really care about actually watching the game live on the field—there are plenty of kitchens, bars, and glam party spaces where they can throw down their Black Card and sign the bill without even looking at it.

To be honest, soccer games aren't enough to keep this stadium in business all year. (Especially since soccer games are usually only about an hour an a half!)

So, Banc of California Stadium will also host boxing, lacrosse, rugby, and of course concerts.

It's the shiny new thing we've got right now. But the new NFL stadium in Inglewood (initially known as Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park, now named SoFi Stadium at least for the next 20 years) is nipping at its heels, with a projected completion date of 2020.

Stay tuned for photos of the next shiny new thing, once it opens!

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: At the Center of A City of Stadiums
Photo Essay: LA Memorial Sports Arena, Upon Its Demolition
Photo Essay: LA's Art Deco Olympic Stadium (Updated for 2019)