February 28, 2021

Photo Essay: A Pasadena Garden Grows Where the 710 Freeway Never Got Extended

Arlington Garden is located on 3 acres of the former 10-acre estate of Chicago-born wholesale grocer John Milton Durand, whose mansion stood at the corner of Pasadena's "Millionaire's Row" (Orange Grove Boulevard) and Arlington Drive from 1904 to 1964. 

February 26, 2021

Requiem for Fry's, The Quirkiest Electronics Stores There Ever Were

Last updated 3/13/21 3:14 PM PT—architect info added

I can't remember the first time I drove past Fry's Electronics in Burbank, California—whether it was on an early business trip to LA or after I'd officially moved here in 2011—but it felt like it had always been there. 

And as much of an oddity it was, with a flying saucer having crash-landed into its front entrance, it never occurred to me that it wouldn't always be there. 

February 22, 2021

Pasadena City Hall's View Corridor May Soon Become Obstructed

It seems like the City of Pasadena is trying to pull the ol' switcheroo. 

You see, back in 1923, the public voted to approve a $3.5-million bond measure to create the Pasadena Civic Center District—a grouping of monumental civic buildings designed in a homogenous style, each located at the terminus of wide, ceremonial boulevards. 

Essential to the plan—created by the Chicago firm of Bennett, Parsons, and Frost—was the unobstructed "view corridor," which has been mostly preserved. 

But maybe not for long. 

Because as a group called the Pasadena Civic Center Coalition has been sounding the alarm, the City is trying to redesignate that public open space—with its uninterrupted sightlines—as surplus. 

And it's trying to sell it off to private developers. 

February 21, 2021

Sears Boyle Heights, A Bastion of Affordable Shopping For Nearly 94 Years, Is Closing

I'd spent I-don't-know-how-many years avoiding Sears stores.

My childhood was practically defined by my family's relationship with the mail-order catalogue and reasonably-priced retail chain—especially given the employee discount we got from Dad working nights and weekends in the credit department at the Fayetteville Mall location of Sears.

That one opened in 1974—the year of my sister's birth, when my parents were still living in Chittenango, New York and hadn't yet moved back to Syracuse. 

I don't know when my dad started working his second job at Sears, but I can't remember a time when he wasn'tscampering off at 5:45 for his 6 o'clock shift—every night except Fridays and Sundays.

That location of Sears closed in 1995—but by then, they'd already shut down their regional credit department and laid my father off (which I remember happening sometime while I was in high school).

I thought my history with Sears was over with.

Olympic Boulevard near Soto Street, circa 1950 (Photo: Los Angeles Photographers Photo Collection, LAPL)

But then in January earlier this year, I heard that the landmark Sears store in the Los Angeles community of Boyle Heights had been added to the company's closing list. According to Forbes, it's expected to close by April.  

February 18, 2021

Photo Essay: A Haven for the Prominent Figures of Orange County, Now Passed

Fairhaven cemetery in Santa Ana, California may have been created as a "memorial park"-style burial ground, but there's plenty to explore there other than flat grave markers. 

February 15, 2021

Photo Essay: The Plowed Ruins of a Private Malibu Enclave at Nicholas Canyon Beach (Updated for 2022)

[Last updated 7/9/22 3:32 PM PT—Architect Harry Gesner's death noted]

We were in search of some architectural treasures in Malibu—and my friend had read that the best way to get to them would be from Nicholas Canyon Beach. 
We both shrugged, neither one of us familiar with the county-run beach—or the other treasures we were about to find. 

February 14, 2021

A Pandemic Valentine

Ever since the first shutdown was looming back in March 2020, I've been desperate to "get back in the game."

Not necessarily the dating game, or the relationship game, but just "the game"—to be among the other living, breathing human beings who desire and are desired. 

February 04, 2021

Photo Essay: Sleep Like a Pirate at The Victorian Mansion in Los Alamos, CA

Old West towns in California are an endangered species—and I don't mean the ones that were built that way as tourist attractions or movie sets.  

Los Alamos ("The Cottonwoods" in Spanish) in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley is a survivor of the Old West, founded in 1876 and still with a population of less than 2,000—despite the burgeoning wine country that surrounds it. 


Photo Essay: Glimpses of Solvang, A Bit of Denmark Tucked Into California's Central Coast

I've been to Solvang, California several times now. I even stayed at Solvang's Hamlet Inn a few years ago. But I don't feel like I'm very familiar with the town at all.

February 01, 2021

Photo Essay: O Me of Little Faith, at a California Central Coast Wine Country Church in the Santa Ynez Valley

About 20 miles north up the 154 from the San Marcos Pass is the quaint town of Los Olivos, a little gem of the Santa Ynez Valley wine country. 

It seems pretty obvious, then, why a congregation in that area would name themselves St. Mark's-In-the-Valley. 

But the Episcopalian worshippers of St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley actually didn't originate in Los Olivos—but a little farther south in the valley, in the nearby Danish town of Solvang.

A member of the Diocese of Los Angeles since 1943, it became clear in the 1970s that it was outgrowing its home and needed to move.