August 05, 2023

Photo Essay: Hollywood Post 43, A World War I Memorial Built By the Movies and Boxing Matches

It's been nicknamed the "Post of the Stars." 

Originally chartered in 1919 by Hollywood luminaries who'd returned from World War I, American Legion Hollywood Post 43 can count such luminaries as Clark Gable, Gene Autry, Mickey Rooney, Ronald Reagan, and Charlton Heston as its past members.
It's located just over a block north of Hollywood Boulevard—on Highland Avenue just south of the Hollywood Bowl and across the street from the Lasky-DeMille Barn, home of Hollywood Heritage.

The current Egyptian Revival-style, temple-like clubhouse was completed in 1929—the work of  brothers (and fellow Legionnaires) Joseph and Eugene Weston, Jr., a.k.a. Weston and Weston Architects. But it wasn't the Post's first home.

Established locally in 1919 (the same year the American Legion was founded nationally) by the Tinseltown likes of Cecil B. DeMille and Mary Pickford, Post 43 started out at the Hollywood Legion Boxing Stadium on El Centro Avenue in Hollywood. (The site now houses an LA Fitness, in the replacement stadium built in 1938.) Ticket sales from boxing matches helped bankroll the construction of its new, permanent home. 

With its celebrity backing and plenty of funding, the new Hollywood Post could provide a fitting memorial to the Great War, with a fa├žade that pays tribute to WWI Generals Ferdinand Foch and John J. Pershing...

...and bears the Army motto "This We'll Defend" and the Marine motto "Semper Fidelis" ("Always Faithful"), under the American Legion's own motto "In peace as in war we serve," in Gladding McBean-made terracotta (under a rendition of the Legion's preamble).

The American Legion preamble reads as such:

For God and Country, we associate ourselves together for the following purposes:
To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America; to maintain law and order; to foster and perpetuate a 100-percent Americanism; to preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in all wars; to inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation; to combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses; to make right the master of might; to promote peace and good will on earth; to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy; to consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.

And above the front door reads the inscription, "He who has not passed through calamity knows not the blessings of security"—which appears to be a riff on the Carl Jung quotation, "A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them."

The three-story building itself has been recognized as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument—and although it's not not open to the public, it's still really for veterans and their families.
I was so happy to get a rare tour around the debut of its new movie theatre in 2021.

We got to look up into the central rotunda, with its leaded glass lighting fixtures illuminating the painted words of the WWI declaration of war: "To such a task we can dedicate our Eves and our fortunes, every thing that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured."

That's also where stained glass windows pay tribute to the various battalions that fought in WWI (like the Army's 13th Division, whose insignia is a lucky horseshoe, the number 13, and a black cat).

On our tour, we also got more than just a peek into the "Trophy Room"...

...taking a good look around on its ground level...

...and from above.

There are military-style ornamentations throughout the Post...

...but there's also an official "museum" that contains various bits of ephemera... well as marching band instruments, uniforms, historical photos, and more.

It took me two years to finally publish a piece about this place because I was waiting for the opportunity to see a band play in its Cabaret Room...

...where the Big Band Alumni and vocalists Bill A. Jones and Nancy Osborne perform one Sunday a month. 
It's in the Hollywood Post's basement, down the hall from a poker room (featuring an original 1920s-era poker table)...

...pool table room (which apparently is home to a ghost named Marshall)...

...and the famed "Art Deco Bar" (which some might recognize from the bar fight scene in the Chris Pine-as-Captain Kirk version of Star Trek.
It's closed on Thursday and Friday nights, which are for members only, and of course Veterans Day. But during shows and other public events, you can belly up and wet your whistle at one of the most exclusive, and coolest, private clubs in town. 

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