Remember the specifics of the controversy a few years ago surrounding the city of LA’s deal with large, politically-connected outdoor advertising firms over the installation of bright digital billboards, many of which had been originally placed illegally? I don’t either. Controversy is fleeting, but those billboards are here to stay.

This is an interesting survey of billboards in the 1940’s that’s part of a presentation on why outdoor advertising is important for YOUR business. (They’re all so low to the ground!)

See if you can spot the Brown Derby cameo. Let’s have a cocktail and dinner and watch, shall we?

(Via Vintage Los Angeles)

Glendale has grown dramatically in the last few decades and, as a matter of city policy, seems to have few limits on what sort of project can be built where and with what repercussions.  From the ubiquitous apartment buildings that dot the neighborhoods of predominantly single family houses, to the pair of giant malls that exist side-by-side in the center of city, Glendale’s urban planning for years has favored wiping swaths of small structures clean to make way for larger commercial projects.  Whether this is a triumph or a travesty depends on your point of view.

The evolution of Glendale’s downtown area from typical turn-of-the-century residences to bustling commercial district is most evident in a five block stretch of Central Avenue.  The photos below illustrate this trajectory of development from modest houses to apartment and office buildings, then to department stores, followed by a giant indoor mall, and culminating in a mega-outdoor mall that typifies early 21st century retail development in Southern California.

Central Ave. was home to mostly Craftsman bungalows at the turn of the last century.  This undated photo was taken on Central at California looking north.  As the area started to commercialize, the white Craftsman house across California was eventually replaced by a gas station some time in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s.  The houses behind it were eventually replaced with an apartment building.  Now, the site is an empty lot.  The wall in the foreground belongs to Sears.

1932.  Half a block south.  The left picture shows not only snow on the ground but the apartment building has replaced the houses in the distance.  The Sears would eventually replace these houses three years later.  I found an image of the store from nearly the same angle and overlayed it, but there are two possible ways to line the lamp posts up, so both versions are here.  In either case, the change from Craftsman residential to Streamline Moderne retail is dramatic.

The apartment building in the 1932 photo above being demolished in 2008.  The abandoned gas station is where the white Craftsman once stood.

What’s planned for the corner.

The empty lot in the lower left corner that’s there now.  That’s why I snapped the photo.  There’s nothing else of interest in this picture.

Back to Sears…

Coincidentally, the old Sears advertising slogan “Come to Sears Brand Central” has a special meaning in Glendale, as this Sears is situated between Brand Blvd. and Central Ave.  Completed in 1935, this was the first Sears store in the world to be custom-built as such. Up until that point, Sears-Roebuck had taken over existing structures.

Very little of the original interior exists, and the exterior was extensively and poorly remodeled some time in the 70’s or 80’s.  Notice how the house on the right had been repurposed as a clinic by the 30’s.  Though the structure is long gone, a medical clinic still occupies the lot just south of the Sears today.

Looking south at the Sears in the 1940’s

The lamp posts are still there, now with ficus trees along the sidewalk.  The high resolution photo shows the sign for a malt shop in the building on the near right (razed a few years ago to build a 6-story mixed use development and is still a vacant lot).

In the distance on the right is the art deco “Professional Building” at 229 N. Central.  I haven’t been able to find any formal documentation on the place, but years ago I was treated to some history from a longtime tenant, the late Dr. Sol Balkin whose podiatry practice was there for decades.  According to Dr. Balkin, when built, the Professional Building was one of the tallest buildings in the city, and one of the first such buildings solely for medical offices in the area.  These days, it only houses only one or two doctors, the rest of the tenants being other businesses.  When Dr. Balkin first started working there, he used to chat with the elderly man who owned the (long gone) house next door, who in turn recalled that people rode horse carriages up to the building when it was new, alongside the cars.  Dr. Lawrence Craven, who in 1948 anecdotally observed that his patients who were taking aspirin suffered fewer heart attacks, housed his practice in the building.  It would be decades before Dr. Craven’s recommendation of an aspirin a day would gain wide acceptance, but today his work is commemorated by a plaque at Glendale Memorial Hospital.

Looking north on Central at Salem.  Notice in the top picture how the right-most house the old white Craftsman, only in its original color.  The second picture shows larger trees and the house has been painted white.  The third picture is present day, the Professional Building in the foreground.

For you Hallmark Channel McBride fans, this building was used for the exterior establishing shots for John Larroquette’s office.

Working our way south:

Central and Broadway, 1930.

Central and Colorado, 1930.

Several city blocks of old buildings, small strip malls, and industrial facilities were replaced with the Americana at Brand.  It’s ironic that a whole chunk of operating city would be removed and rebuilt as a “Main Street USA” mixed-use shopping center.

Bing’s aerial maps show the 4-block area of the city that is now the Americana.  (Pan to the left to the big vacant lot.  That’s the site just after demolition.  If you keep panning around, updated photos take over showing the mall under construction).

Central and Harvard, 1930.

In researching where exactly this was, I couldn’t search this intersection in Google maps because Harvard no longer crosses Central.  The block west of Central was first taken over by the Galleria,  and the rest wiped off the map when Harvard became the entrance to the Americana parking garage.

The Glendale Galleria straddles Central Avenue.

Two aerial views of the area shot eight years apart.  In 1929, the Professional Building is there, but not much else.  In 1937, the Sears is by far the largest building on Central.  Today, it’s dwarfed by the neighboring malls.

Satellite view of Glendale’s central core.  They say there are two structures that can be seen from outer space:  the Great Wall of China and the Galleria (The Great Mall of Glendale).

(Historic photo credits: Los Angeles Public Library, California Digital Library, USC Digital Library)

Pasadena’s Memorial Park is has all kinds of interesting treasures hidden around it.  The park is basically in Old Town, and the Gold Line stops right next to it.  If you haven’t explored Memorial Park, here are 5 things to see you may not know were there:

1.  Civil War Memorial (1906)

2.  Vietnam Veterans Memorial (2004)

Originally dedicated in 1993 at City Hall, it was rededicated in the park nine years later.  Inscribed on the granite are the names of the 31 Pasadena men killed during the Vietnam war.

3. Miniature Pasadena Train Station Playground

I don’t know when this playground was built or the story behind it, but stumbling upon it inspired me to write this entry.

Bult in 1935, Pasadena’s actual Santa Fe depot was shuttered in the early 90’s.  It was moved, integrated into the Del Mar Station development, restored, and now houses La Grande Orange Café.  Lots more on the station here. (Photo via cruiselinehistory.com)

4.  Memorial Library Arch (1955)

Pasadena’s public library was erected on this spot in 1890.  The building was damaged in the Long Beach earthquake of 1933 and was demolished in 1954.  The archway was restored in 1955 but was subsequently damaged during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.  It’s been fenced off ever since, and is an unfortunate exhibit of of crumbling bricks and pigeon guano.  Here’s the accompanying plaque:

5.  A show at Levitt Pavilion (1930’s)

New York philanthropist Mortimer Levitt made his fortune selling custom made shirts at his nationwide chain of stores.  The Levitt Foundation he created in 1966 has restored and endowed several open air bandshells around the country through public-private partnerships to bring free live music to the community during the summer.  Since 2002, the Levitt Pavilion Pasadena has featured music and children’s shows five nights a week from June through August.

Soul Funk’s Motown Revue on August 12, 2010.

For those who can’t get enough of Bunker Hill the way it used to be,  Bunker Hill 1956 has just been posted to vimeo.

The 17-minute film was a project by students at USC Film School, directed by Kent MacKenzie, who went on to direct The Exiles, a feature about Native Americans living on Bunker Hill.  As with the series of stunning color photographs mentioned here before, those documenting the neighborhood for this film knew that its days were numbered.  In this case, the focus is on the pensioners living there and what was to become of them.  As one longtime resident says of the Community Redevelopment Agency’s plan:

Their method of going about it is to not only clear the slums but clear all the people out of the area, and rebeautify the whole thing, rebuild and  put an opera house up here.  Make a picture area out of it, without keeping the inhabitants in mind at all.

The film vividly captures the fabric of the area, the rich textures of a drug store, a shoemaker’s shop, meager apartments, and everyday street scenes.  And there are great shots of Angels’ Flight (in its original form) and the Grand Central Market.

(via LA Observed)

CalArts was founded by Walt and Roy Disney in 1961 with the merger of the LA Conservatory of Music and the Chouinard Art Institute.  Classes weren’t offered until 1970, and the current location in Valencia didn’t open until 1971, so the vision set forth in this mid-60’s film was pretty much just that.

But the quality of the film and the vibrancy of the color is stunning.  There are gorgeous renderings of the future Music Center downtown, as well as a LACMA that didn’t materialize as shown.  And a huge modern film museum across from the Hollywood Bowl that also didn’t happen, though the site currently houses the Hollywood Heritage Museum‘s Lasky-Demille Barn.

The most shocking revelation are the renderings of the proposed campus perched high above Hollywood in the Cahuenga Pass between the 101 and Lake Hollywood.  When I checked Google Earth, the ridge today is still mostly open space, save for one tiny feature: the beautiful and historic Ford Amphitheater.  Now how could the city allow a venerable landmark to be destroyed to build a school?  Oh right.

via The CalArts Story on Vimeo.

On Bunker Hill has unearthed a trove of newly found photos of the once opulent, formerly run down, then gone area of downtown.  In addition to being so detailed and vivid so as to look like they were taken only 10 years ago instead of 50, the snapshots have the distinction of having been taken by a former vaudeville star and originally in 3D.

On Bunker Hill writes of the area:

Bunker Hill is a ghost, and though you may today walk streets named Grand and Hope and imagine that you stand where once were grand Victorian homes turned flophouses, you are in fact one hundred feet beneath the old roads, which the city shaved away to make a wider footprint for the high rise tenants that replaced them.

Look up, ten stories up, and if you’re a dreamer you can almost see the big houses bobbing there between the towers, old men and women toddling out onto the porches and down the avenues, exchanging gossip, feeding the cats, collapsing under some junkie’s fists, boarding Sinai or Olivet for the ride down to Grand Central Market, pruning the roses. . .

See the rest of them here.

Yesterday was the South Pasadena Eclectic Music Festival and it was a wonderful event.  There was plenty of fantastic free music and it looked like the event did a lot to continue the revitalization of South Pas’s beautiful central business district.  As a salute to one of my favorite cities, here are some images of Pasadena’s small neighbor to the south:

South Pasadena Bank, now Kaldi Coffee Shop at 1019 El Centro Street.  This and other area banks were founded by George W. E. Griffith, who relocated from Kansas to the Highland Park neighborhood of LA in 1900.  The photo was taken c. 1907.  The building was built in 1904 and was the first bank building in South Pas.  It held the city’s offices from 1908 until 1914 when the town finished its city hall.  Kaldi has been used as a location for several TV shows and movies, recently including Brothers & Sisters and a great episode of Modern Family.

First National Bank at Fair Oaks and Mission St.  Notice how all of the overhead power and phone lines have been moved underground?  The photo on the left appears to have been taken when it was about to open, as there is a man lifting a door into place.  Either that or he’s robbing the joint.  The image is dated 1922, and the original caption states that Security First National Bank later occupied this location at 824 Fair Oaks.  The building underwent a renovation in what I think was the 1940’s, and was Gandell’s Furniture when I lived in South Pas (lower image).  It is currently being remodeled again and some of the historical detailing that had been covered up is now being restored.  Its original use will also be restored—ComericA bank is moving in to the location.

The view north on Fair Oaks, 1936.  The row of attractive buildings on the left including a liquor store, Ford dealership, and drug store have been replaced by the parking lots for Pavillions and Vons.  The Masonic Temple on the right side of the street is still there, along with the adjacent structures.  The site of the Chevron gas station is still occupied by a gas station, only now a 76.  The most striking difference is the absence of the Red Car tracks down the middle of the street, which ran from Oneonta Junction at Huntington (behind us) up through Pasadena.  The Northern District passenger service was discontinued September 30, 1951.

The Lucretia R. Garfield House.   The house was designed by Greene and Greene for the widow of James Garfield, the U. S. President who was assassinated in 1881.  Lucretia Garfield was a distant relative of the Greenes, and they made many compromises on the design in deference to her active involvement with the project.  The house was completed in 1904.  She died March 14, 1918.

Bonus (as seen on TV!):

Just a few doors down from the Garfield House is a filming location for Brothers & Sisters.  This is Sarah Walker’s house as seen in Season 4 Episode 17 “Freeluc.com.”  I’m pretty sure this is not the place that was previously used for exterior establishing shots of Sarah’s house.

(Photos from the LA Public Library, South Pasadena Public Library, Google Street View)