Thursday, December 14, 2017

In The Valley of Nostalgia: The Valley Relics Museum

Neon and on and on at the Valley Relics Museum.
The San Fernando Valley might be known for being the archetypal Southern California suburb, for a notable early 1980s teenage female linguistic dialect, and yes, uh, pr0n, but if you love and appreciate your local history as much as The Militant does, you'll know that it's a place that has changed over time, from agricultural farmland to suburban wonderland, to the modern quasi-urban districts that are currently springing up on both ends of the 818 along the 101. Now, The Militant doesn't get over to the other side of the hill that much, but when it does, it actually matters.

This past weekend, one of his operatives totally wanted to go to the Valley Relics Museum, a relatively new (opened 2013) exhibition of SFV nostalgia, most of which is the personal collection of Burbank native and North Hollywood resident Tommy Gelinas, who started exhibiting his collection over a decade ago in his NoHo art studio. Gelinas has also been responsible to salvaging and maintaining several iconic signs and artifacts from across the Valley (and a little beyond) after their original public purpose was shut down forever.

After a quick Saturday morning trip up the 101 to the 170 to the 5 to the 118,  we arrived at a quiet industrial park nestled between Topanga Canyon Blvd and the Metro Orange Line (yes, this place is totally transit-accessible), and through the doors is some 4300 square feet of space jam-packed with SFV and general Southern California nostalgia. Where to start?

The Valley Relics Museum's Busch Gardens collection! The Militant loved this aerial view which shows the old theme park's exact location near Roscoe and Woodley. The park was replaced by an expanded Budweiser plant, and only the pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks near Woodley remains.
 The first room has some photos and memorabilia of various SFV institutions, from the aerospace industry (Lockheed and Rocketdyne called the Valley home) to ground-based transportation such as the Pacific Electric and the RTD. An adjoining room has behind-glass knicknack displays featuring such sights as the old Busch Gardens theme park in Van Nuys and some 1984 Olympic memorabilia (including not only an Olympic torch, but an accompanying manual book).
 
The Western memorabilia room, including several Nudie's Rodeo Tailors store artifacts, curated by Julie Ann Ream.
Another room is packed with movie and TV Western memorabilia (including remnants of the iconic North Hollywood Western apparel store Nudie's Rodeo Tailors), curated by Julie Ann Ream, whose grandfather, Taylor "Cactus Mack" McPeters was an actor in several Hollywood Westerns, who worked alongside such icons as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and John Wayne.  Preserving the artifacts of her grandfather, her other Western actor relatives and their peers has become her personal passion, and on most days Ream is on hand to talk about her collection and her Western family members' stories.

The main exhibit room contains antique iconic store restaurant signage and a collection of classic BMX bikes (an SFV invention)!
The rest of the museum is the main exhibit room, which encompasses over 2/3rds of the total space. Front and center is Gelinas' collection of classic '70s-era bicycle motocross (BMX) bikes, which originated in The Valley. The characteristic rigid frame was invented by Gary Littlejohn in North Hollywood and the open suburban spaces of the SFV allowed for large BMX dirt tracks to be built. Futhermore, BMX manufacturers like Mongoose, Redline, Champion and Robinson were all based here in The Valley.

Some relics from The Palomino, including a ticket stub from a 1979 Elvis Costello concert there!
The room also contains a large collection of now-gone store and restaurant signage, several of which are neon like the original sign from North Hollywood's Palomino nightclub (which featured now-legendary country and rock music acts from 1949 to 1995) and more conventional signage, such as the original Googie-style Henry's Tacos sign from Studio City.

A 1958 newsstand ad insert for the old Los Angeles Mirror (the old afternoon paper that eventually merged with the Los Angeles Times), touting the SFV as, "L.A.'s Happiest Half-Million" (that population has since grown by over 3 1/2 times).
The room also contains many signs familiar to those from, yet not unique to the Valley per se, such as a Pioneer Chicken revolving sign saved from the Olympic Blvd. location, '70s and '80s-era Jack In The Box (the chain originated in San Diego) signage, which also includes the old-school drive-thru clown speaker (even earlier than the type that was blown up in the infamous 1980 commercial) as well as the incandescent Tiffany Theatre sign rescued from its now-demolished West Hollywood location.

A few iconic Valley trios also make their presence here: Statues of Alvin, Simon and Theodore of The Chipmunks fame (born in Van Nuys), and Yakko, Wakko and Dot from The WB's Animaniacs (who, of course, lived in the studio's water tower in Burbank).

Exit Through The Gift Shop: Do buy some of Valley Relics Museum's t-shirts of classic now-gone Southern California businesses. Because you will look so awesome rocking that Pup'N Taco shirt!
Not only can you see some Valley relics, but you can wear them as well. The mini gift shop by the entrance sells shirts of now-gone So Cal institutions like Pup'N Taco, Malibu Grand Prix, Fedco, Zody's, Muntz TV, Saugus Speedway and legendary rock stations KMET and KNAC, among others. The sales of the shirts support the museum, so be generous!
 
The collection does not explore the comprehensive history of The Valley; aside from an 1865 letter penned by Issac N. Van Nuys himself, much of the Valley Relics at this museum cater to the collective memories of Baby Boomers and Generation-Xers spanning the second half of the 20th century. So there are hardly any relics from the SFV's agricultural era. But still, Gelinas and the rest of the folks that run the museum must be given massive props for preserving the relatively recent history of The Valley. The staff have mentioned that some patrons have brought parents or grandparents who suffer from Alzheimer's Disease into the museum, and the sight of familiar memories from the exhibits instantly woke up something inside of them.

Yes, History can be that powerful, folks.

Both fortunately and unfortunately, the place isn't that big. Fortunately, you can enjoy the place in under two hours, and unfortunately, you can only enjoy the place in under two hours. But apparently there's more collection that they don't have the space for. The museum is planning to move into larger digs sometime in 2018, with one potential location being an old airplane hangar at Van Nuys Airport, but the museum has also explored even a Santa Clarita Valley location (Blasphemy!).

The Valley Relics Museum is transit-accessible! It's just two blocks south of the Metro Orange Line and Metrolink Chatsworth Station (something that didn't really exist during the RTD era...
Yes, this MA blog post is probably some four years late,  and some of you might have already been here already, but a museum open only 50 or so times a year, coupled with a busy Militant schedule can cause that. But better late than never. And hey, The Militant is actually blogging about something other than an Epic CicLAvia Tour. That in itself is something to celebrate! Woo-hoo!

But if you haven't been here before, and especially if you're an SFV native or grew up in the 818, make sure to pay a visit to the museum this Saturday (those t-shirts make great presents, BTW), or at least add it to your New Year's Resolution list for 2018, before they move into their new location. And then visit them again when they have more stuff to display!   

Valley Relics Museum, 21630 Marilla St, Chatsworth. Open Saturdays only, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free admission (but do kick them at least a few bucks to keep their nonprofit operation open). Accessible via (M) Orange Line and Metrolink (Chatsworth Station) - bike or walk two blocks south along the Orange Line bike path.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Militant's Epic CicLAvia Tour XXIV!!!!



Click here for larger map!


The year closes with CicLAvia XXIV, the fifth of five Los Angeles open streets events in 2017! Our Epic CicLAvia Tour returns to iconic Wilshire Boulevard for the first time since August, 2015, this time with an extra half-mile added at the east end of the four-mile route, incorporating a small section of previous "Heart of L.A." CicLAvia iterations. So this Epic CicLAvia Tour guide is basically a re-run of the 2015 route, with a few extras added on for your enjoyment. Enjoy CicLAvia on Sunday. You may or may not see The Militant on the streets!


1. Spring Street Park
2013
428 S. Spring St, Downtown

A former parking lot turned into urban park in June 2013 to satiate the open-space and recreational needs of the new DTLA residential population, this plot of land, in its short history, has already accumulated a list of challenges with regards to its management, upkeep and (ab)use, from un-leashed dogs to people misusing the facilities. Nevertheless, the space does perform its role as a green oasis within the built city core.

2. Broadway-Spring Arcade Building
1924
541 S. Spring St, Downtown

This unique building is actually three, opened in 1924 on the site of Mercantile Place, a 40-foot street cut between 5th and 6th streets connecting Broadway and Spring. Mercantile Place was a popular shopping and gathering locale in the early 1900s. Having fallen into decay by the 1970s, it was recently renovated and is now famous for, of all things, vendors selling rock band t-shirts. It also becomes an artistic venue during the DTLA ArtWalk. And The Militant probably doesn't need to mention that this building is home to the DTLA Guisado's.

3. Site of Original Ralphs Supermarket
1873
6th and Spring streets, Downtown

Before the Hotel Hayward building was built in 1905, George A. Ralphs (see, that's why there's no apostrophe) and his brother Walter B. started the Ralphs Bros. Grocers on the southwest corner of 6th and Spring. Their company still continues to this day, and in 2007, the company that started in DTLA returned to the area after some 50 years.

4. St. Vincent Court
1868
St. Vincent Ct and 7th Street, Downtown

You'd hardly knew it was there, but this alley nestled between Broadway and Hill (blink and you'll miss it!), with its decorative brick pavement and European decor, seemingly belongs to another world. Originally the site of a Catholic college that was the predecessor of today's Loyola Marymount University, today it's a unique food court featuring Armenian and Middle Eastern eateries. The Militant calls it, "Littler Armenia." Check out this Militant Angeleno post on St. Vincent Court from 2008 for more info.


5. One Wilshire Building/Wilshire Bookend Palm Trees
1966
624 S. Grand Ave, Downtown

Built during the first wave of modern skyscrapers following the repeal of Los Angeles' building height limit laws, this building, designed by architectural rockstars Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (who also went on to craft Chicago's Sears Tower, among many others) stood for most of its life as the address of legal and financial institutions. After a renovation in 1992, this building is now the location of CoreSite, a major data colocation center, which carries the primary Internet connections for Los Angeles (without this building, you can't read this!)

Take note of the row of palm trees, planted here in the 1970s: They are meant to evoke the end of Wilshire Boulevard, as on the opposite end, at Santa Monica's Ocean Avenue, 16 miles from here, you will also find a row of palm trees.

6. Wilshire Grand Center
2017
900 Wilshire Blvd, Downtown

On this site rises the new Wilshire Grand Center, Los Angeles' (and the West's -- suck on it, Transbay Tower SF!) tallest building at 73 stories and 1,100 feet (kinda sorta, there's a spire, you see...). Opened on June 23, it is the city's only modern skyscraper without a flat roof, the only Los Angeles building since Hollywood's Capitol Records tower in 1956 to feature a spire, the first skyscraper anywhere to sport a mohawk, and it also has its own irreverent Twitter account. ;)

Owned by Korean Air (hence the red and blue taeguk LED logo), the tower houses the 900-room Hotel Intercontinental with its 70th-floor Sky Lobby and the unique Spire 73 skybar, with wonderful views of the south and west (the sunset vista from here is not to be missed).

The building's construction site was the location of "The Big Pour" - which lasted from February 15 -16, 2014, where 21,200 cubic yards (81 million pounds) of concrete for the tower's foundation were continuously poured - earning it a Guinness World Record for that feat.

Before the skyscaper, the site was home of the Wilshire Grand Hotel, formerly (in reverse chronological order) the Omni Hotel, Los Angeles Hilton, Statler Hilton and Statler Hotel.

7. L.A. Prime Matter Sculpture
1991
Wilshire and Figueroa (NW corner), Downtown

Wilshire is full of awesome-looking public art. Here's one relatively-recent sculpture, recently renovated, right at the northwest corner of Wilshire and Figueroa. Designed by the late Venice-based artist Eric Orr, who had a penchant for utilizing elemental themes in his art, L.A. Prime Matter features twin 32-foot bronze columns that feature water sliding down its faces, and during random moments, FIRE emanates from the middle channels of the columns every hour on the hour! The effect is total bad-ass, and its bad-assnes is magnified at night.


8. Site of George Shatto Residence/Good Samaritan Hospital
1891
Wilshire Blvd and Lucas Ave, Downtown

Before it was named Wilshire Boulevard, it was once called Orange Street, and on the corner of Orange and Lucas was a Queen Anne-style mansion belonging to George Shatto, a real estate developer who first developed Catalina Island and the city of Avalon. If you read the Epic CicLAvia Tour 4.0 post, his name is brought up as one of the famous Angelenos buried (in a rather ornate pyramid) at Angelus Rosedale Cemetery.

But check this out! Take a look at the picture above, and pay close attention to the masonry wall going uphill that fronts Lucas Avenue. Now, on CicLAvia Sunday, look at the exact same spot, on the northwest corner of the intersection. The house is gone, but the original wall still remains!

Good Samaritan Hospital, which was founded in 1885 and moved to the current site in 1911, is also the birthplace of many native Angelenos, including mayor Eric Garcetti.

9. Los Angeles Teachers (a.k.a. 'Stand And Deliver') Mural
1997
Wilshire and Alvarado, Westlake

Art imitates life imitating art imitating life in this mural by popular Salvadoreño American muralist Hector Ponce depicting actor Edward James Olmos, who portrayed Garfield High School math teacher Jaime Escalante in the 1988 movie Stand and Deliverstanding next to the real-life Escalante, and delivering a mural that's part-Hollywood, part-Los Angeles, part-Latino pride, part Eastside pride and if the Internet were as accessible back in 1988 as it is today, would make one epic photo meme. And it's painted behind the 1926 Westlake Theatre, which is slated for renovation into a community-baed performance arts venue sometime soon. Celebrate the 25th anniversary of Stand and Deliver by having the ganas to stop by.

10. Gen. Harrison Gray Otis Statue
1920
Wilshire Blvd and Park View Ave, MacArthur Park

Gen. Otis is perhaps the most visible statue at the park, which predates MacArthur's WWII service. This general served in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars, and also fought as a Union soldier in the Civil War. But in Los Angeles, he is most known for being the founder, owner and publisher of the Los Angeles Times. So why is he here? His Wilshire Blvd mansion, called The Bivouac, was located across the street, was later donated to Los Angeles County and became the original campus of Otis Art Institute. It's thought that his statue is pointing to the site of the Elks Lodge, but he's probably just pointing to his old house. 


11. Bryson Apartment Building
1913
2701 Wilshire Blvd, MacArthur Park

This 10-story Beaux Arts apartment building, built 100 years ago, was the 20th century precursor to today's fancy modern 21-century high-rise residential developments. Built by developer Hugh W. Bryson, it was built in a part of Los Angeles that was known at the time as "the west side" (let's not open that can of worms right now, okay?). It was one of Los Angeles' most luxurious apartment buildings, and had a large neon sign at the roof (characteristic of these kinds of developments back then). Several Raymond Chandler books reference The Bryson. The 110,000 square-foot building is also part of the National Register of Historic Places and a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.

12. Lafayette Park
1899
Wilshire Blvd and LaFayette Park Place, LaFayette Park

Clara Shatto, the widow of George Shatto (remember him?) donated 35 acres of her land to the City of Los Angeles in 1899, which was once oil wells and tar pits. Her late husband wanted it turned into a city park, and so it became Sunset Park, which existed for 19 years before the locals wanted it renamed to honor the 18th-century Frenchman who was a hero in both the American and French revolutions. Gotta give LaFayette park some props for living so long in the shadow of its more famous neighbor, MacArthur (Westlake) Park.

13. Bullocks Wilshire/Southwestern Law School
1929
3050 Wilshire Blvd

Perhaps one of the most iconic examples of Art-Deco architecture in Los Angeles, this former Bullocks Department Store was designed with a tower to resemble a New York-style skyscraper in then-unabashedly low-rise Los Angeles. It was the epitome of shopping in style in its heyday, with its own rear parking lot and other auto-centric amenities. It ultimately fell victim to the 1992 Los Angeles Riots and was closed down the next year. In 1994, the nearby Southwestern School of Law bought the building and incorporated it into its campus, restoring much of the Roaring 1920s Art Deco aesthetics.

14. Shatto Place
c. 1880s
Wilshire Blvd and Shatto Pl, Koreatown

Gee, we can't get seem to get away from that George Shatto guy, can we? George and Clara owned a plot of land here on this street, which was once home to some of the most beautiful mansions in Los Angeles at the time. Although Clara sold the land in 1904, George stipulated that all properties on the street maintain the character of the exquisite homes there, which was challenged several times until the late 1920s, when the homes started to be demolished in favor of more modern commercial development.

15. "The Vermont" Highrise Apartment Development
2014
Wilshire Blvd and Vermont Ave., Koreatown

This 30- and 25- story highrise mixed-use apartment development is called "The Vermont" by J.H. Snyder Co. which opened in 2014. It's Metro-accessible, and it has a friggin' Pizza Rev, but who the hell can afford the rents for this place?

16. Consulate Row
Various locations along Wilshire Blvd between Vermont and Crenshaw

Some 62 countries have consular offices in the Los Angeles area and 41 of them have addresses on Wilshire Boulevard. Proximity to various foreign financial institutions on Wilshire, as well as nearby Hancock Park, where many consul-generals have traditionally resided, are the main reasons for such a high concentration of consulates on this stretch of Wilshire. The consulate offices for Bangladesh, Bolivia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, South Korea, Nicaragua, Peru, The Philippines, Sri Lanka and Taiwan are all located on Wilshire between Vermont and Crenshaw. Many of them display their national flags in front of their respective office buildings. How many can you spot during CicLAvia?

17. Gaylord Apartments
1924
3355 Wilshire Blvd

Though the building's prominent neon sign has been source of many a snicker by immature junior high school kids, this building represents some serious history. It was named after Wilshire Boulevard's namesake, Henry Gaylord Wilshire, who was known as a wealthy real estate developer and outspoken socialist (Does that make sense?), who donated a 35-acre strip of barley fields to the City of Los Angeles on the condition that it would be free from railroads or trucking. The building itself is a 13-story Italian Renaissance-style apartment building that actor John Barrymore (a.k.a. Drew's grandpa) and then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon once called home.

18. Brown Derby Site
1926
3427 and 3377 Wilshire Blvd

The now-defunct "The Brown Derby" local chain of restaurants were synonymous with Hollywood glitz and glamour. The Wilshire Boulevard location was the first of four (the others were in Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Los Feliz). In close proximity to The Ambassador Hotel and its Cocoanut Grove swing/jazz club, this was the original hipster joint back in the day, only back then the hipsters were actually cool and looked good. In 1937 the building was moved across the street and closed in 1975. In 1980, a shopping center was built on the site and the iconic dome structure was incorporated into the shopping center that exists today. It's situated on the third floor, above The Boiling Crab seafood restaurant. It's something to ponder on while you wait 90 minutes for your table.

Note that the pictures for #17 and #18 connect vertically - that's the Gaylord Apartments behind the Brown Derby!

19. Robert F. Kennedy Inspiration Park/Ambassador Hotel Site
2010
Wilshire Blvd between Catalina Street and Mariposa Avenue

The Militant wrote a post in 2010 about this unique public space dedicated to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated just yards away at the Ambassador Hotel, which was demolished in 2005 and where the LAUSD's sprawling and costly  RFK Community Schools campus now stands. There's Kennedy quotes on public art installations and benches for you to chill on. There's also speakers playing recordings of some of the jazz music that was performed at the hotel's famed Cocoanut Grove swing and jazz club.

20. Wiltern Theatre/Pellissier Building
1931
Wilshire Blvd and Western Avenue (duh...), Koreatown

The 12-story structure, designed by Stiles O. Clements, is Los Angeles' emerald-green temple to all that is Art Deco. Originally operating as the "Warner Theatre" (Specifically the Western Avenue location of Warner Bros. chain of movie theaters; The Warner Theatre in San Pedro is another example), The Wiltern (named so since 1935) has seen many cycles of decay and rebirth, most recently in the 1980s, when preservationists renovated the theatre to a performing arts venue. The contemporary Wiltern Theatre has been operating since 1985.

21. MaDang Courtyard
2010
621 S. Western Ave, Koreatown

The heart of K-town is essentially the revived district once known as Wilshire Center,  a mid-rise commercial district which emerged in the mid-1960s, filling in the commercial real estate gap between Downtown and Miracle Mile. By the late 1980s, the district had fallen into disarray, with many businesses closing down or moving out, culminating around the time of the 1992 Riots (the iconic Bullocks Wilshire closed down in 1993). With the old guard having moved out, it allowed opportunities for the then-scattered Korean business community, fueled by an abundant supply of investment money from South Korea, to move into the vacant retail and office spaces and expand Koreatown into the large district that exists today. Enter MaDang Courtyard, which opened in 2010. This dense, triple-story urban mall represents not only the modern Koreatown, but a more of a visual semblance of Seoul, as opposed to the re-purposed commercial spaces of the old Wilshire Center. Anchored by the CGV Cinemas multiplex, which screens current Hollywood features, Korean films and Korean-subtitled versions of mainstream blockbusters, you can't get more K-town than that (for a non-food establishment). But speaking of food establishment, there's also a Hansol Noodle location here, a Paris Baguette (despite the francophone name, it's a South Korean bakery cafe chain), a Lemon Tree kids' play cafe and Japanese imports Daiso (picture a Nippon version of the 99 Cents Only store) and pastry chain Beard Papa's. It's like a trip across the Pacific (minus the jet-lag).

Happy CicLAvia! See you or not see you on the streets on Sunday!


Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Militant's Epic Militant CicLAvia Tour XXIII!!!


Interactive Map! Click on green points to view hotspots, or click here for larger view.


It's October, which means we celebrate the 7th anniversary of CicLAvia, its 23rd iteration, and say "hola" to the HOLA route (Heart of L.A.), which is not necessarily the original CicLAvia route, but does contain some elements of it, and pretty much the centralized essence of it.
 
If this route seems somewhat familiar, it's a modification of the October 5, 2014 route, minus the long eastward jaunt through Boyle Heights and into East Los Angeles proper. Unfortunately we're not going to go that far this time. but fortunately, it won't be so damn hot like it was that day, either!
 
But lest you think this Epic CicLAvia Tour post is just some cut-and-paste job from the 2014 guide, he did care enough to make a few additions this time around.

So there it is folks, take it:

1. Eastside Luv
2006 (Built 1940)
1835 E. 1st St, Boyle Heights

One of The Militant's favorite hangouts in the Eastside, this bar, started by a bunch of friends who grew up in nearby City Terrace, took over the former Metropolitan bar eight years ago and updated it to a more contemporary Eastside-style flavor. Don't call it gentrification, call it gentrification. In the decade or so of the establishment's existence, it has already established its own traditions, namely the Thursday night themed karaoke nights, paying tribute to artists such as Latin superstars Juan Gabriel, Selena and Esteban Morrissey.

2. Mariachi Plaza
1889
1st St and Boyle Ave, Boyle Heights

This is the new town square for Boyle Heights, where Mariachi musicians have been hanging out to get picked up for since the 1930s. The Kiosko, or bandstand, that sits in the plaza is actually not that historic. It was given as a gift from the Mexican state of Jalisco, who literally shipped it over in 1998 where it was assembled in place. But it only gets used once a year for the Santa Cecilia Festival around every November 21.
The plaza is also home of the Metro Gold Line station of the same name, which opened in 2009. The unique lending library Libros Schmibros relocated here in 2011. This place could warrant a Militant blog post in itself -- no, an entire week of posts! Don't miss the Farmers Market events there every Friday and Sunday!

3. Boyle Hotel (Cummings Block)
1889
103 N. Boyle Ave, Boyle Heights

This brick Queen Anne-style building, built in 1889 and designed by architect W.R. Norton was one of the first commercial buildings in Boyle Heights, and is one of the longest-standing commercial buildings in all of Los Angeles. The hotel was an important social and political center in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and in the 1960s, started to become a popular lodging spot for Mariachi musicians. It recently underwent a major renovation which created 51 low-income housing units and three street-level retail units, one of which will be the new home of nearby Libros Schmibros bookstore


4. Simon Gless Farmhouse
1887
131 S. Boyle Ave., Boyle Heights

Back in the totally radical '80s...That's the 1880s, Boyle Heights was an open, rural area and French Basque immigrant Simon Francois Gless built a Queen Anne style house on his sheepherding farm at this location. Today, the house is a City Historic Cultural Monument and is a home that's rented out to -- Mariachi musicians! Just a few blocks west of here is Gless Street, and you might have heard of Simon's great-granddaughter -- actress Sharon Gless, who starred in the series Cagney and Lacey, which aired a century after her arrière-grand-père first settled in Boyle Heights.

5. Neighborhood Music School
1947 (Built 1890s)
358 S. Boyle Ave, Boyle Heights

The Neighborhood Music School is exactly what it is. But it's also a Boyle Heights institution. Originally founded 100 years ago when it was located on Mozart Street (orchestral rimshot), the school moved to this Victorian home in 1947 where it still offers music lessons to local youth and the public can drop by on weekends to attend free recital concerts.

6. Sakura Gardens/Jewish Home For The Aging
1974/1916
325 S. Boyle Ave, Boyle Heights

With Boyle Heights being a historically Jewish and Japanese community, how's this for an ultimate Boyle Heights institution? This property was originally built in 1916 as the Jewish Home for the Aging (now operating in Reseda), and in 1974, the Keiro Senior Health Care organization, basically their Japanese American counterpart. In 2016, nonprofit Keiro sold the facility to the for-profit Pacifica Senior Living, though not without controversy. The new owners renamed it "Sakura Gardens." With the Hollenbeck Palms retirement home just down the street (and site of the John Edward Hollenbeck Estate, remember?) Boyle is a popular corridor for Senior Livin.'

7. Metro Division 20 Subway Car Yard & Site of Old Santa Fe LaGrande Station
1992 / 1893
320 S. Santa Fe Ave (visible from the 4th Street Viaduct), Arts District

Take a break from riding/walking/skateboarding/pogo-sticking/etc. and take a glance off the north side of the bridge from the west bank of the River. This facility is where the 104 Italian-built subway cars of the Metro Red and Purple line cars are stored, repaired, serviced and cleaned. This was also the temporary storage and repair site of the Angels Flight railway cars after the fateful 2001 accident. The Militant actually visited this facility back in May 1992.

The subway cars are also serviced on the site of the old Santa Fe Railway La Grande Station (hence the name of the street) that was on Santa Fe and 2nd. Built in 1893, it was precisely where midwestern transplants arrived in Los Angeles after paying their $1 train ticket from Chicago. In 1933, the landmark dome was damaged by the Long Beach Earthquake and subsequently removed. In 1939, it was rendered obsolete by the opening of the new Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal a few blocks north.

8. Site of Southern Pacific Arcade Station
1888-1914
4th and Alameda streets, Downtown Los Angeles

Before there was a Union Station, there were various rail passenger terminals in Los Angeles, many of them just a short distance from the Los Angeles River. On what currently stands as a large shopping mall, this was the original site of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Arcade Station which served passengers up until 100 years ago. A popular landmark of this station was a young palm tree, which was moved a century ago to Exposition Park where it stands today, much taller, in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Unfortunately for indie rock fans, the Arcade Station was not devastated by a Fire, but was dismantled and replaced by a new station, the Central Station, located one block south.

9. Site of Metro Regional Connector Little Tokyo Station
2021
1st Street and Central Avenue, Little Tokyo

Just a few years from now, Metro will open its Regional Connector project, a new subway under Downtown Los Angeles that will re-align three light rail lines into two and provide continuous, transfer-free service from Azusa to Long Beach and East Los Angeles to Santa Monica. Although Little Tokyo already has a Gold Line station just yards away, that will be demolished and the station replaced with a new underground facility where the current construction activity exists. It's rather fascinating, and it's one way Little Tokyo will more resemble Big Tokyo.  The businesses around the station have been impacted by construction, so make sure you support them, not only during CicLAvia but after!
10. Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Shuttle Memorial
1990
Astronaut Ellison S Onizuka and San Pedro streets, Little Tokyo

Nestled in Little Tokyo’s Weller Court shopping center, just behind Shinkichi Tajiri’s Friendship Knot sculpture, is a seemingly random model of a launch-position space shuttle and its booster rockets. But upon closer inspection it’s a memorial to Ellison S. Onizuka, the  Hawaii-born NASA astronaut who in 1985 became the first Japanese American in space. Later that year, he was the Grand Marshal of Little Tokyo’s Nisei Week Parade. But on January 28, 1986, Onizuka and six other astronauts were on that fateful final mission of the space shuttle Challenger, which exploded following its launch. The local Japanese American community created a memorial organization in Onizuka’s name that awards science scholarships to Japanese American youth, and in 1990, this 1/10th-size scale model of the shuttle, built by Isao Hirai of Hawthorne, was dedicated as a memorial monument to the astronaut.

11. Site of Terasaki Budokan2019
237 S. Los Angeles Street, Little Tokyo

Another anticipated addition to Little Tokyo is this budokan (Japanese for "martial arts hall"), which has been a long-standing dream for the Japanese American community, going back over 40 years. After a long period of fundraising and dealing with bureaucratic red tape, the facility, named after the late Dr. Paul Terasaki, whose foundation kicked in $3.5 million of the project's cost, broke ground this past Summer.  A percentage of the funding was also contributed by the LA84 Foundation, which came from the profit surplus from the 1984 Olympics. After this venue opens in 2019, might it become a karate or judo venue for the 2028 games?

12. Site of Historic Broadway Station
2021
2nd and Spring streets, Downtown Los Angeles

The CicLAvia route also follows part of the Metro Regional Connector route, with the second of the three new stops being here on Broadway and 2nd Street, which will serve the historic theater district, Gallery Row and parts of the Civic Center.

NAVIGATIONAL NOTE: 
• If heading north to Chinatown, skip to #22.
If heading south to the Theatre District, skip to #17.


13. Pacific Electric Tunnel
1925
Toluca Street south of 2nd Street, Downtown

For 30 years, Los Angeles' first subway tunnel allowed the Pacific Electric's Red Cars to bypass the traffic of Downtown's surface streets and sped up the travel times to places like Burbank, Santa Monica or the San Fernando Valley before it was abandoned in 1955. Soon after, the area surrounding the tunnel portal and adjacent electric power substation became blighted and a haven for the homeless and graffiti artists, while the tunnel itself became part garbage dump, part urban spelunking adventure (The Militant has been in the tunnel before). In 2007, a large apartment building designed for upscale, gentrifying types was built on the site of the Red Car yard, thus blocking the tunnel and dashing any hopes of it being revived as part of our modern rail system (it's been holding up well structurally for nearly 60 years without any maintenance whatsoever). But if you look at the back of the property, you can see the boarded-up tunnel with an artistic homage to its former purpose (and do browse the apartment building's lobby for some PE photos and diagrams).

14. Vista Hermosa Natural Park
2008
100 N. Toluca Street, Echo Park

The Militant loves to poke fun at the failures of the Los Angeles Unified School District, but once in a while, those failures turn out to be wonderful things. Take for instance the Belmont Learning Center, at one time the LAUSD’s costliest boondoggle, which was stalled and scaled back due to environmental concerns (there used to be oil wells around here). The school district gave up a portion of its land to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, who in turn built a really beautiful oasis of California native plants and a killer view of the DTLA skyline. The Militant covered its opening back in 2008. It’s more than worth visiting during CicLAvia, or at any other time.

1953
1345 W. 1st St, Echo Park

Los Angeles native Bob Baker, who has been working puppets since the age of eight, and has built an impressive resume doing puppetry for various television and movie projects, founded this theater with Alton Wood in 1961, purchasing this single-story building, formerly a scenery workshop for the Academy Awards. Since then, he has been running America's longest-operating puppet theater company, even to this day at the age of 90. Going to this theater is one of those things every Angeleno must do before they die (or move away -- same thing). In 2009, the building became a legit Historic-Cultural Monument of the City of Los Angeles.

16. Echo Park Recreation Center
1948
Glendale Boulevard at Temple Street

You might pass this tennis court and nearby swimming pool every day and wonder, "Who the hell would put a tennis court/swimming pool right next to a freeway?" Well, no one put them next to a freeway, but they put the freeway next to them. Before 1948, Echo Park wasn't just a pretty little lake with lotus flowers and paddle boats, but it was a park park, with recreation facilities and everything. It stretched as south as Temple Street. But it stood in the path of the almighty Cahuenga Parkway (now the Hollywood Freeway, or "The 101"), which cut the park in two. Hmm. That sounds familiar...
• South Spur to Broadway Theatre District:

17. Bradbury Building
1893
304 S. Broadway, Downtown

A building that's famously meh on the outside, but OMG from the inside, this building has been featured in movies from Chinatown to Blade Runner to 500 Days of Summer. Designed by Sumner Hunt and modified by George Wyman, this 5-story structure was designed to look like the 21st century from 19th century eyes. Despite the ahead-of-its-time design, this building has nothing to do with sci-fi author Ray Bradbury, but was named after developer and 1800s rich dude Lewis Bradbury.

18. Grand Central Market
1917
317 S. Broadway, Downtown

Everyone knows this is Los Angeles' premier public marketplace, and the Militant probably doesn't need to include this since you may or may nor already be getting your Eggslut on (The Militant, on the other hand, prefers tacos and tortas from Roast To Go, and will incite a riot in the event that eatery is kicked out by gentrification). But The Militant is including it in this Epic CicLAvia Tour guide only for the fact that Grand Central Market is turning 100 years old this year! The market will have a day-long 100th birthday celebration on Friday, October 27.

19. Biddy Mason Park
1991
331 S. Spring St (entrance on Broadway), Downtown

Born as a slave in Georgia, Bridget "Biddy" Mason was a renaissance woman of her time. Having followed Mormon settlers west, she gained her freedom when California became a slavery-free Union state. As a nurse, she founded the first child care center in Los Angeles and later became a lucrative property owner and philanthropist, having founded the First AME Church, now a major institution in Los Angeles' African American community. She died in 1891 and was buried at ...Evergreen Cemetery (which you might have also seen earlier...see how things all tie together?). A century after her passing, this mini-park in DTLA, on the site of her house, was built and dedicated.

20. Broadway-Spring Arcade Building
1924
541 S. Spring St (entrance on Broadway), Downtown

This unique building is actually three, opened in 1924 on the site of Mercantile Place, a 40-foot street cut between 4th and 5th streets connecting Broadway and Spring. Mercantile Place was a popular shopping and gathering locale in the early 1900s. Having fallen into decay by the 1970s, it was recently renovated and is now famous for, some of the newest, hottest eateries in town (Guisados DTLA is located here, BTW). It also becomes an artistic venue during the DTLA ArtWalk.

21. Clifton's Cafeteria 
1935
648 S. Broadway, Downtown

The sole survivor of 10 kitschy and theatrical themed cafeterias founded by Clifford Clinton around Southern California (and now you know what inspired the Fry's Electronics stores), this location known as Brookdale, was the second in the chain and the most iconic. The current incarnation of the restaurant opened in 2015 after half a decade of renovation by new owner Andrew Meieran, who kinda made it quasi-hipsterfied, but at least preserved the decor even though the food costs like twice as much as it used to. But do go down to the basement level, near the restrooms, just to glance at the world's oldest continuously-lit neon light.

• North Spur to Chinatown:

22. U.S. Federal Courthouse
2016
145 S. Broadway, Downtown

This big glass cube that is responsible for blocking your view of the Downtown Los Angeles skyline from Grand Park used to be a hole in the ground was once the site of the Junipero Serra State Office Building, which was damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and abandoned and demolished in 1998. This 10-story, 400-foot-tall U.S. Federal Courthouse building (don't we already have a few of those?), designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill, opened in 2016. Do check out the embossed bald eagle situated over the main entrance on 1st Street.

23. Site of 1910 Los Angeles Times Bombing
1910
Northeast corner of Broadway and 1st Street, Downtown

This longtime empty lot, previously identified in this CicLAvia tour as the foundation of a state office building condemned after the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake has some additional history. It was recently dissevered to be the location of the 1910 bombing of the (then) Los Angeles Times building, which happened 104 years ago this week. The dynamite bombing was discovered to have been the work of Ortie McManigal and brothers John and James McNamara, all affiliated with the Iron Workers Union,  in what was meant to protest the newspaper's staunchly anti-union practices. 21 people died when the 16 sticks of dynamite exploded just outside the building at 1:07 a.m. on October 1, 1910, the explosion was exacerbated by natural gas lines which blew up a large section of the building. The Times since built a new building in its place, and later relocated across 1st Street to its current location. Today, the lot is being readied for an expansion of Grand Park.

24. Site of Court Flight
1904 (demolished 1943)
Broadway between Temple and Hill streets, Downtown

With Angels Flight fiiiiiiiiiinally up and running again (fingers crossed), it's time to pay tribute to the city's other funicular, its cousin to the northeast, Court Flight. Built in 1904, it went up the northern end of Bunker Hill and was next to a former road called Court Street, hence its name. Even shorter than its more famous cousin at 200 feet, it ran steeper at a height of 200 feet. It was burned by a fire in 1943 and never reconstructed. The hill was eventually chipped away. The north side of the stairways going up to the Court of Flags (wonder if that was intentional there) in today's Grand Park is the precise location of ol' Courty.


25. Hall Of Justice
1926
Temple Street and Broadway, Downtown

No, you won't find Superman or any of the Super Friends here.  But this building, the oldest surviving government building in the Los Angeles Civic Center, was built in the mid-1920s as the original Los Angeles County Courthouse and Central Jail (which once housed the likes of Busy Siegel, Sirhan Sirhan and Charles Manson), as well as the headquarters for the Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney and the County Coroner. This Beaux Arts-style building was designed by Allied Architects Association, an all-star team of local architects put together to design publicly-funded buildings. The building is currently undergoing a major renovation project to modernize the facilities and repair damage from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. It is slated to re-open as a LEED Gold Certified building (gotta be sustainable, y'all) in 2015, and the Sheriff's and District Attorney's offices will return.


26. Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial
1957
451 N. Hill St, Downtown

Way, way, waaaaay back before we had tall building and freeways, Downtown Los Angeles (well Los Angeles, period back then) had a bunch of hills, Bunker Hill being the most famed one. There was also Fort Hill, the site of a Mexican-American War encampment. On July 4, 1847 the facility was called Fort Moore (and the hill Fort Moore Hill), after Captain Benjamin D. Moore of the U.S. 1st Dragoons regiment, who was killed six months earlier in a battle near San Diego. The 1st Dragoons and the Mormon Batallion established the new fort and raised the U.S. flag during the first-ever observed Independence Day in Los Angeles. This event was immortalized in a bas-relief stone monument made in the 1950s. Speaking of forts, the very street you're riding (or walking, or skating, or scootering, or stand-up-paddling, or pogo-sticking) was once called "Fort Street," which inevitably led to directional problems some six blocks south of here. The monument also includes a fountain, which was shut off in 1977...due to the drought at the time. So where's the actual hill, you ask? It was bulldozed away in the late 1940s to make room for the 101 Freeway (is this a recurring theme for this CicLAvia or what?!)

37. Chinatown Gateway Monument
2001
Broadway and Cesar E. Chavez. Avenue, Chinatown

Designed to be the symbolic entrance to Los Angeles' Chinatown District, The Chinatown Gateway Monument, a.k.a. the Twin Dragon Towers Gateway, depicts two dragons grabbing at a central pearl, which symbolizes luck, prosperity, and longevity. The 25-foot-tall structure was put up in 2001 and occasionally emanates steam coming from the dragons' mouths. Unlike Anglo dragons, the creatures in Chinese folklore are the good guys, meant to scare away evil spirits.

38.  Buu Dien
c. 1990s
642 N. Broadway (Facing New High St, south of Ord), Chinatown

If you're ever in some TV trivia contest on your way to being a millionaire and the host asks you, "What is the Militant Angeleno's favorite Vietnamese banh mi place west of the Los Angeles River?" you won't need to call a lifeline, because the answer is Buu Dien. When the Militant has only $4 in his pocket and wants to get a meal in Downtown, this is his go-to joint. A literal hole in the wall in every regard, this place serves bomb-ass (do people still use that phrase) Viet sammiches for less than $3 a pop. And the bread is awesome. And nice and warm. Plus they also serve up spring rolls, desserts, pastries, Vietnamese coffee and pho (never had it here yet, but The Militant's favorite pho WOTLAR is Pho 79 just up the street). People complain about parking in his micro-mini mall, but this is CicLAvia!

39. Capitol Milling Co.
1883
1231 N. Spring St, Chinatown

One of the last visible vestiges of Los Angeles' agricultural industry, this family-owned flour mill operated from 1831 to 1997, before moving its operation to a much larger facility in Colton. The facility that still stands today was built in 1883. The mill supplied flour to clients such as Ralphs, Foix French Bakery and La Brea Bakery. In 1999, the family-owned operation was purchased by industry giant Con-Agra Co. The historic building, built even before the railroads arrived in Los Angeles, still has a horse-tethering ring, back to the days when grain was hauled by horse carriage from farms in the San Fernando Valley.


40. Old (New?) Chinatown Central Plaza
1937
Gin Ling Way between Broadway and Hill, Chintown

The northern terminus of CicLAvia is no stranger to public events; it was made for them. In the Summer it hosted three very popular Chinatown Summer Nights events. But don't let the "Old Chinatown" neon sign fool you -- This is actually Los Angeles' new Chinatown, which dates back to the 1930s. The real Old Chinatown was several blocks south, where a thriving community of Cantonese-speaking immigrants

lived near the river, north of Aliso Street. Of course, they were kicked out in the early '30s to make room for Union Station. So they moved a few blocks north, in the former Little Italy, and they've been there ever since. Well, not really, since some of them moved east to the San Gabriel Valley and were supplemented with Mandarin-speaking immigrants from Taiwan and Mainland China. But you get the idea.

Happy CicLAvia, Los Angeles! Enjoy, GO DODGERS and STAY MILITANT!