ARCHITECTURE LOS ANGELES

In Danger: One of LA’s Best Streamline Moderne Buildings

October 23, 2014
SMB Streamline

At first glance it may not look like much, especially considering it has sat in neglect, hidden behind a line of trees for the last few decades. It isn’t until seeing vintage photos of the Dr. Eugene C. Jones Cat and Dog Hospital (now known as the Santa Monica Boulevard Streamline Moderne) that you realize it is one of LA’s best remaining examples of Streamline Moderne architecture.

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Dr. Jones was said to have opened one of the earliest animal hospitals in Southern California, serving clients such as Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino. In 1938, he commissioned architects Walter Wurdeman and Welton Becket to expand and remodel his original 1928 facility. Located on Route 66 at the gateway to West Hollywood, the Streamline Moderne redesign stood prominently, featuring a long, smooth facade highlighted with rounded corners, glass block windows and vertical steel fins.

During his partnership with Wurdeman, Welton Becket applied the concept of “total design” to most of his works in the ’30s and after, in which he encouraged clients to allow the firm to control all aspects of design including site plans, interior finishes and fixtures, and landscaping to keep a unified aesthetic for the entire building.

Wurdeman & Becket designed the interiors of all 17 rooms in Dr. Jones’ Hospital, including the lobby, diagnosis rooms, operation room, pharmacy, laboratory, doctor and administrative offices,  the 2nd floor kitchen, and the women’s and men’s restrooms. When the building was completed, it resembled one of their earlier iconic Streamline Moderne projects, the Pan Pacific Auditorium.

Dr. Jones operated his hospital until the early ’50s. Between 1951 and 1981, the building continued operating as a dog hospital under the ownership of R. Nichol Smith, D.V.M..

So where lies the fate of the SMB Moderne now? It doesn’t look good. Developers have plans to demolish the building to make way for a massive mixed-use project called the Melrose Triangle. While it’s easy to admit that the project looks pretty fantastic for the area, it would be devastating to lose one of the few remaining Streamline Moderne buildings in Los Angeles, let alone a Wurdeman and Becket project.

Aside from the Pan Pacific Auditorium (which was demolished) there are few remaining works from Wurdeman and Becket, including the General Petroleum Building, and Bullock’s Pasadena. Other notable works of Welton Becket include the Cinerama Dome, the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and the Capitol Records Building among many others.

Los Angeles continues to demolish many iconic buildings that have shaped its sprawling landscape and its history. We have lost great Streamline Moderne works such as Coulter’s Department Store, The Ambassador Hotel, and Claude Beelman’s Woodbury College. Luckily, WeHo residents Krisy Gosney and Kate Eggert have tirelessly campaigned against demolishing the structure, and continue to update the public through their Facebook page.

The Los Angeles Conservancy has also taken action by filing litigation against the City of West Hollywood over a violation of state environmental law regarding the historically significant structure, which is currently the only thing stopping the proposed demolition. You can find more information regarding the Conservancy’s plans here.

SMB Wurdeman & Becket Streamline Moderne

9080 Santa Monica Blvd,

West Hollywood, CA 90069

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