Our year began with a fun personal project – the Lindbergh Beacon. When we heard the news that it would be lighted for the 12 days of Christmas (nice move, Mayor Garcetti), we rushed out to capture one of the coolest historic features of downtown. Between out-of-town trips, scheduling new jobs and battling this never-ending cough, things have been a little delayed around here, but we’re finally back to our regular schedule. So, without further ado, here it is:
Recently I shot Parker Center for the LA Conservancy as part of their campaign to save it. Opening in 1955 as the Police Facilities Building, it currently awaits an uncertain fate – either expansion or more likely, demolition. (Apologies for the recent array of stories of lost and soon-to-be lost architectural landmarks lately, I promise to feature at least one structure that isn’t facing demolition next week.)
I’ve often favored more elaborately decorated architecture styles like Art Deco and Beaux Arts, but I still enjoy the occasional Mid-Century Modern. Standing alone with plenty of cushion around its perimeter, Parker Center is a grand sight of its own in downtown’s Civic Center. I’ll be honest and admit that the landscaping does make all the difference, especially with the long palms casting their shadows on the facade.
The poor Roxie Theatre has been standing on its last leg for a while now. For the last few years we’ve fawned (and cried) over the now-derelict Art Deco facade. We have seen vintage photos, and the interior was, admittedly, nothing spectacular. The seats and the ticket booth had been torn out years ago, and last we heard the auditorium was full of merchandise boxes and rubble from the shops that occupied the lobby. Never ones to turn down an opportunity to shoot the interior of a movie palace, we waited for our chance to get in. A few months ago, we received a tip that the retail space was being worked on (aka swapmeet expansion) so we ran over to check it out. After pleading with the construction crew, we ran up the stairs in the back of the lobby to see the auditorium.
Designed in 1929 by architect Leland A. Bryant, the Sunset Tower Hotel is one of greatest examples of Art Deco architecture in Southern California.
As advertised in a 1938 issue of the Screen Actors Guild magazine, the Sunset Tower was “Hollywood’s Most Distinguished Address.” As one would expect, residents were mainly the who’s who of the entertainment business including John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Howard Hughes, Elizabeth Taylor, Billie Burke, Paulette Goddard, Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, and Bugsy Siegel. While thoroughly stunning both the inside and out, the building surpassed the standard of living for its opulent residents by incorporating modern conveniences such as outlets in every bathroom for personal appliances and large, modern windows to take advantage of the glistening city lights.
Grauman’s Metropolitan first opened its doors on January 26, 1923. Built shortly after the Million Dollar and the Egyptian Theatres, Sid Grauman spared no expense in creating what would be the largest theatre in all of Southern California.
With a seating capacity of 3,387 seats, the auditorium was enormous. It was the second largest theatre to be built in the West, only behind the Fox Theater in San Francisco, which amazingly had 4,651 seats. The next largest theatre in Los Angeles was the RKO Hillstreet (downtown) with 2,890 seats, which met the same fate of demolition as the two aforementioned movie houses.