The Cinerama Dome, a landmark for L.A. filmgoers, opened to the public 50 years ago today. This 2-page ad for the theater appeared in the L.A. Times on Nov. 3, 1963.
This year, in observance of the anniversary, the theater again screened the first movie it ever showed, “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” (Times film writer Mark Olsen notes that the movie played for over 66 weeks the first time around.)
In a 1963 article on the Dome, then-Assistant Real Estate Editor Frank Mulcahy noted that the theater’s design wasn’t the only thing new about it. Among other innovations, it featured a “photo-electrically activated smoke detection device which will clear the lobby of [cigarette] smoke” — not the sort of amenity you hear about much anymore.
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Far off the well-traveled freeways Southern California lies a treasure trove of modern ghost towns, abandoned when the freeway moved or the local businesses shut down. Photographer Noel Kerns has captured haunting images of these spookily beautiful buildings in desert towns like Barstow, Yermo and the Salton Sea.
He’s just published a new book, “Nightwatch: Painting With Light,” with images from abandoned buildings across the country.
These old water parks, hotels, diners and roadhouses may be forgotten and neglected, but they make for some very striking imagery photographed against the night sky.
Suitably creepy for the weekend before Halloween.
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What do Sonny Bono, Maine lobstermen and the temperance movement have in common with President Lincoln and World War II veterans?
They all have memorials or monuments established in their honor in the nation’s capitol, as uncovered by reporter Richard Simon, who recently went through an exploration of some of D.C.’s more obscure monuments.
Photos: Richard Simon / Los Angeles Times
Wallace Neff was considered a “starchitect” in the 1930s, designing homes for the Hollywood elite. But he viewed his “Bubble House” his greatest architectural achievement. At the end of World War Two, the United States was facing a housing shortage. He designed these 1000 square foot “Bubble Houses” to be built entirely in 48 hours using an airform and gunite pressurized cement application process. (See more about how they were made here)
Bubble Houses were ultimately unsuccessful in the United States, because the circular and domed shape made it difficult to find furniture to fit, and wall space wasn’t easy to utilize. However, these low-cost housing units proved quite popular in other countries, especially in Senegal, where a 1,200 unit colony was built and many still stand today.
Top photo: Wallace Neff in front of a bubble house at a construction site.
Bottom photo: A “Double Bubble House”
(This post was inspired by the most recent podcast from 99% Invisible. Many more photos, and a great podcast can be found at their website here)
Today’s challenge: Use “starchitect” in regular conversation.
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Retro houses on the go
We’re not so sure about the stability of the top picture up there - it looks like the house is about to teeter off the side at any moment, but we’re not movers, who are we to judge?
Head over to Framework for the full story on 1966 house moving tactics.
Photos: Gene Hackley, Charles Crawford, Ray Graham, Bill Murphy / Los Angeles Times
And now for the answer to yesterday’s quiz. Where were those “pretty lionesses,” and where are they today?
Reader thenoobyorker got the clue about the last letter of the alphabet, but two readers left notes with the correct answer. One Twitter user got it right as well.
First was memoriastoica, who said the sculptures were from the Luna Park Zoo in Lincoln Park. He even posted another photo of the animal sculptures. Nicely done. FreedomInWickedness said they were from “Selig’s menagerie.” And on Twitter, @jeffsomething said “Is that the Luna Park Zoo gate?”
It sure is. Here’s the answer that ran in The Times in December 1955:
ANSWER: The photo is of one of the ornate arches that formed the entrances to the old Selig Zoo, adjacent to Lincoln Park. Here, many early-day movies were made. Then, it was a regular zoo. And, at present, an inactive amusement park. But, nevertheless, down through the years and despite fallen plaster, it remains one of the most impressive entrances in town.
The “inactive amusement park” would be Luna Park, as memoriastoica and @jeffsomething said.
It appears that the Selig Zoo became Luna Park in the early 1930s. (A different Luna Park opened in 1911 near the intersection of Main Street and Washington Boulevard.)
In August 1930, The Times printed a story under this headline: “Selig Zoo Will Be ‘Luna Park.’”
A great amusement park, rivaling Coney Island in extant, equipment and superthrills, is to replace the famous Selig Zoo on Mission Road, it was announced yesterday.
But by 1955, it was merely “an inactive amusement park.” Times staff writer Susan King wrote about the zoo’s namesake, William Selig, in May 2009:
And he even opened the Selig Zoo down the street from the theater in 1915. “He built this entranceway with all of these concrete sculptures,” [Randy] Haberkamp [a programmer for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] says. “When he closed the zoo [in the early ’20s], the animals became part of the L.A. Zoo collection.”
The 15 sculptures of lions and elephants were sent to storage. In 2000, they were discovered.
The seven lion sculptures were restored and, as of last week, are now on display at the L.A. Zoo.
And that’s where you can see them today. If you’re visiting the L.A. Zoo, take a picture and let us know in the notes of this post, or tweet it to @latimespast.
And thanks for playing. We’ll try it again soon.
(Top photo: Selig Zoo arch. Credit: Los Angeles Times / UCLA Library. Bottom photo: One of the restored lion sculptures at the L.A. Zoo in 2009. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
Congrats to the winners!
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Victorian Coast Defense Forts Transformed Into Luxury Hotels
In the middle of the 19th century, Lord Palmerston ordered the construction of three Solent forts to protect Britannia’s most important naval base against attacks from Napoleon the III’s navy. Several hundred years later, Mike Clare, former Chairman and CEO of Dreams Plc, has now removed all the ”guns” and transformed these forts into exclusive island retreats.
The company which boasts a large portfolio of iconic and unusual venues across the UK also includes these three forts which are part of its ”Amazing Venues” collection: Horse Sands Fort is a museum and living heritage centre, No Man’s Land Fort, once complete, will be transformed into a 27 bedroom Hotel & Spa and the much smaller Spitbank Fort (7,000sq ft) has already been transformed into an 8 bedroom suites luxury Hotel. Following a £3 million makeover, the Spitbank Fort offers its guests an exclusive and unique experience that they’re sure to be talking about for years to come.
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The rise and fall of the Grauman dragons: For 43 years, a pair of neon dragons flanked the forecourt of one of the most famous theaters in Los Angeles: Grauman’s Chinese on Hollywood Boulevard. They were taken down in 2001, and, The Times’ Nita Lelyveld writes, one of them was promised to the Museum of Neon Art. But the museum didn’t get the dragon that year, and for a while it appeared lost. It’s now been found – but in need of about $35,000 for restoration.
Grauman’s Chinese, also formerly known as Mann’s Chinese and now TCL Chinese, first opened in 1927, sans dragons (first photo above). The dragons were added in 1958 “to give an old movie palace new pizazz,” Lelyveld writes. You can see the dragons in all their glory in the second photo above, taken in 1981. And finally, in the third photo is MONA director Kim Koga with the recovered dragon, which a former museum board member found in a prop yard on the 5 Freeway.
"We consider the dragon sign an icon of Los Angeles," Eric Lynxwiler told Lelyveld. "And yet we basically had to snatch it out of the hands of a Dumpster."
(Photo credits: Top: LA Times File Photo, Los Angeles Times /November 17, 1997; middle: LA Times File Photo, Los Angeles Times /June 4, 2002; bottom: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times /August 27, 2013)
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The gorgeous landscapes of Edward Burtynsky
Above is just a sampling of the famed Canadian photojournalist’s work. You can see more of Burtynsky’s photography in the latest edition of reFramed from Framework, and run through an interview detailing his latest project, “Water.”
Photos: Edward Burtynsky
The hypothetical buildings of Los Angeles
L.A. has been critiqued for being a ”city without iron, eschewing wood, a kingdom of stucco, the playground for mass men,” (Norman Mailer) and a “hick town” that “grew up suddenly, planlessly,” (Louis Adamic).
But that’s not to say that no one attempted any large-scale architectural planning. In the new book “Never Built Los Angeles,” Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell examine the ideas, sketches and concepts that could have shaped L.A.’s skyline.
There’s a 1950s proposal to turn Chavez Ravine (before Dodgers stadium) into a collection of high-rises and garden apartments. The so-called “Causeway,” a six-mile chain of man-made islands that was rejected in 1965. And a 148-story skyscraper planned by Donald Trump that ultimately got the boot.
Check out more of the architectural what-ifs over at Jacket Copy.
Photos: OMA / Rem Koolhaas, Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell / Metropolis Books
L.A.’s Chinatown: Then and now
Long a mainstay of Los Angeles, resting just north of downtown, Chinatown has undergone a rough few decades, with areas like the San Gabriel Valley attracting Chinese immigrants and businesses away, and the area’s overall Chinese population on the decline.
Today the aging community has the feel of a museum. Grimy storefronts gather dust, abandoned by second- and third-generation locals and ignored by a shrinking trickle of tourists.
Now a new strategy is being adopted to try and turn around the district’s fortunes: Making Chinatown a bit less Chinese.
"Why shouldn’t we have a multicultural Chinatown?" asked George Yu, president of Chinatown’s business improvement district. "Why shouldn’t we have a good cup of [Starbucks coffee]? Little Tokyo has two of them, and no one says anything about that."
Photos: Julia Wall, Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times
A heightened Hollywood skyline passes the city council
The so-called Millennium plan made it through the L.A. City Council yesterday, opening the doors for New York developer Millennium Partners to build two skyscrapers and more than 1 million square feet of office, hotel and retail space in the area surrounding the Capitol Records building.
Opponents of the proposal have criticized 39 and 35-story-tall buildings for clashing with the preexisting scenery, and predict traffic will become even messier in the immediate area.
And, pouring fuel on the fire, the head of the California Geological Survey, John Parrish penned a letter warning that the skyscrapers would be built within an earthquake fault zone.
Millennium Partners stand by the structural stability of their designs, regardless of the fault line, and the city council didn’t seem particularly worried, passing the proposal unanimously.
For more info, head over to L.A. Now.
Photos: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times, Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times
Just like the Los Angeles landscape, the special exhibitions pavilion rapidly changes. The last day to see Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future 1940-1990 is this Sunday, July 21.
Electrical Transmission Towers, about 1935, Will Connell. Gelatin silver print. Stephen White, Collection II, © Will Connell.
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The man who knows all there is to know about Grand Central
One of the most famous landmarks in a city littered with them, Grand Central celebrates its 100th year in 2013, a landmark that excites few more than Danny Brucker, who has taken it upon himself to be its chief historian (along with his real job as spokesman for Metro-North Railroad).
Brucker, who frequently leads tours throughout the huge structure in Midtown Manhattan, excitedly springs at the chance to present tidbits and trivia, from secret stairways to jewels hidden in plain sight.
For example, it turns out the building’s common title of “Grand Central Station” is completely wrong.
"If you thought you were going to get a tour of Grand Central Station, you were WRONG!" he screeched in a voice that carried above the lunch-hour din. "That’s because it’s a TERMINAL!"
Read more in our latest Column One feature.
Photos: FPG/Getty Images, Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times