When you care about historic preservation as much as we do, life is a constant, low ache of worry. We can tend to our map, stop by the places we care about and stay highly tuned to local news, blogs and social media. But if you ask us any day of the year, there are threatened landmarks whose fate is an absolute, heartbreaking question mark.
We call these static crisis sites "closely watched trains." Will they pull safely into the station, or careen off a cliff? All we can do is wait for the wheels to start moving, and then do everything we can to steer them safely on their way.
One of those trains is Downey's neo-classical, National Register Rives Mansion, a very unusual Southern California house that's steeped in history, mystery and misadventure. Built for an early L.A. jurist who commuted downtown by horse, by the 1980s it was home to the Swedish newspaper that played a supporting role in the Black Dahlia investigation. The current owner is years late on paying the mortgage, and recent tenants have included squatters, a failed steakhouse and a seemingly nice lady who is now serving Federal time for wire fraud. (She welcomed our tour group into the mansion in 2010, before charges were filed.)
But after all this time and trouble, on Sunday's South L.A. Road Trip tour we heard the exciting news that the bank is finally foreclosing on the Rives Mansion, and it will be listed for sale in the very near future. Not only that: the city of Downey is talking seriously, at long last, about enacting an historic preservation ordinance!
And maybe you, or someone you know, is fated to be the next steward of the Rives Mansion, which can again be a home or, more likely, a public-facing venue. It could be a wonderful place with a great history ahead. The landmark is not yet on the market, but there's a guy you can call to get the skinny.
We'll be busy this weekend with one sold out event, and one nearly so. Saturday, we roll with the Weird West Adams crime bus, which has a few seats left. On Sunday, it's our quarterly forensic science seminar, sold out with a waiting list. Join us, do!
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At the sign of the fox (our favorite South Indian restaurant-caterer cooks delicacies just next door).
LAVA'S FORENSIC SCIENCE SEMINAR - SUN. 8/13
Four times a year, we gather in the teaching crime labs of Cal State Los Angeles under the direction of Professor Donald Johnson to explore the history and future of American forensic science. On August 13, 2017, join us for Bombs & Decomp, an afternoon of insights into historic investigations and how a body changes after death. Your $36.50 ticket benefits graduate level Criminalistics research. Sold out with waiting list. Click here for more info.
In this breathtaking thriller, Dorothy B. Hughes captures all the anxieties of postwar Los Angeles, as traumatized men and women cautiously circle each other, uncertain if the next embrace will be the start of something lovely or a fatal mistake. Long neglected, and overshadowed by the magnificent Nicholas Ray film adaptation starring his unhappy wife Gloria Grahame, the book is coming back into the light, as part of Sarah Weinman's Women Crime Writers anthology and in a new edition with a forward (spoilers!) by neo-noir scribe Megan Abbott. Don't even try to understand the Black Dahlia case without reading this.
WEIRD WEST ADAMS - SAT. 8/12... On this guided tour through the Beverly Hills of the early 20th Century, Crime Bus passengers thrill as Jazz Age bootleggers run amok, marvel at the Krazy Kafitz family's litany of criminal misbehavior, visit the shortest street in Los Angeles (15' long Powers Place, with its magnificent views of the mansions of Alvarado Terrace) and stroll the haunted paths of Rosedale Cemetery. Featured players include the most famous dwarf in Hollywood, mass suicide ringleader Reverend Jim Jones, wacky millionaires who can't control their automobiles, human mole bank robbers, comically inept fumigators, kids trapped in tar pits, and dozens of other unusual and fascinating denizens of early Los Angeles. (Almost sold out! Buy tickets here.)
FORENSIC SCIENCE SEMINAR AT CAL STATE LOS ANGELES - SUN. 8/13... Professor Donald Johnson hosts "Bombs & Decomp," featuring Mike Digby on historic bomb cases and Dr. Elizabeth Miller on decomposition of the human body. Your $36.50 ticket benefits graduate level Criminalistics research. (Sold out with waiting list. For more info, click here.)
BOYLE HEIGHTS & MONTEREY PARK: THE HIDDEN HISTORIES OF L.A.'S MELTING POTS - SAT. 8/26... Come on a century's social history tour through the transformation of neighborhoods, punctuated with immersive stops to sample the varied cultures that make our changing city so beguiling. Voter registration, citizenship classes, Chicano Moratorium, walkouts, blow-outs, anti-Semitism, adult education, racial covenants, boycotts, The City Beautiful, Exclusion Acts and Immigration Acts, property values, xenophobia, and delicious dumplings--all are themes which will be addressed on this lively excursion. This whirlwind social history tour will include: The Vladeck Center, Hollenbeck Park, Evergreen Cemetery, The Venice Room, El Encanto & Cascades Park, Divine's Furniture and Wing Hop Fung. (Buy tickets here.)
THE LAVA SUNDAY SALON & BROADWAY ON MY MIND WALKING TOUR - SUN. 8/27... Our free cultural lecture series recently relaunched on the basement level of Grand Central Market with a walk to follow. August's Salon: The Cranky Preservationist in search of Lost Art Deco. (Free, reservation required.)
THE BIRTH OF NOIR: JAMES M. CAIN'S SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NIGHTMARE - SAT. 9/9... This tour digs deep into the literature, film and real life vices that inform that most murderous genre, film noir, rolling through Hollywood, Glendale and old Skid Row, lost lion farms, murderous sopranos, fascist film censors, offbeat cemeteries -- all in a quest to reveal the delicious, and deeply influential, nightmares that are author Cain's gift to the world. (Buy tickets here.)
HOTEL HORRORS & MAIN STREET VICE - SAT. 9/16... Through the 1940s, downtown was the true city center, a lively, densely populated, exciting and sometimes dangerous place. But while many of the historic buildings remain, their human context has been lost. This downtown double feature tour is meant to bring alive the old ghosts and memories that cling to the streets and structures of the historic core, and is especially recommended for downtown residents curious about their neighborhood's neglected history. (Buy tickets here.)
SPECIAL EVENT: THE 1910 BOMBING OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES WITH DETECTIVE MIKE DIGBY - Sat. 9/23... An all new bus adventure follows in the shadowy footstep of the labor activists who plotted the dynamiting of the Los Angeles Times Building, part of a nationwide plot that played out some of its most dramatic scenes in the heart of historic Los Angeles. Included in the ticket price is a copy of guest host Mike Digby's new book on the Southland's most fascinating bombers. (Buy tickets here.)
Additional upcoming tours: Hollywood! (9/30), The Real Black Dahlia (10/7), Echo Park Book of the Dead (10/14), Raymond Chandler’s L.A. (10/21)
OUR HISTORIC L.A. PODCAST
Back from hiatus! In Episode #119: Secrets of Llano del Rio and Utopian Los Angeles, we preview the June 17 Desert Visionaries tour with guest hosts Paul Greenstein & Karyl Newman, plus Lummis House, Lytton Savings and Sinatra Bungalow news. Click here to tune in. New: find stories on the map!
AND FINALLY, LINKS
Jack Parsons’ astonishing life is coming to TV. Get a sneak peak on our Pasadena Confidential crime bus tour this winter.
A restaurant critic realizes L.A.’s historic eateries are too often forgotten, until they’re gone.
Angels Flight is coming back, and soon will have a tall, shiny neighbor. But how will the new tower treat the past?
Concerned neighbor documents possibly illegal demolition of exiled Mexican Revolutionary General Maytorena's Koreatown mansion.
Mapping L.A.'s wonderfully weird roadside architecture, lost and still standing.
Out-of-state developer seeks to turn one of Hollywood’s vanishing courtyard apartment compounds into a boutique hotel. These mini neighborhoods are worth saving, buildings and the people in them!
The Cranky Preservationist, who loves Los Angeles and HATES what you’re doing to it, returns! Episode 5: Phony Electric Car Charging Station Blues.
How real estate speculators are abusing the Ellis Act to drive Angelenos out of L.A.
Pity Felix the Cat. Once the coolest neon sign in L.A. and the jewel in Auto Row's crown, now a sad, solitary LED replica.
Kim and Richard