Greetings from your friendly historic Los Angeles sightseeing tour company, now offering digital programming until we can again organize groups to gather and explore the city we love.
Trying to preserve and tell the stories of Los Angeles landmarks is an interesting vocation. We never know when we wake up if we’ll be mourning an unexpected loss like Beverlywood Bakery (established 1946, closed forever on Saturday, April 30) or jumping into action to save something cool from the scrapyard. Obviously, our preference is to save rather than mourn. It feels good to make an effort / difference and tell a story with a positive spin.
Last Monday, we got a call from Kelvin Garvanne, a volunteer at the Project 43 Team Post Centers community non-profit in the Hyde Park neighborhood of South Los Angeles.
He was standing in Project 43’s parking lot, looking at a decommissioned air raid siren that had toppled over three days earlier, crushing the fence and scaring the hell out of everybody in the old Crenshaw Dog & Cat Hospital building.
Calls to the city were going nowhere, and he’d found our names in a recent L.A. Taco story about the preservation of these decommissioned scraps of cold war infrastructure. (We also shot a short siren video with Spectrum News.)
Kelvin thought we might like to come down and give the fallen siren a proper send off, and he wondered if we knew what agency (if any) would take responsibility to haul the enormous thing away.
Of course we felt called to pay our respects to Air Raid Siren No. 184*, a designated Los Angeles historic resource (there are 150 such artifacts on the Survey LA list, and even more on this crowdsourced map tied to Dennis Hanley’s essential Wirechief siren site). And we wanted to help Project 43 regain access to the lot they use for food distribution and community events.
[* Update May 23, 2022: The page for Air Raid Siren No. 184 on the city’s Survey L.A. website now returns an error message. This working link was captured on Archive.org on April 29, 2022. A different page (Archive.org link) now exists for No. 184 that says “No image available,” although there is a photo on the dead link that worked last month. The link to all 150 surveyed air raid sirens also returns this error message, but you can still search for "Air Raid Sirens and Civil Defense, 1939-1960" on the site—a result which now returns 148 results, down from 150.]
So Tuesday morning found us at 71st and Crenshaw, with a detour through Downtown to photograph the development threatened Morrison Hotel (Morgan, Walls and Morgan, 1914). The skies cooperated to frame a portrait of a handsome and useful rent controlled residency hotel that has been held vacant for fifteen years, and ought to be again a home for Angelenos—or at least not partially demolished for a boutique hotel conversion.
We understood intellectually that the air raid siren that had fallen was very big and had caused some damage, but when we arrived at Project 43, we gasped. Like the Eagle Tree* which toppled in April, it was an awesome historic object that could very easily have killed someone when it fell. And how ironic that an alert system installed to make 20th century Angelenos safer has been left unmaintained to become a danger to their grandchildren.
When we arrived at Project 43, we didn’t know what was going to happen with the air raid siren, but we figured that calling city offices from the site might be effective.
But then something kind of magical happened: Richard phoned the Bureau of Street Lighting, the division that was so helpful with the reinstallation of Sheila Klein’s sculpture Vermonica at the end of 2020. He was prepared to explain about the fallen air raid siren, and ask if they had any suggestions getting it picked up. But BSL already knew all about it, through the city grapevine—and a work crew and crane were on their way!
And with a shovel, wrenches, a sling and a wrecking bar, the skilled and gracious BSL crew made quick work of disassembling Air Raid Siren No. 184 and loading it up for transport to the street lighting boneyard in East Hollywood! And Project 43’s parking lot was once again available for community events—though somebody needs to pay for the ruined gate.
No. 184 is safe now, a little battered but ready to be fixed up and returned to community view in some fashion. But in toppling over, it sounds a serious alarm: with 150 decaying, designated cultural resource sirens spread across the city, City Hall needs to step up and ensure that they’re structurally sound.
These sirens tell a story about our city’s role in the geopolitical past, and they can be a part of our future. But not if they’re ignored and allowed to rust out.
Until the city comes out with a policy of checking their health, we’ll encourage you to keep an eye on your local air raid siren, but from a healthy distance. And we hope you enjoy the spectacle of the Bureau of Street Lighting making quick work of No. 184 as much as we did.
[Update May 30, 2022: we paid a visit to the fallen air raid siren in city storage in East Hollywood, and continue to advocate for a preservation solution that will see it returned to public view. Plus: cheers to Day Tripping Adventurer, who captured the siren before it fell in video #9 of his series of local history walks. And be on the look out for sister siren #35, which as of February 2023 is listed on eBay for $1200 buy-it-now, and on the city’s Survey L.A. website as a designated historic resource!]
* And speaking of Compton’s landmark, fallen Eagle Tree…
We are delighted to tell you that it has landed in a temporary safe location—in one piece thanks to all the good work of our preservation pals at Mr. Crane, seen lifting the majestic trunk below. This ancient sentinel will not be cut up into little pieces, but will live again as an historic object. Stay tuned for more Eagle Tree news as we have it.
yours for Los Angeles,
Kim & Richard
Psst… If you’d like to support our efforts to be the voice of places worth preserving, we have a tip jar and a subscriber edition of this newsletter. Or just share this link with other people who care.
In the latest subscriber's edition of this newsletter—$10/month, cheap!—The Ghost of Harry Bergman's Roadside Museum on Highway 371: of provenance, weed murders, big lizards and the transformative effect of green glass shards lit by the sun.
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We’re very sad to learn of the death of Angela Romero, who we got to know as she was developing her San Pedro tours. She had such a passion for the preservation of physical places and stories, we felt like we didn't have to worry about Pedro as about other parts of L.A. Let's all work to Keep San Pedro Cozy in her honor.
Upsetting updates on our Friends of Old Trapper's Lodge page, as Pierce College hides from the public while seeking to evict the landmark folk art environment and amateurs from Valley Relics truck away the tombstone sculpture of Iron Foot Eva. Plus a message from artist John Ehn’s family to all who care.
Video artist Arthur Jafa wants to demolish the Philip Ahn/Kurt Cobain Residence for a new house by Pritzker winner David Adjaya, so attorney / Chili Bowl killer Daniel Freedman charged corrupt ties between the L.A. Conservancy, Cultural Heritage Commission and City Hall. Did these accusations contribute to the nomination’s failure? Franklin Corridor Communities is unhappy with the politicized decision and is asking for reconsideration.
Fans of the giant orange at the shuttered Bono's Restaurant in Fontana have recently noted its disappearance with dismay. But it's in safe hands, to be restored and reinstalled just off Route 66.
A nasty Pacific Dining Car family feud was exposed at semi-successful Cultural Heritage Commission hearing, where the grim condition of the treasured spot was also documented. Don’t hold your breath for PDC to reopen any time soon.
A fan sounds the alarm that the dive bar where killer Sacramento landlady Dorothea Puente was recognized by barfly Charles Willgues and where Anthony Bourdain hung out—is in trouble after the block sold for $7.7M, making 36 apartments and 16 retail spaces vulnerable to displacement. (In a sweet twist, tipster Charles Willgues was reunited with his estranged family in Michigan after they read news stories about how he helped capture the fugitive serial killer who he met in his corner bar. Save the Monte Carlo!)
We are thrilled that a preservation minded owner now controls the fate of Hollywood’s Magic Castle club, and that our talented friend Erika Larsen is in a leadership role.
When a great joint shuts down, then changes hands, it's normal to fret it's gone forever. But thanks to our preservation pal Emma Rault's fantastic advocacy, Walker's Cafe has sold to a buyer who intends to change... nothing! More on the happy (almost) ending.
Cool news from Bakersfield, where the shuttered Woolworth's with its rare luncheonette counter is added to the city landmark list. Cheers to preservation minded councilman Andrae Gonzales and fingers crossed a new operator can make it pop.
Swing by Amoeba Music in Hollywood to pick up the new edition of their Music We Like zine, featuring our Kim Cooper talking about a forgotten cultural artifact a few blocks away: the beat-era decorated sidewalk from the Cosmo Alley / Bido Lito's club. The moon is green leaves!
A worrying update on La Golondrina (est. 1930), Olvera Street's oldest restaurant, which has been closed since the start of the pandemic. The new owners found serious structural problems, and the city is waiving rent for four months.
Bureau of Street Lighting report (PDF link) on copper wire theft says it would take 80 years and $400 Million to secure Los Angeles streetlamps against the huge increase in vandalism since 2019. We’re glad to have helped raise consciousness about the incredible scale of metal theft via the Glendale Hyperion Bridge lamps. But until the recycling yards that buy/melt this public property are investigated, it won’t stop.
Just over 100 years ago, Cameron entered the world. Artist, muse, actress, map maker, magical touchstone, occultist, icon, Angeleno. The Cameron Parsons Foundation is sharing her MOCA catalog as a birthday gift.
We checked in with Joseph Young's Triforium polyphonoptic sound and light sculpture opposite City Hall, and discovered it has become home to quite a large bee hive!
We're giggling that Fodor's thinks the best restaurant in Boyle Heights is Teresita's. This family-run Zacatecan diner is absolutely fantastic—but it's in unincorporated East Los Angeles!
Baffling that the South Street Seaport Museum loaned its wee Queen Mary to the Urban Commons fraudsters who let the big ship decay, and didn't immediately take it back when "significant damage" to the model was noted in 2017.
The owner of John Parkinson's family estate in Santa Monica hired a nutty lawyer to fight its designation as a landmark, and swore she didn't plan to sell. That battle lost, 808 Woodacres seeks a new steward. A sale is pending.
Our preservation pal C.C. de Vere hates the redevelopment plans that would destroy the Viper Room on the Sunset Strip, and is petitioning for a solution that preserves the club. (Yes, it is possible to save the ground floor storefronts and build above them.)
R.I.P. 6516 Colgate Avenue, a charming 1927 English cottage sold as a $1.8 Million tear down in July. The demo permit was just approved, but the new owner is keeping the garage.
Thanks to harlanchicken on Instagram for spotting the lovely Craftsman at 2616 Abbot Kinney with the teardown price and development rendering sign.
The co-living company seeking to displace the rent controlled 410 N. Rossmore tenants has a new trick: fill the building with foster youth and unhoused moms.
The Redlands Conservancy has won: the time capsule England home and orange grove, with its functioning Victorian irrigation system, will become a museum of Inland Empire citrus husbandry.
We love this brutalist mirror tower framing the jacaranda and western horizon and are sad there's no plan to preserve it in Johnson Favaro's new master plan for La Cienega Park, Beverly Hills. See it while you can!
Sign geeks, rejoice: The Huntington recently added the 1939-40 Rafu nenkan city directory to its special collections holdings, including these stunning panoramic views of Little Tokyo storefronts.
Scoop: when Netflix shut down the Egyptian Theatre for massive remodeling they left L.A.'s small film festivals in the lurch. Arpa International moved to American Legion Post 43—and got $20K from the American Cinematheque for the headaches!
Corruption Corner: What's missing in news coverage of the proposed Angels Landing tower? RICO charged Jose Huizar, who picked the developer after a big contribution to his Pershing Square redesign scheme… Onni Group follows the same playbook nationwide: paying off corrupt politicians' wives to make sure these families stay in power to make policy to benefit Onni. Not Jose Huizar's L.A: Walter Burnett Jr.'s Chicago… New on Justin Kloczko's essential Substack: before sentencing, LADWP GM David Wright claimed Eric Garcetti's inappropriate remarks about Wright's sexuality made him vulnerable to corruption. Meanwhile, a DWP co-conspirator claims he was recording high level meetings and reporting directly to the FBI… Developer Arman Gabay corrupted Los Angeles government, trading cash for votes and in-house planning and lease aid. The exquisite Dr. Jones Dog & Cat Hospital was demolished for his schemes. His confession won't bring it back.
If a 1950s air raid siren falls in South Los Angeles, will anybody come and get it?