Broom Closets Aren't Supposed To Haunt Your Dreams

But try telling that to the most beautiful broom closet in Downtown Los Angeles.

Gentle reader,

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.

If you subscribe to the special edition of this newsletter, this week we gave you a tiny tour of the most fascinating broom closet in Downtown Los Angeles. Very few people know that one of the 19th century copper-coated steel elevator cages from Isaac Newton Van Nuys’ grand hotel at 4th & Main still exists, much less have had the chance to see how pretty it is—or to learn just how deadly.

You can sneak a wee peek in the image above, and we hope you’ll see it for yourself one day, as the hotel is renovated by its new owners.

Being shown this remarkable survivor when we thought we knew all about the hotel and its artifacts makes us wonder how many other incredible relics of old Los Angeles are hidden away in broom closets and under drop ceilings? This is one of the reasons we fight so hard to save landmark buildings—because when demolitions are rushed, you will never know the treasures that are lost forever.

We send these special newsletters out once a month as a thank you to our paid subscribers, who chip in $10 a month or $100 a year to help keep the lights on as we approach a year since our bus tour operation was shuttered. We are so grateful for the support, which lets us bring you the L.A. history, culture and preservation links in this free edition, and keep hosting a new webinar each Saturday.

For tomorrow’s webinar, we’re making a virtual visit to share some of the seaside crime scenes that obsess us: The Dark Side of the West Side. Kim was a tot on a then-sketchy Venice walk street, and has a particular fascination with terrible things that have happened within the sound of the pounding surf. From the weird antics of the shaven head Synanon crew to the case of the spitting mad sleeping beauty, from the flea-bag House of Horrors to the cult priestess awaiting resurrection, we think you’ll enjoy this grim yet loving time travel trip, and invite you to sign up here.

On February 27, it’s The Stories of Los Angeles Storybook Architecture, an exploration of some of the Southland’s most whimsical structures. Although they look like they should be inhabited by witches, hobbits, sprites and goblins, these Storybook gems were more likely to attract visionaries and oddballs, and we’ll get to know these fascinating characters and the charms of the places in this immersive webinar. And yes, there is some vintage true crime in the mix! For more info or to reserve your spot, click here.

And just added for March 6, it’s The Birth of Noir with James M. Cain & Raymond Chandler. This is a literary and film-themed webinar, tracking the fascinating intersections between Southern California landmarks and the writing of Cain, who mined a rich vein of crime and curiosity in his adopted home, and inspired some fantastic and influential films. From roadside attractions to sprawling cemeteries, Skid Row bars to the railyard produce yards, Cain’s world is still here—if you know where to look. Get the skinny on this one here.

Stay tuned as we roll out a new webinar program each Saturday. And remember if you can’t watch live or need to leave mid-stream, you can watch the recording for one full week. There’s still time to see In The Shadow of the Hotel Cecil: A Main Street Time Travel webinar through Saturday night.

These webinars are now available as On-Demand recordings: L.A. Historic Preservation, 1900s-1980sTouring Southern California’s Architecture of DeathCrawford’s MarketsJohn Bengtson’s Silent Film LocationsGeorge Mann’s Vintage L.A.Pershing Square 1866-2020Cafeterias of Old L.A.Programmatic ArchitectureAngels FlightGrand Central MarketOhio River ValleyBunker HillCharles BukowskiRaymond ChandlerBlack DahliaDutch Chocolate ShopBradbury BuildingTunnelsL.A. Times Bombing and 13 Uncanny Crimes & Mysteries.

And we’d love to see you tomorrow at noon for The Dark Side of the West Side.

yours for Los Angeles,

Kim & Richard


Subscribe! In the latest subscriber's edition of this newsletter—$10/month, cheap!—A Hidden Victorian Elevator Cage With A Bloodthirsty Past—we peer into a hotel broom closet that is as beautiful as it is terrifying.


If you enjoy all we do to celebrate and preserve Los Angeles history, please consider signing up for (or gifting) the subscriber’s edition of this newsletter, or putting a little something into our digital tip jar. Gift certificates are available for any webinar in our library or upcoming calendar, starting at $10. Printed matter? We’ve got a swell selection of books and maps, some written by us, others sourced from dusty warehouses. For a wider selection, Bookshop uses the power of distributor Ingram to help independent bookstores stick around. We've curated a selection of uniquely Los Angeles titles, and when you order from these links, it supports participating local shops, and us, too. You can also click here before shopping on Amazon... & if you love what we do, please tell your friends.


We're dark until public health officials determine that groups can gather safely. But in addition to weekly webinar programs, we've got 138 episodes of the podcast You Can't Eat The Sunshine free to download for armchair explorers, and videos of the Downtown L.A. LAVA walking tours, plus Cranky Preservationist videos.


Here's a new resource worth getting lost in: Adsausage has scanned about 250 issues of the Los Angeles Times Sunday Home Magazine (1939-85), a fascinating filter through which to view our booming metropolis.

Fullerton is seeking to sell its New Formalist City Hall ( Smith, Powell & Morgridge, 1963) to developers—which would conveniently erase the lawn where Black Lives Matter and other demonstrators have protested the city's many failings.

Independent researchers, rejoice! JSTOR is offering up to 100 free articles per month from scholarly journals. Lots of interesting architecture, history and sociology content.

Do you think the Ambassador Hotel was haunted? Tracing the Decay of Fiction: Encounters with a Film by Pat O’Neill was an ambitious attempt to bring the ghosts into focus, in the waning days before the landmark was destroyed.

Getting wonderfully lost in this film of Majestic Blvd. East Extension, folk artist Gene Sculatti's latest imaginary California cityscape scroll, with a Brian Wilsonesque score by Andy Paley. We want to live there!

The California International Antiquarian Book Fair will be virtual this year, and tickets are free.

Jewish architectural landmark in peril: that’s s a year old (!) demolition notice taped to the beautiful Beaux Arts B’nai B'rith Lodge (Samuel Tilden Norton, 1923). David Silvas went live to explore the problem of trying to protect great buildings that aren’t listed on the city’s “canonical” Survey L.A. list.

Nithya Raman, ushered into Los Angeles City Council through the volunteer efforts of the Democratic Socialists of America, casts disappointing land use vote in favor of Jose Huizar's huge LA Times project, has stealthily added a lobbyist to her staff.

El Pino update: Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council CIS demands independent arborist report, registry on California Big Tree List, development review. Explicitly calls out the harm done to the community by Jose Huizar and those associated with him.

Fascinating historic preservation battle in San Francisco, for the Noe Valley home of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, lesbian icons. The house is probably safe, but the garden—where the couple's cremains are scattered!—is in the redevelopment cross hairs.

Faring is one of L.A.'s worst developers, notorious for targeting landmark properties for demolition or demolition by neglect (RIP Parisian Florist and the whole small business block). It's a stretch to say this project has "saved" The Factory, gay history spin or no.

Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong denies Wall Street Journal report that the paper is back on the market. But if the WSJ is right, will he also sell the eagle and other landmarked artifacts taken from the Times Building?