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Hanging out with Old Glory Oak, soon to be a Los Angeles County Landmark

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Gentle reader,

We love tamales, and not just in our tummies.

In 2013, we advocated with then Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina to protect the world’s biggest tamale, a roadside attraction that’s been making folks smile on Whittier Boulevard for nearly a century. At the time, it was on the market with demolition possible.

Photo: Water and Power Associates digital museum.

The Supervisor listened, and initiated a new program to allow for architectural and cultural landmarks in unincorporated L.A. County to be recognized and protected. While the Tamale was not so designated, it wasn’t demolished as we’d feared. And today, you can go visit this daffy building for yourself—rumble seating optional.

After eight years, there still aren’t very many County landmarks. And they’re all so different from each other that it’s interesting to see a new one hit the Board of Supervisors’ agenda.

Landmark #1, Doumakes House is a charming, owner-nominated View Park property originally inhabited by the Greek immigrant who popularized mass produced marshmallow treats. Alpine Village is a cute collection of Bavarian shops and service businesses, sadly mothballed by the new owners, who just want the huge parking lot for truck parking. Jackie Robinson Park and Chester Washington Golf Course are historic public recreation facilities with particular significance for the African American community.

Then there is The Unique Theatre, converted to retail with apartments on top, which boasts the jazziest neon blade sign on the east side. But an arsonist torched it hours after it was designated, and everything past the sidewalk was then demolished. Our hope, and the County’s, is for new housing to be developed with the historic facade and sign restored.

Three more private residences were all owner-nominated: Anderson House is an organic modernist canyon compound, Holmes House is a modern ranch with an original landscape, and Packard House is a carpenter’s 1930s salvage project. And efforts are presently underway to give Altadena its own historic district.

And now, Supervisor Kathryn Barger has proposed designation for the first living County landmark: Old Glory, an ancient Quercus lobata or Valley Oak tree, in a motion to be heard on Tuesday, July 11.

Two decades ago, Old Glory was slated to be chopped down for a subdivision—until environmentalist John Quigley climbed into her bows and lived there for 71 days, only coming down when his tree friend was safe. Old Glory was carefully crated and moved by the magicians at Senna Tree, survived the move, and is thriving today a treasure of Pico Canyon Park near Santa Clarita.

We recently paid our respects to this magnificent 400-year-old oak, hoping a little of her good fortune might be conveyed to our struggling tree friends El Pino, Cornelius Johnson’s Olympic Oak and the fallen but not forgotten Eagle Tree. And we thought you’d like to meet her, too.

In this video, you’ll notice that Richard is holding (and dropping) a large oak gall, an odd fruit-like body that forms on leaves in response to a wasp laying her egg. Traditionally, galls were crushed and mixed into a rich black ink favored by medieval scribes. Look out for them when you’re in California woodlands, and let us know if you brew up an ink of your own.

Old Glory is one of the most awe inspiring trees we’ve met in our rambles, and it’s sobering to think that this beautiful sentinel could have been mulched if a since bankrupt real estate developer had his way and if a handful of nimble organizers hadn’t stepped up to shape her story.

Most people will never put themselves in the path of a bulldozer to save an old tree. But simply seeing that it is possible to protect things that matter by coming together, spinning a compelling yarn and not giving up—that is a well we can all draw from, as we look around and think about how things could be, should be, have got to be better.

(The secret is that it’s fun to fight against big bad greedy monsters, whether you win or not.)

Do you have any special spots in unincorporated Los Angeles County that really ought to be made landmarks? Let us know in the comments—and let the County Supervisors know, too!

This Saturday’s walking tour The Run is a brand new one, revealing the hiding in plain sight LGBTQ history of Downtown Los Angeles. The neon flickered out long ago, but the stories will buzz and flicker in your heart forever. Join us, do!

yours for Los Angeles,

Kim & Richard

Esotouric


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, vintage Los Angeles webinars available to stream, in-person tours and a souvenir shop you can browse in. We’ve also got recommended reading bookshelves on Amazon and the Bookshop indie bookstore site. Or just share this link with other people who care.

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UPCOMING BUS & WALKING TOURS

New! The Run: Gay Downtown History Walk (Sat. 7/8) •Westlake Park Walk (Sat. 7/15) • Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles Bus Tour (Sat. 7/22) • Angelino Heights & Carroll Avenue Walk (Sat. 8/5) • Charles Bukowski’s Los Angeles Bus Tour (Sat. 8/12)


CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS

Cheers to the crime buddy who captured a magic moment at the Bat Man House on last Saturday’s bus tour. We often meet residents curious about the historic crimes that happened in their homes, but this is the first pussycat who ever stopped just to listen to Kim's Echo Park Book of the Dead stories!

Preservation pals Cat Whalen and Sandi Hemmerlein bushwhacked their way onto the grounds of Old Trapper’s Lodge to document the current, neglected state of the California landmark. Cat's photo of the sculpted feet of Iron Foot Eva, ripped away from her tombstone when the Boot Hill Cemetery was vandalized by Valley Relics, is a powerful indictment of Pierce College's failed stewardship and all the foolish men who have ruined what is in many ways a feminist artwork.

The feminist theme is driven home by a recent discovery of a likely inspiration for John Ehn's mother figure, in the nationwide Madonna of the Trail monument series commissioned by the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) and dedicated in 1928-29. The collage above shows the Upland, CA monument and Ehn's sculpture.

Details from our pre-restoration visit to the Trust Building. The bird’s egg terracotta is very similar to Los Angeles City Hall.

John and Donald Parkinson's Trust Building is a Spring Street gem with a fascinating history—it was nearly L.A.'s design center, thanks to visionary architect and preservationist Ragnar Qvale. As UCLA Extension moves in, we look forward to the next chapter.

The demolition threat to a Hyde Park bungalow court has been added to the map. The property at 6319 Brynhurst is not an Ellis Act property, so where are the RSO tenants, as new owners pitch upzoned TOC development?

There has been a dance studio upstairs at 3rd and Holt since 1963. Now 3rd Street Dance, a 40+ year legacy business, faces displacement for the same old upzoned TOC residential project.

In the market for a bungalow court with a Frank Zappa connection that you can call your forever home (and provide affordable housing to seven other households on the lot)? Steps from Echo Park lake, 1817 Bellevue Ave. is calling. $1.7 Million... cheap?

Lovely Los Feliz Square is under attack from bad development, like the Thomas James Homes project that drilled into an artesian spring, making a stinky swamp on Alexandria. So glad to see the National Register District we suggested creating moving forward!

Update to the clay roof tiles given away on Craigslist at the potential National Register El Adobe Market on Hollywood Boulevard: the Inspector issued notice to get a re-roof permit by July 7. It is important that it be restored and not wrecked!

A striking ghost sign was just revealed at the old Clover Field Municipal Airport, at 3300 Airport in Santa Monica. This is a war memorial, honoring WWI aviator Greayer "Grubby" Clover (1897-1918). Thanks to preservation pal Michele Stueven for the tip. She says it's staying!

As the city moves to declare African American landmarks, we wish they'd use the StylesVille Beauty & Barbershop nomination to advance a legacy business registry rather than designating the storefront. Other cities have such programs and there are a lot of tools that can help keep decades old businesses alive, but here the idea has was stalled in committee for years, then approved last July—but nothing has happened. We’d ask Curren Price, but uhm…

In 2016, we photographed the derelict Seiden's Furs building (1874) in Kansas City, awed by the jazzy mid-century signage and staid Victorian brick. Empty for decades, it was set to demolished—but angels have arrived.

The view from the Insurance Exchange Building, soon to be converted to affordable housing by AIDS Healthcare Foundation: the Eastern Columbia clock terracotta is getting restored—again. Something went wrong in the $30 Million 2006 condo conversion, which is worrying, as the same crew did a lot of L.A. landmarks.

When Los Angeles was a silent movie back lot, a lost world was preserved for digital archeologists to explore, like silent cinema location sleuth John Bengtson’s post about Hal Roach's Spat Family going nuts for radio reception. There's even a Charles Bukowski cameo!

We stand with our preservation pals in Tokyo who are fighting to preserve the 100 year old alley of golden ginko trees and the historic Meiji Jingu Stadium where Babe Ruth played from privatization and demolition. Sign and share to #savejingugaien.

In light of the horrific allegations against David Adjaye, it seems unlikely he will be designing a house for Arthur Jafa on Alta Loma Terrace anytime soon. What will happen to the demolition threatened Philip Ahn / Kurt Cobain Residence now?

Corruption Corner: We tried to point out Onni Group's poorly installed plaque to a visiting journalist concerned about the fate of Times Mirror Square, only to find it's been stolen right off the wall! The Los Angeles Times buildings look abandoned, with Summer 2020 tagging visible… In CalMatters, Jim Newton suggests the reasons for the corruption crisis in Los Angeles City Hall is 1) a lack of press attention, and 2) the contempt that elected officials hold for citizens. One is easier to fix than the other… As City Council moves to amend the contract with Onni Group's unlicensed hotel Level Furnished Living for housing the displaced East 27th Street fireworks blast victims, we wonder: does Curren Price still get his kickback while he's awaiting trial?… Months after brother and Charles Co. business partner Arman is sentenced to prison for bribery, Mark Gabay is flipping the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden site. So gross that UCLA broke the Carter will just so a dirty developer can get richer… Cheers to UN4LA, who fought off ex-councilman Mitch O'Farrell's zombie plan to destroy 40 RSO apartments on Whitley for yet another Hollywood party hotel. CEQA is awesome policy tool and anyone who tells you otherwise is on the side of the worst landlords… And speaking of rent controlled apartments that have mysteriously vanished from the housing market: what the hell is happening under Yamashiro, where "Hollywood Hills Hotel" has been using RSO units for 16+ years?! Anyone know a former tenant?… More Skid Row Housing Trust news: a boring wrongful termination contract lawsuit in Illinois reminds Angelenos that we still don’t know how much the non-profit blew on toxic Florida mortgages to sell to suckers, or why people with backgrounds in high finance shenanigans were involved at all. Plus: bonus pigeons.

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Esotouric's Secret Los Angeles