East LA's Unique Theatre - 4/19/2022: Landmarked at noon and on fire at midnight


Gentle reader,

As if this week hadn’t been enough of a preservation roller coaster—and as more comes out, the Hotel Cecil whitewashing is shaping up to be a real eye opener—we couldn’t even enjoy the glow of a successful preservation campaign for one full day.

Yesterday, we shared the joyous news that the Los Angeles County Supervisors had declared the fire-damaged Unique Theatre at First and Rowan in East Los Angeles a protected landmark, with the aim of preserving the towering neon blade sign, handsome facade and Art Deco lobby details as part of a new adaptive reuse project. We brought the idea to Supervisor Hilda Solis' office and are grateful that she moved to protect this beautiful building.

Then late last night, social media lit up as the vacant and newly landmarked theater caught on fire… again!

We went to the scene this morning, expecting to find crime scene tape and arson investigators, but instead there was just the property owner and his work crew, cleaning up the mess.

But overall, it didn't look any worse than it did last week. We don't know if the lobby suffered any additional damage in this latest blaze, but the neon sign and the facade still are standing and ready to be included in a new building project. They knew how to build 100 years ago. If only 2022 Los Angeles knew how to keep useful old buildings from catching on fire.

Congratulations, dear Unique Theatre, and we're really sorry you didn't get to enjoy the glow of your landmarking before the fire trucks showed up again.

yours for Los Angeles,

Kim & Richard