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20e YWCA Building - Ghost Signs - Cabrillo Hotel (E)

YWCA (The Women's Athletic Club)

1031 S Broadway.

Downtown, South Park, Los Angeles, CA

Allison and Allison

 

On February 26, 2011, we were invited by the Los Angeles Historic Theater Foundation (LAHTF) to preview the newly restored Belasco Theater on Hill Street, in the South Park neighborhood of Downtown Los Aneles. Ordinarily, "adaptive reuse" is a dirty word to a hard-core preservationist, but the rennovations made to the Belasco are sensitive to the architecture, and give new life to an otherwise vacant building. Working with the LAHTF and the Los Angeles Conservancy, the owner of the Belansco has created a wonderful, and vibrant entertainment complex. Restored to Department of Interior standards, and adapted for a multitude of uses, this theater is destined to become a new Los Angeles hot spot.

 

The story goes that Edward Doheny, who lived just southwest in Chester Place, wanted a theater closer to his residence. At the time, many of the older theaters on Broadway were in decline and beginning to turn burlesque. On land owned by his oil company, he commissioned Morgan, Walls, and Clements to create two new venues -- the Belasco (HCM-476) with a close space designed for plays, and the Mayan (HCM-460), for musicals. The theaters were completed and opened in 1926 and 1927 respectively. They Mayan took on a pre-columbian theme, while the Belasco incorporaes several different Spanish themes, including: Churrigueresque, Spanish Renaissance, Moorish, and Gothic. Doheeny choose Frederick Belasco (brother to David and Edward Belasco of the New York Belasco theaters) to run the new venue. The Belasco's opening production was Gentlement Prefer Blonds. After the theater closed, it was converted into a movie palace, became home to the Gospel Temple, and later the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), before being acquired by the current owner.

 

I love my little point-and-shoot Sony T100. However, in the low light of the theater I had to use the OSI setting. As a result the interior appears an erie Victorian red, even though it's mostly blue and gold. No amount of tinting would help, so the pictures are what they are.

 

After the tour we decided to take a walk around the block to see what other architectural treasures were in the neighborhood:

 

-- The Mayan Theater (HCM-460). 1040 S Hill St. Built in 1927, the theater opened with George Gershwin's "Oh Key." It was designed by Morgan, Walls, and Clements, and is only one of eight buildings in Los Angeles designed in the Pre-Columbian (Mayan Revival) style. The hand-carved wall scuptures were created by Mexican artist Francisco Cornejo.

 

-- The White Log Cabin Coffee Shop. Across the street from the Belasco is an amazing little piece of Los Angeles Programmatic archiecture in the form of a quaint log cabin. Built in 1932 and designed by Kenneth Bemis, it began life as the White Log Cabin Coffee Shop. Later it was painted red and became Tony's Burgers. Today it survives as the El Comedor Mexican Grill.

 

-- The YWCA (Woman's Athletic Club). 1031 S Broadway. Designed by Allison and Allison in the Italian Renaissance style, the structure is impressive but in sad need of repair. Today it serves as a home of the Los Angeles Jobs Corps.

 

-- The Herold-Examiner (NRHP-92000382, HCM-178). 1111 S Broadway. The Harold-Examiner is a Mission and Spanish Colonial Revival masterpiece, built in 1912 by legendary California architect Julia Morgan, for William Randolph Hearst. It is said she took inspiration from A. Page Brown's California Building of the 1983 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, however Gebhard and Winters owe this more to a coinciidence of styles. The building's colorful domes and open-arched arcades are it's most notable features, but the arches were closed in during a 10-year strike that lasted from 1967 to 1977. The Herold-Examiner finally closed it's doors November 2, 1989, and the building -- still owned by the Hearst family -- has remained shuttered ever since. Despite a scare in the early 1990's when the Hearst family wanted to tear down the building for a parking lot, it survives in relatively good condition (thanks in part to community outcry and it's designation as both a National Register of Historic Places and a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Ladmark).

 

The Belasco Theater: thebelasco.com/Main/Main.htm

The Mayan Theater: clubmayan.com/

The Los Angeles Historic Theater Foundation (LAHTF): www.lahtf.org/

Wikipedia: The Los Angeles Herold-Examiner: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_Herald-Examiner

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Taken on February 26, 2011