The Cecil is the City’s Fault

The Cecil is the City’s Fault

Hotel Cecil Whitewash, Part II

For Part I, click here.

Let me be clear. I’m not mad at the developer. The developer was only doing what developers do. They’ve got an ROI to look after.

Where the story goes sideways is all on our end. The Office of Historic Resources was given materials by the developer with which to determine the validity of painting over the eighty-year-old sign. Let’s look at them.

But first, let’s understand the basics:

There were two versions of the sign. The first sign was painted soon after the building opened, in 1924. It looked like this:

Ca. 1927 and 1938

Then the sign was repainted about 1940 (most likely, when the Cecil became part of the Alberts Hotel chain in early 1941). It looked like this:

The Office of Historic Resources was provided material, however, indicating that the first version was the only one that mattered. That the red sign, pictured above, which had towered over Main Street for the last eighty-some years, had no historic value or meaning. From the evidence presented to OHR, it could be argued, that sign didn’t even exist.

Now, let’s look at the material presented to OHR, for example, this report:

And specifically, this page of said report:

Not 1940s, not looking south, but, nice use of all caps

While there are numerous contemporary shots of the Cecil throughout the Historic Consultants report, there are none showing the just-painted-over 1940s wall signage. Why then did HC only include shots of the first version of the signage? They utilize images from the 1930s to do so. Which they mysteriously label 1940s. (A close look at the license plates reveal these images were captured in 1939—there’s no excuse for such a rookie mistake.) I won’t even go into the fact that that second shot doesn’t look south on Main, but north—all that may be just basic incompetence, but disincluding the historic Cecil signage in general is just…wrong.

Now then, let’s look at the other paperwork OHR used in their “not historic” determination.

Again, note its cover page (with “precedent imagery”) includes four images of the initial 1924-1940 sign. Again, zero shots of what Simon Baron actually painted over, after OHR’s blessing:

This was done despite this wall sign specifically being called out in the Historic-Cultural Monument paperwork:

Thus, we have a character-defining feature of an HCM removed without review; the matter never went to commission and was never permitted. The Cecil is Mills Act so the removal was—money being fungible—paid for by tax savings intended only for work performed under the highest scrutiny vis-à-vis the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and the California Historical Building Code.

But at the end of the day, despite its documented importance, OHR determined the eighty-year-old sign was not historic and signed off on its whitewashing in place of modern advertising. This is our doing. And it has to stop.

The Cecil’s Ghost

The Cecil’s Ghost

No, I’m not talking about Pigeon Goldie walking the halls. Rather, I speak of the ghost sign on the Cecil’s south wall.

Which, to be correct, is not truly a ghost sign, as it still advertises the famed, magnificent Hotel Cecil.

It is the grandest of our great painted palimpsests, originally added to the wall in 1924, then about 1940 repainted higher, in a bit different configuration—a downtown touchstone ever since.

Easter weekend, though, its lessee decided that space was better suited for, what, giant GTA ads in the manner of the Figueroa

…trouble being, no. No, when you enter into a legal contract with the City of Los Angeles to be subsidized in your restoration efforts, you’re not allowed, legally, to go about effing the place up.

Find out all about it here:


354 North Avenue 53

354 North Avenue 53

No no, it’s still standing, I’m going to snark about this house in a different way today

You know, not everything is about the demolition of our built environment in toto. (Like, say, the razing of an entire Whittlesey.) Sometimes it’s more subtle.

Over in Highland Park, there’s a house. I confess I’m a little confounded about its background. See, we have it in the permits that Fred C. Coryell (the contractor-builder who designed and built his own house at 225 N Avenue 53, which stood until replaced by an unusually ugly and depressing building in 1991) built 354 for Asenath Arick “Jane” Copes Phelps, widow of Harlow Jefferson Phelps, in 1909-10. Here’s the Highland Park Ebell meeting in the Phelps’s brand-new house in October 1910:

Mabel Phelps was 32 in 1910. West Avenue 53 was renamed North Avenue 53 about 1927
Here’s Mabel hosting folk at the home again in the spring of 1911

And the Phelps clan are listed in the directories from 1910 on. However, this rather odd bit of whatnot pops up in July 1911:

Their beautiful home” replaced by this

Which makes no sense, since as far as we know it’s the Phelps’ home. Howard’s obit a year later notes he’s still at 5635 Monte Vista, mind you:

Aaaaanyway, just wanted to give you some early history on the old girl, and point out that her interior remained pretty intact, until hit by the Lowest Common Denominator. It’s the kind of thing you hear a lot about happening in San Francisco. Hey, Los Angeles, I thought we were supposed to be better than up there.

Note the brick fireplace, left, the built-ins, center, and the glass-paned door with glass doorknob leading to the kitchen
Which is now this, all sterile and midmod and “openplan.” Note the original white oak floors were ripped out and replaced with something else, or that may just be the subfloor, which they stained and figured, good enough.
Yep, better spray those windowsills and baseboard white, except the part you paint black, how delightfully Craftsman

Carlos Ascencio, a realtor-flipper who works for ReMax, bought the place in February 2021 and got a permit to remodel the kitchens/bathrooms.

When the permit said “no structural changes” I’m sure blowing out that wall falls under that, um, sorta.

They didn’t paint over the river rock, I’ll give ’em that much

Ascencio/ReMax bought it in February 2021 for $850,000. Blew out the dining room to make a “great room” and sprayed the whole place white. Sold it December for $1,500,000. Made $650,000 with a new kitchen and a whole lot of white paint. Not a bad racket.

No no, it’s still standing, I’m going to snark about this house in a different way today

You know, not everything is about the demolition of our built environment in toto. (Like, say, the razing of an entire Whittlesey.) Sometimes it’s more subtle.

Over in Highland Park, there’s a house. I confess I’m a little confounded about its background. See, we have it in the permits that Fred C. Coryell (the contractor-builder who designed and built his own house at 225 N Avenue 53, which stood until replaced by an unusually ugly and depressing building in 1991) built 354 for Asenath Arick “Jane” Copes Phelps, widow of Harlow Jefferson Phelps, in 1909-10. Here’s the Highland Park Ebell meeting in the Phelps’s brand-new house in October 1910:

Mabel Phelps was 32 in 1910. West Avenue 53 was renamed North Avenue 53 about 1927
Here’s Mabel hosting folk at the home again in the spring of 1911

And the Phelps clan are listed in the directories from 1910 on. However, this rather odd bit of whatnot pops up in July 1911:

Their beautiful home” replaced by this

Which makes no sense, since as far as we know it’s the Phelps’ home. Howard’s obit a year later notes he’s still at 5635 Monte Vista, mind you:

Aaaaanyway, just wanted to give you some early history on the old girl, and point out that her interior remained pretty intact, until hit by the Lowest Common Denominator. It’s the kind of thing you hear a lot about happening in San Francisco. Hey, Los Angeles, I thought we were supposed to be better than up there.

Note the brick fireplace, left, the built-ins, center, and the glass-paned door with glass doorknob leading to the kitchen
Which is now this, all sterile and midmod and “openplan.” Note the original white oak floors were ripped out and replaced with something else, or that may just be the subfloor, which they stained and figured, good enough.
Yep, better spray those windowsills and baseboard white, except the part you paint black, how delightfully Craftsman

Carlos Ascencio, a realtor-flipper who works for ReMax, bought the place in February 2021 and got a permit to remodel the kitchens/bathrooms.

When the permit said “no structural changes” I’m sure blowing out that wall falls under that, um, sorta.

They didn’t paint over the river rock, I’ll give ’em that much

Ascencio/ReMax bought it in February 2021 for $850,000. Blew out the dining room to make a “great room” and sprayed the whole place white. Sold it December for $1,500,000. Made $650,000 with a new kitchen and a whole lot of white paint. Not a bad racket.

The whole rip-it-out spray-it-white reminds me of Jorge Cuevo, who did it to the Pig’N Whistle on Hollywood Blvd. According to this, he intends to do it to 200 restaurants to start.

According to https://www.lataco.com/mr-tempo-mocks-pig-n-whistle/ it seems Mr. Cueva finds it appropriate to return the generosity and good fortune found in his adopted country, to Los Angeles specifically, with destroying its unique cultural history. This he does without permits, because why would rules apply to him—he has a red hat!

According to https://www.lataco.com/mr-tempo-mocks-pig-n-whistle/ it seems Mr. Cuevas finds it appropriate to return the generosity and good fortune found in his adopted country, to Los Angeles specifically, with destroying its unique cultural history. This he does without permits, because why would rules apply to him—he has a red hat!

4544 Los Feliz Blvd.

4544 Los Feliz Blvd.

So, it’s been a while here at RIP Los Angeles. Is that because the Powers That Be stopped tearing down everything that makes Los Angeles special? Certainly not. In fact, just the opposite. We’ve watched as everyone screamed “but Los Angeles builds no housing!” when all it DOES is build housing, on top of every Tudor house, so that there won’t be a single Tudor house left.

And for whom are all these new units being constructed? Our population is in a freefall. Above and beyond the vast numbers of individuals and businesses who have fled, California has for the first time seen a drop in new entrances (and not by some small number, but by nearly half). Any population dip in California is unprecedented territory but this exodus is extraordinary—for the love of God, California is losing a US House seat for the first time in history.

Dear Lord, what do you have against the Tudors anyway? What did Edward VI ever do to you, you ungrateful wretch? “But,” you squeal, “they’re not building AFFORDABLE housing!” Yes they are, aforementioned ungrateful wretch, in fact therefrom comes the blank check being handed to developers to run roughshod over zoning laws—making developers include Low Income Units is what gives them a big fat zoning variance to build overscaled Jenga boxes with no green space (and for the last time stop calling the zoning variance a “density bonus,” as cutesy euphemisms are not, in fact, cute).

In case you haven’t been paying attention, it’s been absolutely brutal of late. Everything that makes Los Angeles nice and livable and human-scaled is being demolished; Los Angeles is having its heart torn from it. I was blogging about that for a while. It got too disheartening. But I have to return to it. SOMEONE has to make a record of these structures. They’re all going to disappear and a generation from now Zoomers will actually think Los Angeles sprouted up from the earth looking like a bunch of big beige Jenga boxes.

I won’t even go into AB 602 and SB 478. Or SB 9 or SB 10. The very idea that these were “wins” for “pro-housing activists” is ludicrous. Grow up. It doesn’t even matter that these folk are the useful idiots of developers (who live places that will never be upzoned). Ultimately, this is about a new California run by people who hate you.

YIMBYs hate your way of life. They hate that you have landmarks. And green spaces. And views. And history. It’s not enough that converting every possible lot into multiplexes increases the vaunted government tax base; it’s that cheek-to-jowl density is somehow…more moral. More…European. Which is ironic, since all the European architecture in Los Angeles is going to be demolished in favor of vast swaths of Jenga boxes thanks to SB 9. (Heck, even the pro-development LA City Council was against SB 9, citing that it would be bad for communities, and bad for the environment, but Glorious Leader has spoken!)

Oh, anyway, riiight—as I was saying way back there, ultimately Mr. YIMBY (strictly speaking, the YIYBY, Yes in Your Back Yard) and his separated-at-birth-monozygotic-twin Mr. Developer-Speculator is out to destroy every wee Tudor house. Case in point:

Jane Carpenter Gregory was born in Calne, Wiltshire, England 18 December 1864. She immigrates to American in 1879 and lands in the southland in 1888. She is wed to Ambrose Gregory—originally of Melksham, Wiltshire—in San Bernardino in 1899. Yes, they were both surnamed Gregory; his father was William Arthur Gregory and her father was Nicholas Gregory, both of Wiltshire, and I’ve no idea of the relation.

Their daughter, Ada Jane Gregory, was born in 1892. Ambrose passes in 1919. In 1939 the widow Jennie and Ada were living together in the house they’d built in 1920 at 2032 North Vermont, when they decided to build a home of own their a couple blocks east at the corner of Los Feliz Boulevard and Rodney.

They hire architect/contractor/builder Nephi Lorenzo Anderson, president of the local Building Contractor’s Association of California, and, interestingly, Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Anderson is probably best known for his (also half-timbered English-cottage style) Mormon church in La Cañada.

Anderson’s 1952 church at 1830 Foothill Blvd. remains remarkably unmolested after seventy years

English-born Jane chooses to build her 2,226sf house, at 4544 Los Feliz Boulevard, in the English style, with the requisite Tudor half-timbering.

Dig the diamond-mullioned windows and elaborated chimney with double chimney pots
Jane Carpenter Gregory, on her side porch, ca. 1950. The shingle and brick have since been painted and, IMHO, brick should be brick and shingle should be shingle color, but that’s just me. But then, with some effort, reversible. Demolished by backhoe and tossed in a landfill, not so reversible
On the front lawn, looking north toward the famed Los Feliz deodar cedars, ca. 1947. Left to right: Jane Carpenter Gregory; Edith Kate Neads (who had married Herbert Gregory); William Nicholas Gregory (Ambrose’s brother, i.e. Jane’s brother-in-law); Joan Gregory (Edith Neads’ daughter); and Jane’s daughter Ada Jane Gregory. Check out Edith and Joan’s moiré ensembles!

Jennie died in the house in 1954, at age 90. Ada lived in the house until her death in June 1977.

Now, let’s talk for a minute about Los Feliz Boulevard. It is an absolute wonderland of magnificent structures. With which you are intimately familiar, each and every one, have you ever driven the Boulevard, since traffic on LFB is always, invariably, terrible. So you sit in your car and marvel at one great building after another, after another, in an unbroken stretch of glory. Here’s six representative samples:

Of course, more Tudor. Isaac Paacht Residence, 5057 Los Feliz Blvd (S. Charles Lee, 1927). Don’t miss the tudoriffic Hulsman House (A. Godfrey Bailey, 1933) a stone’s throw at 5079 when you’re in the ‘hood
Wouldn’t be Los Angeles without Spanish Colonial Revival. Wiggins House, 5036 Los Feliz Blvd (M. L. Barker, 1929)
Speaking of Spanish, the gorgeous Barcelona/Corunna courtyard apartments, 4615 Los Feliz Blvd. (George Forsayke, 1932)
More courtyard apartments, but in Streamline Moderne, 3747 Los Feliz Blvd (Bob Home Construction Co., 1941). When have you seen Streamline-fu (curved corner windows, porthole windows and ship railings) but with shingle? While you’re checking this out make sure you hit 4207 LFB, another incredible Streamline apartment complex
Harry and Ada Scholer Apartments, 3808 Los Feliz Blvd (Louis Selden, 1947). What really sells this Colonial Revival is the octagonal roof cupola hiding up there behind the deodar branches. If you like Colonial don’t miss the Darling residence at 5110, or the Feigenbaum house at 5015, which has a Regency flair
The Los Capri, 3815 Los Feliz Blvd. (Edward H. Fickett, 1949). The Los Capri is the cousin of Fickett’s Sunset Capri above Sunset. Note the fanciful script; Los Feliz Blvd is replete with mid-Century dingbattian fonts

And that’s just a small slice. Los Feliz Blvd. is particularly strong on Regency Moderne, on which I have not even touched. And the Boulevard has no lack of Châteauesque. Point being with these images you get a feel for the general size and massing of the street. Yes, I am aware there are larger structures. (Yes, I am aware of the existence of the Los Feliz Towers.)

But, this being RIP Los Angeles, what, you ask, are the density brownshirts and their Malibu-mansion’d developers plopping in place of our twee Tudor? This:

The developer, for the record, is a kid from the neighborhood. Grew up on Cromwell just five blocks from here (before he took off to a gated community in Simi). It’s his first project. You’d think he would have some emotional connection to his childhood home. I want to disbelieve what everyone says about millennials, but…

First of all, let’s talk trees. Trees? Yes, trees:

I mean, I could do a whole blog just about how architects lie and lie and lie in their renderings. Renderings are always BS, because their primary use is to sell projects to local government and placate angry neighbors. I mean, yes, we expect renderings to make the building look smaller if need be, and we know the finished product never looks so nice and high-end (much less incorporate half the interesting touches). But pay attention to the fudged surroundings as well. Look how empty and caaaaaaalm the street is (Los Feliz Boulevard—hahahahaha!). Note the absence of anything ugly and intrusive like stop signs or streetlamps; all is cleanliness and order.

And, as I said, the trees: for now, Rodney, running south, is evenly lined in Phoenix canariensis, AKA Canary Island Date Palms.

Be advised the Canary Island DP is THE KING OF PALMS. Usually architects put them into renderings because they look cool, though when all is said and done the “landscapers” invariably plant a couple crappy $12.99 Home Depot shrubs and call it a day. A mature Canary palm runs $75,000, when you can get one, which you can’t, because when available they always go straight to Vegas casino projects. Here, though, they’re cutting down two of these Canary Island Date Palms, and replacing them with three Washingtonia robusta, AKA the Mexican Fan palm. Who does that? Nobody. (First of all, good luck getting fan palms that tall, and secondly, fun fact: the fan palm is a unique tree in that it produces the VOCs isoprene and monoterpene, particles which pollute the air in hot weather.) In short, the developer apparently intends to cut down City-owned mature Phoenix canariensis just because it will help them in moving around their construction equipment, and replacing them with the world’s only polluting tree. If that isn’t sick and criminal I don’t know what is.

Oh wait I do: along Los Feliz Boulevard, witness the apparent felling of a Deodar Cedar. The removal of which being actually criminal, as it is protected tree. But look! They’ve replaced it with some more fan palms! So they’ll chop down the deodar cedar and say “oops! sorry!” and then shell out to the City the—gasp!—$1,000 fine.

But back to this thing:

Design by Kevin Tsai Architecture, with Gary Benjamin of Alchemy Planning + Land Use

Because it’s near a bus stop—and has three affordable units—this project is eleven feet higher than is allowed by law. Also, the City cut its required open space down by 20%. Beside the three affordable one-bedrooms units, there are twenty-five two-bedrooms. And thirty-seven parking spaces.

Projects just like this, through the TOC program, have added approximately 37,000 housing units in Los Angeles in the last few years, of which about 8,000 are reserved for low-income tenants. Admirable, but not enough, say the YIMBYs, and it will never be enough. They say Southern California requires 1.3 million in the next eight years (um…). The City is, under its Housing Element, is upzoning now to build 455,00 new units. New laws will see to it that these new mulitplexes won’t get built in traditionally underserved neighborhoods—apparently while the poor and disenfranchised need homes, if you build those homes near where they actually live, everyone yells at you for gentrifying. Fear not, all, the fact that this 53-bed monster is going up on the tony corner of Los Feliz & Rodney indicates we’re not in fact gentrifying, so you may cease your pearl-clutching. Sure, it’s all (often ill-informed and historically-inaccurate) good intentions until the YIMBY-developers leave us with a zero control over our neighborhoods, turned into Jengaboxland replete with gridlock, displacement, environmental damage, and, most importantly, no cute little Tudor houses.

A YIMBY always scoffs at the idea that “architecture matters.” That scale or massing or character or community matters. That grass and trees and open space “contribute.” Most importantly, they really, really hate history. Call them on these facts, or assert that these things matter, they will call you stupid, reactionary, apologists, racists, etc. etc. To them, more density is the answer to EVERY PROBLEM, and creates NO PROBLEMS. YIMBYs say they’re doing it “for the people” but damnnn don’t get them into a conversation about the hated second egress in apartment construction…and they’ll actually spit and walk away if you talk to them about embodied carbon, say, via the concept of turning office space into residential. Because you’re failing to address that courtyard apartments are exclusionary, maaaaan.

Aaaaanyway, point being, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, and felt the need for a “re-introductory rant.” Now over. Just saying, Los Angeles has cool stuff, heart and soul, which we are seeing removed bit by bit, piece by piece—like the wise man said, how many petals can you pick off a flower before it’s not a flower any more?

B’nai B’rith—846 South Union Ave.

B’nai B’rith—846 South Union Ave.

For the record, let me state at the outset: I revere the Catholic faith. I believe the Church to have had a vastly civilizing influence on humanity—yes, an enormously unpopular opinion, as society now considers statue destruction and church burning the ideal Sunday outing. Do admit, though, what are your temples of the Enlightenment compared to the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore or York Minster or Nantes Cathedral (or what’s left of it)?

Point being, in that I love its doctrine and architecture (above and beyond any fetish for thuribles and a preference for Jameson over Bushmills) I don’t want it to seem that I’m picking on the Church—but.

The Church in Los Angeles has had a troubling history with historic buildings, religious and otherwise. Let’s look at just a smattering:

The Oviatt Building. James Oviatt’s eponymous high-rise haberdashery/office tower (Walker & Eisen, 1928) is one of the great Art Deco monuments of Los Angeles, and therefore the world, known for its cut glass, rare woods, neon clock tower and incredible penthouse. Mr. Oviatt was renting the land on which the tower sat from the Archdiocese. In the late 1960s-early ’70s, with demand for non-polyester clothing on the outs, Oviatt tried to sell his building, to pay back rent owed to the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese sabotaged several escrow attempts by making financially unfeasible demands (installation of central air, replacement of the elevators, etc.) on potential buyers. James Oviatt died in 1974 and the building’s trustees voted to give the structure to the Archdiocese in forgiveness of past rent. The Archdiocese immediately put the building on the market as a teardown, informing realtors it would provide the ideal site for a multistory parking garage.

Fortunately, Wayne Ratkovich bought the place and saved it in 1977. Image from Floyd Bariscale.

St. Joseph’s. Los Angeles was once a forest of church spires, few as prominent as the twin spires of St. Joseph Catholic Church, dedicated on the Feast of St. Joseph, May 3, 1903, at 12th and Los Angeles Streets. Saint Joseph’s architects were Brothers Adrian Wewer and Leonard Darscheidt, German Franciscan monks famed for their church designs. St. Joseph’s was heavily damaged in a September 1983 fire that collapsed the roof, but the walls stood fast and the towers remained. The Cultural Heritage Board reasoned with the Archdiocese that the surviving elements of the church—declared Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Monument #16 some twenty years earlier, in 1963—could be easily rebuilt. But the Church would have none of it, and demolished the structure, to build a modern edifice.

This is what mass in the 1903 church was like (or at least what it was like before Vatican II) as photographed in St. Joseph’s in 1979 for the period picture True Confessions. Here is what the 1985 St. Joseph looks like (architects Brown & Avila are better known for their 1966 St. Genevieve at Roscoe & Hazeltine, and the 1970 Our Lady of the Valley at Topanga Cyn & Gault).

Cathedral of St. Vibiana. This tale is so famous it hardly bears repeating. But anyway: St. Vibiana’s—our first Cathedral, and parish of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese—was built in 1876 and designed by Ezra Frank Kysor of Kysor & Mathews, basing its design loosely on Barcelona’s 1755 Sant Miquel del Port; famed architect John C. Austin made the façade less Baroque and more Roman when he oversaw additions in 1922. Vibiana’s importance to the Church is one thing, but its importance to Los Angeles in general is so deep and undeniable I won’t even begin to elucidate.

His Eminence Cardinal Roger Mahony wanted to tear down the 1876 Cathedral. After the 1994 Northridge earthquake, his structural engineer told him the structure was sound, although the bell tower required shoring; the Church did not shore the bell tower. In May 1996 Mahony began the process of removing statuary and the windows of the structure; illegal for a Historic-Cultural Monument. On June 1, 1996—early on a Saturday morning (and when, conveniently, all of LA’s top preservationists happened to be away at a conference in San Jose)—demolition crews set to work illegally demolishing the structure. Concerned parties rushed to the site but were ignored by guards at the fence; it took a Superior Court Judge to get him to stop.

Huntington Library

 

A legal battle ensued, St. Vibiana did not become a parking lot, and Mahony finally swapped his little church for six acres of County land bordered by Grand, Temple, Hill, and the Hollywood Freeway.  Mahony’s stripped-down, deconstructivist, $250 million church broke ground in September 1997 and was consecrated in September 2002.  


Deconsecrated, retrofitted, it has since become an event space. If you’re familiar with John 2:16…

Which brings us to today’s topic.

B’nai B’rith, 846 South Union St. (S. Tilden Norton, 1923). You might be asking, what does a Hebrew congregation have to do with the Catholic church? Well.

First of all, do not confuse the B’nai B’rith about which we are speaking with Congregation B’nai B’rith—LA’s first (chartered) Hebrew temple began in 1862, Congregation B’nai B’rith first holding services in their Ezra Kyzor-designed synagogue on Fort Street (now Broadway) between Second and Third in 1873; in 1896 B’nai B’rith moved further south, to Ninth and Hope, to a grand new onion-domed temple designed by Abraham Moses Edelman (son of chief rabbi, Abram Wolf Edelman); they then moved further west, and built one of the greatest synagogues in the world in 1929, and changed their name to Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

Rather, we are discussing B’nai B’rith, the service organization (which also functioned very much like a fraternal lodge). The International Order of B’nai B’rith, begun in New York in 1843, founded its Los Angeles chapter, Orange Lodge No. 224, in 1874, and another, Semi-Tropic Lodge in 1883; they merged to become Lodge 487 in 1899. In the 1880s B’nai B’rith met at Bryson’s Hall on Spring Street; in January 1904, when they had 170 members, they dedicated a fine new hall at 521 West Pico. By 1918 they had moved to a new lodge hall at 17th & Georgia. In the January 13, 1922 issue of The B’nai B’rith Messenger, under notices about Lodge 487:

Fun fact: the weekly B’nai B’rith Messenger was not a publication of the Independent Order of B’nai B’rith, just as the IOBB was not allied with Congregation B’nai B’rith. Jews just love naming stuff B’nai B’rith is all. (Tr. “Children of the Covenant.”)

 

It contained “two large lodge-rooms, banquet hall, dancing floors, library, kitchen, elevators, committee-rooms, spacious lobby, gymnasium, shower baths and eight handsome stores” according to this. And its architect was Samuel Tilden Norton. 

S. Tilden Norton is of such glaring importance to Los Angeles’s built environment that…I won’t make this post any longer by detailing his work here. Go read his Wiki page.

Note that the exterior is done in Batchelder tile. Like S. Tilden Norton, I don’t have to tell you of the importance of Batchelder tile.

B’nai B’rith Messenger, 1924

The International Order of B’nai B’rith settled in, and did their good works, having concerts, etc.

By the mid-1930s, the IOBB 487 have moved, presumably because of the Depression, into a room at 742 South Hill St. 846 South Union becomes the home of other fraternal organizations, like the Blue Devils Post of the American Legion and the Los Angeles Aerie 102 Fraternal Order of Eagles. In 1938 it becomes a little more labor-related, when the Safeway Employees Associationmoves in. By 1942 it was a full-blown temple of labor, as the former B’nai B’rith was now home to Bakery Drivers 276, Dump Truck Drivers 420, Warehousemens 598, Grocery Warehousemens 595, Dairy Haulers 737, Milk Wagon Drivers 93, Meat and Provision Drivers 626, Truck Drivers 208 and 403, Hay Haulers 737, Garage Automotive and Service Station Employees 495, Laundry Workers 52, and Wholesale Delivery Drivers and Salesmen 848.

By 1945 it was just known as the “Teamsters Hall,” “AFL Hall” or the “Teamsters Building.” Here’s a shot outside 846, showing worker’s wives protesting the Teamsters’ throwing them out of work for the holidays:

Only vintage shot I’ve found of the exterior, November 1955. The round neon sign (there were two, one on each side of the building) was fabricated by QRS neon and installed in the spring of 1949. It would have looked very much like this.
Inside the hall! LAPL doesn’t give a date for this image—there were so many transit strikes normally it would be impossible to pinpoint this photo, but they do mention it’s during Shrine Week; therefore this was shot during the mass meeting of June 17, 1950
And THAT’s why all along the top of the building you have these nifty medallions that read AFL, and wagon wheels, symbol of the IBT

Teamsters Hall was renamed Roosevelt Hall in 1960. The Teamsters moved out about 1977 and in 1978, 846 South Union became the location of California International University and Southland College, later known as the Southland Career Institute. The Lighthouse Mission Church purchases 846 in March 1989, and it has been a church these past thirty-some years.

And that brings us around back to the Church. The property, and its large adjacent parking lot, was purchased in September 2018 by Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Inc., which is the social service arm of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Catholic Charities intends to demolish the building:

The Demolition Notice was affixed to the wall a year ago, according to this Instagram post

This, then, is my message to Catholic Charities’ Executive Director, the Reverend Monsignor Gregory Cox, and its Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the Most Reverend José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles:

I support you, of course, unwaveringly, in your alleviation of the material and spiritual poverty of the poor and disenfranchised. Breaking the cycles of poverty, homelessness, illiteracy and violence is especially important for boys and young men transitioning out of foster care, and I applaud the concept of a village catering to their needs and to that end.

Union Avenue Village is a wonderful concept in achieving your goal. But this is a very large property; the 1923 B’nai B’rith structure takes up only about a third of it. And it was initially constructed with all manner of convenience (showers, gymnasium, kitchens, etc.) conducive to housing young men. Might I suggest adaptive reuse of the property? Rejuvenating this building would certainly fulfill attractive concerns of sustainability and of the circular economy, to be certain, but I would also argue a more esoteric point—that retaining and maintaining a beautiful old building such as this, a touchstone of the neighborhood and link to the past and our shared cultural heritage, is good for the soul. I would say it uplifts the soul, and serves the people of Los Angeles, to retain 846 South Union and incorporate it into the forthcoming Angel’s Flight shelter for homeless boys and housing for Transition Age Youth. Moreover, keeping 846 South Union would reverse the trend of the Church’s propensity toward demolishing historic buildings.

Thank you for your consideration!

Why, it even comes with Calvary stained glass and a neon cross!