The Cranky Preservationist in Don’t F— With My Bunker Hill Retaining Wall (episode 25)

Nathan Marsak

Nathan Marsak

· 2 min read

Watch Episode #25

Architectural historian Nathan Marsak loves Los Angeles, and hates to see important buildings neglected and abused, whether by slumlord owners or the savage public. Follow him on his urban adventures as he sees something that looks like crap, opens his yap and spontaneously lets you know exactly why this place matters.

Episode 25 finds Nathan on old Bunker Hill, a once charming neighborhood of Victorian mansions turned rooming houses, wrecked in a moronic mid-century redevelopment scheme. But the development agency missed a spot, and failed to demolish the fine limestone ashlar retaining wall that was built to support John C. Austin’s Fremont Hotel (1902-1954).

And that well-built wall did what well-built walls do for 118 years, at least until some jackass spray-painted it black a few weeks back. The Cranky Preservationist public policy crew reached out to AT&T (the owner of the parking lots separated by the wall), to the graffiti abatement company under contract to the city, and to the famously recalcitrant office of Councilman Jose Huizar. Nobody cared, or expressed any interest in bringing in a skilled stone cleaning crew to strip the paint and restore the wall.

So imagine Nathan’s burning rage when he returned to at the southwest corner of Fourth and Olive Streets and discovered some well-meaning nincompoop had “cleaned up” the offending black spray paint by coating the historic stones with an additional layer of WHITE paint. You don’t have to imagine it, because Nathan’s entire temper tantrum, including calls for human rights violations and a gratuitous shout out to Teddy Roosevelt, was caught on tape. Tune in for a glimpse of a Cranky Preservationist’s dark side, and a desperate plea that the last bit of old Bunker Hill infrastructure is properly restored—before it’s too late!

For everything you ever wanted to know about lost Bunker Hill, but were afraid to ask, visit our original time travel blog and stay tuned for Nathan’s upcoming book.

If you like these Cranky Preservationist videos, you’ll probably like Nathan’s R.I.P. Los Angeles blog, too, so check it out!

Where will the Cranky Preservationist turn up next? Stay tuned!

Nathan Marsak

About Nathan Marsak

NATHAN MARSAK says: “I came to praise Los Angeles, not to bury her. And yet developers, City Hall and social reformers work in concert to effect wholesale demolition, removing the human scale of my town, tossing its charm into a landfill. The least I can do is memorialize in real time those places worth noting, as they slide inexorably into memory. In college I studied under Banham. I learned to love Los Angeles via Reyner’s teachings (and came to abjure Mike Davis and his lurid, fanciful, laughably-researched assertions). In grad school I focused on visionary urbanism and technological utopianism—so while some may find the premise of preserving communities so much ill-considered reactionary twaddle, at least I have a background in the other side. Anyway, I moved to Los Angeles, and began to document. I drove about shooting neon signs. I put endless miles across the Plains of Id on the old Packard as part of the 1947project; when Kim Cooper blogged about some bad lunch meat in Compton, I drove down to there to check on the scene of the crime (never via freeway—you can’t really learn Los Angeles unless you study her from the surface streets). But in short order one landmark after another disappeared. Few demolitions are as contentious or high profile as the Ambassador or Parker Center; rather, it is all the little houses and commercial buildings the social engineers are desperate to destroy in the name of the Greater Good. The fabric of our city is woven together by communities and neighborhoods who no longer have a say in their zoning or planning so it’s important to shine a light on these vanishing treasures, now, before the remarkable character of our city is wiped away like a stain from a countertop. (But Nathan, you say, it’s just this one house—no, it isn’t. Principiis obsta, finem respice.) And who knows, one might even be saved. Excelsior!””
Nathan’s blogs are: Bunker Hill Los Angeles, RIP Los Angeles & On Bunker Hill.

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