I don't think I could have asked for a more perfect day for my exploration of James M. Wood Blvd.
As I walked up to the corner of Wilshire and Western a group walkers had already assembled, yes I was just a few minutes late to my own gathering...tsk, tsk. We waited about 10 minutes for any late comers who may have been traveling by train and ended up getting under way with the trek around 12:20. The walk down Western was very uneventful and rather hot with the sun beating down on us in the concrete jungle but as soon as we turned the corner onto JMWB the adventure began. There were 7 of us in total, all armed with cameras and a love of residential architecture. We were treated to numerous magnificent buildings of a past era and ended up taking a few detours along the way to check out particularly interesting buildings that we saw down random side streets. Big props to Eric who spotted the roof of a Victorian on Bonnie Brae which turned out to be Historic Cultural Monument No. 45.
[Historic Cultural Monument No. 45 on Bonnie Brae]
We also stumbled upon an Open House of a recently renovated building dubbed The French Chateau. I immediately recognized it from a CurbedLA post a few months ago. It was stunning if not slightly overpriced considering the neighborhood.
Due to our slow-as-a-snail pace and the frequent side trips we ended up making it into Downtown around 3pm and stopped by the Figueroa Hotel for a quick drink on the patio where we were sadly out of place next to the dolled up Grammy crowd. Needing something more substantial than chips and salsa we racked our brain for a chill place to grab a bite to eat so early in the afternoon on Sunday - most places opened at 5pm. Finally we came up with Casey's, it was closer to the Metro stop and provided grub. Perfect! Even more perfect was the fact that Happy Hour had just begun! For obvious reasons I had a specialty drink dubbed The River Shannon (vodka, ginger ale, splash of grapefruit juice). After regaining strength from the finger food nosh we all headed in different directions back home.
My full flickr set is here. When others send their pictures I'll post the links.
I wonder what street I'll tackle next year....oh well, I got a whole year to figure that out.
I went out on a final recon mission this weekend to determine the route I’d be exploring on foot this coming Sunday. I made my way to the corner of Western and James M. Wood Blvd. (formerly known as 9th Street) and proceeded EAST, shortly thereafter my decision was made. JMWB has the perfect blend of residential with small mom and pop shops thrown in for good measure. The total trip distance from start to finish is just over 3 miles which by my calculations won’t take very long. Averaging a generous 30 minute mile, this will put us Downtown possibly before 2pm, depending on how many side streets we spontaneously want to investigate in addition to the regular route.
I felt especially secure in my choice when I arrived at the cross street Garland, a sign from the gods I do believe:
Curious to know more about this nondescript building that bears my name, I did a creative google search and found the following.
Curious to know more about James M. Wood, I did a google search and found a few things, including this.
If you plan on joining the exploration of James M. Wood Blvd. then please be "on time [and] with style".
When: Sunday February 10, 2008 at NOON Where: NE corner of Wilshire and Western Why: Just because…
This weekend I decided to do some driving exploring of the potential route for the walk that I’m planning on February 10th and as it turns out I am considering altering it a teeny bit. One major change will be the starting point...we will now convene at the NE corner of Wilshire & Western….that would be both bus and train friendly in as far as transpo is concerned. The next minor alteration will be the actual walking route, we will still end up in Downtown however I’m considering scrapping Rampart and traversing an as yet unspecified east/west street, looking into 9th as a possibility. 4th Street is another option and if I go with that route then we will include Rampart.
I will be exploring again this Saturday and report back early next week with a more definite game plan. Either way, the walk will be between 3 and 5 miles (depending on the route) which in my mind is very manageable for most able bodied creatures. Starting time is still noon.
Also there may be a slight kink in the plans for drinks at the Figueroa Hotel as the damn Grammys happen on the same day, just across the street. That’s OK though, we will be on foot so if our drinking destination needs to change we will do it on the fly!
I hope those that have RSVP'd so far aren't too bummed at the change of plans, and if you are then plan your own damn walk!
On Saturday Dave (eecue) and I went around to numerous buildings on the HC LAC tour for an HDR photography session. After the “official” tour was over, and with my badge removed, we immediately and almost in sync reverted to our deep seeded urban exploration roots. Generally speaking, my UE adventures are somewhat elementary compared to others...a few hopped fences here, some random open doors there...but nothing too spectacular. This past Saturday though was pretty much right up there with one of the best adventures to date for myself.
The first building explored was very near a street corner adjacent to Pershing Square. We walked in as if we know exactly where we were going and pressed the UP button on the elevator. Almost immediately the Security Guard questioned our intentions. Dave hauling a camera mounted tripod over his shoulder isn’t exactly the most inconspicuous looking person so he matter-of-factly said that he wanted to photograph the building. To our surprise the guard informed us that the 9th floor would be a good choice. Slightly speechless we thanked him and were off to the 9th floor as he suggested. Once inside the building we decided that roof access was not out of the question since technically he didn’t say we couldn’t go there, so up we went. Prior to the roof we found the 12th floor completely gutted and ripe for more picture taking. Upon finding the roof access door we were greeted with one of those red handles that states an alarm will sound if opened. We then inspected the door for a good 2 minutes to see if it really was alarmed and pondered the options. My solution…get the elevator prepped and ready for our escape should the door actually be wired. Thankfully it wasn’t. After that foray we visited the basement and then left the building making sure to say goodbye and thank you to the nice security guard who was busy reading a magazine while a TV monitor with the security cameras’ feed sat in the background.
[photo by Dave Bullock]
[photo by Dave Bullock]
Since that building was a relatively easy adventure I decided we should try another just down the street that I had gained access to a few months ago. Upon entering the lobby area we were greeted with the construction supervisor whereby we told him that we wanted to take some pictures. He was hesitant at first, then said yes, then said he needed to call his direct supervisor....finally we were granted access with an escort. Sweet! This particular building was a former bank so we got to inspect a few old vaults in the basement before going up to the 3rd and 4th floor which oddly enough entirely consisted of small-ish wood paneled offices. We speculated that perhaps the floor used to be lawyer’s offices. As we were leaving the 4th floor we saw a United States Senate seal on a glass doorway however it looked a bit fake so most likely it was leftover from a film shoot many years ago. I was left wondering how the developers will incorporate the existing layout of those floors into residences while keeping the interiors intact.
[photo by Dave Bullock]
[photo by Dave Bullock]
Next up was another building being converted that Dave knew of which was also just a few blocks away. Since we had so much luck at the 1st two buildings we thought it best to keep riding the wave. We entered the 3rd building and without seeing anyone scurried up the first available staircase to the 2nd or 3rd floor. We tried to sneak around for a bit but then Dave decided we should just come clean and attempt to get permission to be there. We walked down the hallway and saw 2 workers. We greeted them, they nodded and kept walking, so did we. Dave then randomly says, “the elevators are working in this building, let’s go to the roof.” So the roof it was for more breathtaking Downtown views and an elevator equipment room for Dave to photograph. On the ride back down to the lobby the elevator cab stopped on floors 6 & 5 to pick up workers who looked rather perplexed upon seeing us standing there. But still, no questions from the peanut gallery.
[photo by Dave Bullock]
[photo by Dave Bullock]
[photo by Dave Bullock]
[photo by Dave Bullock]
Racking our brains for yet another conversion to explore we finally decided to call it a day. At that point it had been a 4 hour journey and we were pooped. Now here comes the sad part....because I knew Dave would have a camera and because I had no idea the day would bring what it did, I left my camera at home and have absolutely no photographic evidence of our adventure! Thankfuly Dave has graciously allowed me to link up his photos (giving credit where due) and you can see more of his great photography in this set. Go have a look to see what we experienced, I for one will be riding this urban adventure high for a while.
As I stated in an earlier post, Eric Lynxwiler and I decided to do some daytime urban exploring on Saturday. Our first trip was an authorized visit to a recent conversion...see 2 posts down. The second visit was somewhat unauthorized however wildly successful.
I've had my eye on a few conversions currently happening in Downtown and was determined to check one of these out, even if it meant scaling a wall...which I've been known to do before. The first step we take is to do a walk-by, whereby we walk the perimeter and attempt to open any and every doorway available. The second step usually varies by building and luckily on this particular occasion we didn't have to go there...we found an open door on our third try. Holy Shit is all I could think to myself. We scurried up the flight of stairs but halfway to the top we heard a voice from below, "excuse me." Damn, foiled. Or maybe not. I explained that I really wanted to see what was happening because I knew it was being converted and asked if I could just take a quick peek. Reluctantly after a few hems and haws about "insurance issues" the kind gentleman, who I will not mention by name, escorted us into a unit. Eric and I were beside ourselves at what we saw. Insane original windows, cool tile in the kitchen and bathroom, nice kitchen appliances (unfortunately it's electric stove) and cupboards, great flooring and an overall sturdy building (it's from the 30's). Our enthusiasm must have rubbed off on him because he showed us another unit as well. I'm sure if we had asked we could have received a full tour (kidding, sort of) but we played it cool and didn't push the subject.
Sadly I can't really divulge which building this is because I don't want to get anyone in trouble but I will definitely hunt down info on the developers and attempt to get a more formal viewing soon. Construction-wise it looks like they are near completion so more info may come sooner than later.
It was Friday night, around 11:15 and I had planned on going to bed early and skipping the party at the Pacific Electric Building in Downtown. Yes, it would be nice to see friends and check out the building in all it's newfound glory but I had a long week and early Saturday morning so staying in was in my best interest. Until Phil and Eric called. They had been at a Holiday Party earlier in the evening, were ready to go and willing to pick me up. Enough said. Armed with a camera to take some pictures of the skyline from the rooftop we headed off on a glorious adventure.
We arrived and immediately made our way up to the rooftop via a circuitous route. We tend to do things the hard way sometimes. We strolled through and didn't see any familiar faces so we decided to check out the rest of the building, mainly the 8th floor lounge and 9th floor rotunda area. Eric and I had been in the building previously - before the conversion a few years ago and as they were wrapping up construction earlier this year. We were eager to see what had happened to the old Jonathan Club ballroom as we had heard that the room would be divided up into penthouse units. Just as we were marveling at the rotunda area Phil spotted an open door. Eric and I followed and what we found was pretty much what we were looking for. The penthouse unit, which closely resembled the original ballroom sans all the intricate details. Needless to say I snapped a whole bunch of pictures while we investigated every nook and cranny and awaited George and his clan to show up.
Shortly thereafter the rooftop part of the party was closed down and moved to the lounge area on the 2nd floor. We left Geo and comrades there as all they really cared about was drinking. P, E, and I were pooped from our adventure and needed some shut eye.
After our little exploration I checked out the Pacific Electric Lofts website and noticed that they claim the 9th floor Jonathan Club Ballroom is supposed to be turned into a fine dining establishment. I'm confused. From what I saw it looks like a Penthouse. While you're over on the website check out the floor plans for the 9th floor. The big area in the lower left hand corner is the unit(s) we were in. It's an amazing space although we noted that the kitchen was kinda blah and we got a bit of vertigo standing in front of the big windows. Also, what in the hell do you do with 30 foot high ceilings???
I had to chuckle last night when I heard that Shaq has a deep thigh bruise. HA! That's nothing compared to MY deep thigh bruise. Trust me, you don't want to see pictures.
It all began about a year ago. I give tours of City Hall. The highlight of the tour is when we go up to the 27th floor observation deck and get a 360º view of Downtown. One day I noticed that across the street from City Hall there was a fenced off empty lot where some kids were skateboarding. Then I noticed that they were skateboarding on something that resembled old marble flooring. It was the footprint of a building that had been demolished. Nothing remained except the original interior marble floor. WOW. My interest was peaked.
This past Saturday afternoon, with digital camera in hand, I decided to go investigate. I climbed over this tall, spike-riddled fence rather easily. There were some skateboarders around doing their thing and I snapped a few photos. Apparently there was underground parking because you could still see the ramp leading down to the closed entrance. It was a little eerie and I wondered about the building that was originally there and when it had been demolished.
The fun part came when I tried to hop the fence to leave. Somehow I didn't have as easy of a time getting out as I did getting in and I got stuck at the top of the fence. Now mind you, there were really sharp points on this fence every 5 inches or so and one got caught on my jeans and was essentially stabbing me in the thigh. A very friendly local homeless man who was nearby came running up to help me and, with his assistance, I was able to jump to safety. He's probably seen that happen one too many times.
This morning I decided to do some photographic investigation on this building. I searced on The Los Angeles Public Library's website in the photo database and came up with this picture. This picture was taken in the 60's and the building was demolished by the mid 80's. If anyone has insight I'd love to know more information.
Now, whenever I sit down, I think fondly back to my adventures this past weekend. A word of advice to others...use the big pink blanket that you have in your trunk to lay over the spike riddled fence and prevent such injuries in the future.
Yesterday The Los Angeles Conservancy hosted a special walking tour of Spring Street. Once the Financial Center of Los Angeles, Spring Street is undergoing a huge growth in today's changing face of Downtown. Adaptive Reuse is the catch-phrase of the moment, to people not familiar with that terminology it means converting a building that was once used as a commercial property (ie. office) into mixed use residential/commercial (ie. lofts).
My partner in crime (literally) for the day was Eric. Eric and I are known for finding open doors in buildings that lead to places not normally open for public access. We've found ourselves in the middle of a construction zone inside of a building being converted, a stairwell that led to no open doors except for the one leading to the street...thank god....and a Mexican restaurant behind a treasured Art Deco building.
Yesterday was no departure from the norm. We started the tour at the old Van Nuys Building on 7th and Spring. Not much to see there except for some sweet elevator cabs and carved marble banister. NEXT.
The tour de force in as far as our inquisitiveness came at out second stop, the Pacific Stock Exchange. There is now a nightclub located on the old trading floor of this interesting Art Deco building. We were herded up to the trading floor in groups of about 15-20 while a docent gave details about it's history. Eric marveled at the vintage signage and bad neon as I wondered what kind of clientele the place catered to and if I would seem devastatingly out of place if I had the urge to shake my groove thing here some Friday night. When the docent was wrapping things up I spotted a restroom and, having the tiniest bladder known to man, needed to pee. When I was done Eric came up to me and whispered, "doors in the back are open." Needless to say we meandered to them and slipped away into the building undetected. Upstairs we found a room that was most likely a private dining club. It was entirely in disrepair with paint peeling from the walls and dead bird skeletons. Yum. Eric took massive amounts of photos of the interior. I took pictures of buildings across the street, The Hayward Hotel, and Eric roaming a room filled with old doors. We went up another few flights of stairs and found abandoned offices and such but nothing as interesting as the original room.
Our next stop was the Security Bank Building. The highlight of this building was the old bank vaults that are being converted into a hipster bar by Marc Smith. He and his former partner Cedd Moses opened the Golden Gopher recently on 8th Street (near Hill). This place is gonna be nice. The main thing you notice when you walk around this space is the interesting rock walls. Well, it's not really walls that you're looking at, it's the foundation of Spring Street. Yes kids, the FOUNDATION for the street above. Look at the pictures I have posted from this event, you can see what I'm talking about in more detail. There will be a bar along one side and at least one of the main vaults will hold a lounge area. The vault doors are stunning in and of themselves. I couldn't get a good pic of the main vault but was able to get a of one further away and cordoned off.
Douglas Building Lofts note, GAS STOVES! Yay! As we walked into the viewing unit, mind you everything in this building has been sold so this is just for reference to see what the developers will most likely do with the El Dorado, the first thing I notice is it has a gas stove. I'm thrilled when I see gas stoves as I cannot stand electric stoves and would never consider buying a loft with one. Needless to say the designer who just happened to be in the unit at the time heard my exclamation and smiled. I asked him if the El Dorado would be gas as well and he said "yes." To the powers that be, a resounding Thank You!
Final stop on the tour was the Los Angeles Times building, most specifically the lobby that contains 4 murals done by the famous Art Deco muralist Hugo Ballin. Other places around the city you can see his works are Griffith Observatory, One Bunker Hill, Title Guarantee and Trust and...I forget. Oops. Also on display is a huge bronze (?) eagle that once stood at the top of the old Los Angeles Times building. Back in 1910, there was strife between the unions and the owners of the newspaper. The building was bombed and about 20 people lost their life, the building sustained extensive damage but this eagle statue survived and is displayed prominently in the lobby. Yeah, that was an uninteresting story on my part, it's much better when told by others...read and look at this for a much more interesting account. Note the eagle at the top of the building.
After our exhausting walk we fueled up in Little Tokyo at Frying Fish. A sushi joint that serves the food via a conveyor belt, a must for any visitor to the area. Afterwards, ice cream! Because you can't have sushi without ending it on a sweet note.
Make sure to enjoy the pictures from the adventure!