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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saying Good-Bye to Swarthmore Avenue, Pacific Palisades

Swarthmore Avenue, Pacific Palisades. Last June my wife and kids and I were in the area and took a few minutes to walk up and down Swarthmore.

This entire block of mid-century era stores had been bought up by Caruso Affiliated - and was slated for a major redevelopment. I wanted to see this all before it was gone. 

When my parents moved to Pacific Palisades in 1968, the community felt very middle class. Back in 1972, I remember my grandmother (born in Poland) looking at modest homes just a few blocks from here for $26,000. Today, those same homes would sell for $1.8 million. Yeah, crazy. 

Here's a walkway between Swarthmore and the parking lot out back. To the left was the entrance to the old Baskin Robbins - that many of my friends worked at. To the right, a women's clothing store that my other grandmother worked at for several years. 

The nondescript parking lot out back. Redevelopment plans call for this being turned into additional retail and small park. Remember the lyrics to the old Joni Mitchell song: "take paradise and put in a parking lot"? This might be one of the few cases where the opposite happens. While not paradise, I'll take a park over a parking lot any day. 

So, this being Los Angeles, where do the cars go? Plans call for a three story underground parking structure.

The women's clothing store my grandmother worked at back in the mid-1970's. It was called La Femme, today it's called Boca. 

I LOVE this photo, taken from the edge of the parking lot, looking back towards Swarthmore Avenue. Boca on the left, what was Baskin Robbins on the right. Yes, the woodwork up top needs paint - but I really like the planter on the right, the mid-century architecture, the simple walkway, and most of all the MEMORIES of growing up here, and walking through here hundreds of times. 

Back out on Swarthmore, outdoor dining along the street. Pacific Palisades is located along the coast in between Malibu and Santa Monica, and up against the Santa Monica Mountains. 

The vast majority of people I went to High School here do not live in this area. Even back 35 years ago, the community had become too expensive to consider moving back after college. There's a small handful of people from my High School graduating class who figured out a way to live in the community. Most everyone else is living in another part of California - or out of state.  

The Caruso Affiliated redevelopment plans call for a re-imagined "Bay Theater" across the street - on the footprint of what was at one time a popular local restaurant, Mort's Delicatessen.

The original Bay Theater (1948-1978) was located a few blocks away on Sunset Blvd, and still holds a special place for anyone who lived in the community during that era. The new Bay Theater will be much smaller, and a multiplex. With theaters closing left and right around the country, here's hoping this new Bay will be able to pencil out financially. 


These one story buildings will be replaced with a mixture of one and two story Cape Cod style buildings. While most residents are excited about the new project, some are concerned that the street will look less like a real place and more like an outdoor mall - or Hollywood movie set. Caruso Affiliates other projects include The Grove in the Fairfax District and Americana at Brand in Glendale. 

This is looking down Swarthmore towards Sunset Blvd. This section of Swarthmore will also be narrowed slightly, with wider sidewalks and one way traffic. 

The pink building on the corner of Swarthmore and Sunset is the original "business block" - the 1924 Spanish Colonial Revival. In the distance is the bell tower of Palisades Elementary School. 

For me, lots of nostalgia and lots of memories on this street. I'm so very glad we took time and snapped up these photos. Just two weeks after we were here, the entire area was fenced off and - yes - the buildings were bulldozed. All that exists now are photographs and memories. 

My wife and kids walking towards Sunset Blvd. 

Final view the alley running adjacent to Sunset Blvd. The building on the left is a bank - I worked as a bank teller there for a summer - before moving out of the area. 

Like most alleys, this is fairly unattractive - although, the palm trees are nice. 

The Mobil Gas Station on the corner of Sunset Blvd and Swarthmore Avenue. This is part of the re-development plans and is slated to be replaced with a two story retail building. Even people who weren't enthusiastic about the overall project seemed to be OK with that. 

In addition to most (but not all) of the buildings on Swarthmore, Caruso Affiliates also bought several of the adjacent buildings along Sunset Blvd. Part of the gray building was a toy store  - "The Toy Shack" - when I was a kid, with a speciality in magic tricks. 

So, what will this section of Swarthmore and Sunset Blvd. this be replaced with? Here's one of several images released by Caruso Affiliates - featuring the highly anticipated re-imagined Bay Theater - and a link to their website. 

The project is called Palisades Village, scheduled to open Summer 2018. 

© 2016 www.experiencingla.com


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Saturday, November 12, 2016

World's Oldest McDonald's, Downey California

This past April, my wife, kids, and I were in Southern California for a conference and had a few minutes to stop off in Downey - a suburban city located 15 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles. Downey has the distinction of being home to the world's oldest McDonald's.

Technically, it's the world's oldest surviving McDonald's. The first McDonald's, opened in 1937, was located adjacent to the Monrovia Airport. The tiny octagonal building was later moved to 1398 North E Street in San Bernardino, California in 1940. As second McDonald's opened in Phoenix, Arizona in 1953. Neither of these first two McDonald's survive. 

This third McDonald's opened in August 1953, and is the world oldest surviving McDonald's. It's located at the intersection of Lakewood Blvd. and Florence Ave in Downey. 

My wife and kids waiting after ordering our food. While maybe not worth a special trip, if you're anywhere in the area, I'd say it's worth stopping by. 

They do a good job playing up the history and nostalgia, including lots of information on this particular location. 

Long before Ronald McDonald, McDonald's had "Speedee" as their corporate mascot. 

My son referred to this as "the birthplace of diabetes." Well, sort of. The original hamburgers, french flies, and soda sizes were TINY by today's Super Size portions. Not sure if a 1953 meal was healthier or not, but it was definitely smaller. 

Adjusted for inflation, McDonald's today is actually cheaper than in 1953. One reason why fast food is so popular is that, well, it's so cheap. 

Inside, was an old school cash register - just for show. 

Immediately adjacent to the walk up McDonald's was a very small museum.

The museum had some seating, and displays. 

The history of their logos. 

Information on the Downey location. 

A display of their milkshake mixers, which were apparently pretty revolutionary for the time. 

Obligatory family selfie. 

And a final photo of the 1959 era Golden Arch. 

Here's a link to a wikipedia article with additional information. 


© 2016 www.experiencingla.com

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Vintage Los Angeles Travel Posters

I thought I'd take a break from personal photos and post a few Vintage Los Angeles Travel Posters. Above David Klein's Fly TWA Los Angeles c.1959 - a stylized view of Mission San Gabriel Arc├íngel's bell tower. The actual tower has six bells; the sun looks like something out of the It's A Small World attraction. 


The earliest travel posters I found (thanks to google images) focus on California, rather than just Los Angeles. California Calls You c. 1900. Union Pacific Railroad pamphlet, University of California-San Diego Special Collections.



California This Summer c. Chad Hyde 1934. 




Perhaps the most famous travel poster of all time is California Cornucopia of the World c.1885, The Granger Collection



The city of Los Angeles (population 4 million) is located in the much larger county of Los Angeles (population 10 million). This 1920's era poster is highlighting Los Angeles County. This view reminds me a lot of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (where possible, I'm including some links to previous blogposts). 


Los Angeles by Clipper  by Kerne Erickson. Date unknown. 

This is the Basilica at Mission San Juan Capistrano - not in Los Angeles, but rather 55 miles (88 kilometers) south in Orange County.

I tried to find the artist and date for these images. Not always easy - I came up blank on this one. Any suggestions, please leave a comment. 

The above poster reminds me of the view from the Griffith Observatory

Los Angeles via Western Airlines with autograph book and camera in hand, at the corner of Sunset and Vine in Hollywood. c.1961, artist unknown.

Sorry, Continental Airlines - but this doesn't look anything like Los Angeles. The white sand beaches and curved palm trees, makes this version of Los Angeles looks more like Hawaii, or even Florida, than Southern California. 

American Airlines Los Angeles c.1970 artist unknown.


Los Angeles, American Airlines date and artist unknown . 

Apparently, this poster is located in the Smithsonian - even they don't have a date or artist, calling it an "orphan" poster. 

The bottom half looks like the city of Avalon on Catalina Island

Los Angeles, date and artist unknown. This is my personal favorite. Just houses and swimming pools. This could be almost anwhere in the eastern half of the Santa Monica Mountains, including the view from the Paseo Miramar trail in Pacific Palisades.  

Los Angeles - American Airlines - Hollywood California Movie Set, c. 1960 Van Kaufman. Looks a whole lot like either Universal Studios or the Warner Brothers Studios tour. 

Fly TWA Los Angeles, Hollywood Bowl, c.1958 David Klein. Hollywood Bowl, where else?

Los Angeles, California - Los Angeles at Night, date and artist unknown. 

Visit Los Angeles, c. Michael Murphy, date unknown. This is the downtown Department of Water and Power Building

Visit Los Angeles by Henry Rivers, date unknown. The Hollywood Sign.  

© 2016 www.experiencingla.com