Style and Strength — Historic Los Angeles Architecture

The photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library contains many photos taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), the nation’s first federal preservation project. HABS created an archive of drawings and historical reports plus black and white photos documenting the country’s buildings and built environments. The following photos (with captions below each photo) display examples of the unique architecture to be found here in Los Angeles.

KEHE/KFI Radio Broad Studio

The KEHE/KFI studio was built in 1936 and designed in the Streamline Moderne (also referred to as Art Moderne) architectural style, utilizing long lines and aerodynamic curves to create a streamlined and modern look. The KEHE studio was originally constructed for Hearst Radio, Inc. but was sold in 1939 to Earle C. Anthony who took KEHE off the air and ran station KFI in the studio until 1975. The building served various purposes for the local Koreatown community before it was demolished in 2003. (Note: The scrolled grilles over the windows and doors were not an original part of the building but were added in later years for security purposes.) All photos of the radio station were taken in 2004 by photographer and Photo Friends Board Member Tom Zimmerman for the Historic American Buildings Survey.

KEHE/KFI studio

Southeast corner of KEHE/KFI radio broadcast studio on North Vermont Avenue

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Main entrance and tower of KEHE/KFI facing northwest

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Southern side entrance of KEHE/KFI studio facing westward

OLIVE SWITCHING STATION

Located on San Fernando Road, the two-story Olive Switching Station was built between 1916 and 1917 at the mid-point of the electric transmission line that ran from San Francisquito power plant No. 1 to the central receiving station in Los Angeles. This facility of the LADWP (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) made it possible to repair single circuits without disrupting or diminishing electric service, thus providing reliable utility service to the greater Los Angeles area. The original station has been demolished. All photos of the Olive Switching Station shown below were photographed in 1994 by photographer Bill Agee for the Historic American Buildings Survey.

olive switching station

View of the northeast side of the Olive Switching Station
from the north side of San Fernando Road facing southwest 

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View of the east corner of the Olive Switching Station
from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power lot

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View of first room on the first floor and main control panel
of the Olive Switching Station

Swan Hall, Occidental College

Architects Myron Hunt and H.C. Chambers laid out the original master plan for Occidental College in 1914, with an emphasis on healthy and comfortable living. The campus featured many open air spaces, verandas, fireplaces, and assorted greenery. (It was said that Hunt would walk around the campus dropping eucalyptus seeds as he walked.) Swan Hall was designed and built as a men’s dormitory. In 1960, Swan Hall was remodeled and converted from living quarters into administrative offices. In 2011, Swan Hall underwent an expansion that more than doubled its size. The photos below were all taken in 2011 by photographer and Photo Friends Board Member Tom Zimmerman for the Historic American Buildings Survey.

 

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East facade of Swan Hall (with fence surround building
during maintenance) as viewed from the northeast

 

North entrance on Swan Hall‘s east facade

This is the third part of a three-part feature on the photos of the Historic American Buildings Survey.

All Hail the King – Or, More Accurately, The Ambassador

It is no small surprise that the Ambassador Hotel was a prominent subject of the Historic American Buildings Survey. The hotel was a part of both Los Angeles and world history. The Los Angeles Public Library photo archive has a number of photos of the hotel.

But first, some history:

Designed by renowned architect Myron Hunt (whose architectural masterpieces include the Rose Bowl Stadium, Occidental College, and Caltech), the hotel opened in 1921 boasting 500 rooms and occupying 23.7 acres at 3400 Wilshire Boulevard. While it eventually sat empty (except for occasional filming) for 15-plus years before its demolition in 2005, it had a glorious heyday. The Ambassador Hotel saw every form of celebrity, from film stars to foreign dignitaries. Bob Hope hosted the 1939 Academy Awards ceremony in its glamorous nightclub, the Cocoanut Grove. Carole Lombard and Joan Crawford competed in the Grove’s Friday night Charleston contests. Nikita Khrushchev stayed at the hotel during his time in America in 1959. Jean Harlow had a residence there for a time, as did Howard Hughes. A young model posed by the pool, she would later become Marilyn Monroe. Bing Crosby started a singing career there, and Sammy Davis and Frank Sinatra performed in the Cocoanut Grove often. Seven presidents including Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, and Richard Nixon stayed there. Haile Selassie, then Emperor of Ethiopia, ate lunch there in 1954. The hotel housed the jury for Charles Manson’s murder trial for nine months in 1971. Presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy was shot in the hotel’s kitchen in 1968 after delivering a speech. (He would die the next day in Good Samaritan Hospital.)

Even if you’ve never been to Los Angeles, you have probably seen the Ambassador Hotel. It has been photographed extensively and used in many television shows and films. It appeared in episodes of Beverly Hills 90210, Mod Squad, Starsky and Hutch, Dragnet, and Murder She Wrote. Musicians including Elton John, Guns N’ Roses, Tom Waits, and Beyonce filmed videos there. Its impressive movie portfolio includes Nightmare on Elm Street, Foxy Brown, Lady Killer (with James Cagney), Scream 2, and Forrest Gump. Arnold Schwarzenegger rode a horse through its lobby in True Lies. Richard Gere played a piano in its main ballroom in Pretty Woman. The high school reunion in Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion occurred at The Ambassador. And most famously (or infamously), The Graduate’s Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) and Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) conducted their affair in a suite at The Ambassador. (Cue Simon and Garfunkel.)

All of the photographs below (except for the menus shown in separate end section) were taken between January and March 2005 by photographer and Photo Friends Board Member Tom Zimmerman for the Historic American Buildings Survey. Captions are beneath the image.

ambassador hotel embassy ballroom

Ambassador Hotel, Embassy Ballroom. 

ambassador hotel main lobby

Ambassador Hotel, main lobby. 

ambassador hotel honeymoon cottage

Ambassador Hotel, honeymoon cottage interior

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Ambassador Hotel, interior of hotel bar (Note: This is not the Cocoanut Grove.)

ambassador hotel casino level

Ambassador Hotel shop interior, casino level

ambassador hotel and cocoanut grove

Ambassador Hotel and the Cocoanut Grove

ambassador hotel and fountain

Ambassador Hotel and fountain

ambassador hotel cabana

Ambassador Hotel cabana

ambassador hotel southern entrance

Ambassador Hotel southern entrance

 

Would you care to see a menu?

Interested as to what you might have eaten for lunch, dinner, or at a banquet at the Ambassador Hotel? Visit the Menu Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library. For a preview, look below:

AM-10

menu for banquet at ambassador hotel

Menu showing what was served at banquet honoring Secretary of War and various governors; banquet was held at Ambassador Hotel circa 1933.

 

a la carte menu at ambassador hotel

a la carte menu for ambassador hotel

A La Carte Menu at Ambassador Hotel

 

cocoanut grove menu cover

Front cover of menu for Cocoanut Grove, autographed by Fred Martin (date unknown; Fred Martin and his orchestra played the Cocoanut Grove numerous times from the 1930s to the 1970s.)

AM-15

cocoanut grove menu

Menu for Cocoanut Grove (menu dated December 16, 1944)

Note: This is the second part of a three-part series on the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Feed Your Olympic Fever with Photo Friends

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From L-R: Jim Ruebsamen (former Herald Examiner photographer), Javier Mendoza (also Herald-Ex), writer and Photo Friend David Davis, LAPL Senior Librarian Christina Rice, Dean Musgrove (also Herald Ex), and Olympic gold medalist Paul Gonzales.  (Photo by former Herald Examiner photographer Jim Ober)

Thanks to everyone who came out this past Wednesday for our Photographer’s Eye program with author and PF Board Member David Davis. David treated the crowd to a selection of 1984 Olympics images from the Los Angeles Public Library’s Herald Examiner Collection. We were delighted to have four former Herald Examiner photographers in attendance along with Olympic Gold medalist Paul Gonzales!

OneGoldenMoment

For those of you who cannot get enough of the Summer Games, be sure to check out Photo Friends Publications latest offering, One Golden Moment: The 1984 Olympics Through the Photographic Lens of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Written and compiled by David Davis, with a foreward by Paul Gonzales, the book may be purchased through Amazon or at the Library Store who have copies signed by Davis and Gonzales available. Proceeds benefit Photo Friends.

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 Next week, our friends over at the LA84 Foundation will be hosting a book signing with Olympic champion swimmer Shirley Babashoff who is the author of the recently published Making Waves: My Journey to Winning Olympic Gold and Defeating the East German Doping Program (Santa Monica Press). Details about the event are here.

Don’t forget to visit the online Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection to view hundreds of images relating to the 1932 & 1984 Olympic Games!

Photographer’s Eye: One Golden Moment – The 1984 Olympic Games Through the Lens of the Herald Examiner

Photo Eye

Photographer’s Eye: One Golden Moment – The 1984 Olympic Games Through the Lens of the Herald Examiner

Wednesday, August 10, 2016
12:15pm to 1:00pm
Central Library, Meeting Room A

Reservations not required. Doors open approximately 15 minutes before the start of the program.

The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics were a milestone in the city’s history — and the photographers of the Herald Examiner newspaper were there to capture every thrilling moment, from the triumphs of Carl Lewis, Michael Jordan, Greg Louganis and Mary Lou Retton to the heartbreak experienced by Mary Decker and Evander Holyfield. As the world’s best athletes gather in Brazil for this summer’s Rio Olympics, re-live the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics through the memorable and intimate photographs of the Herald Examiner with David Davis, sports journalist and author of Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku (University of Nebraska Press).

Sponsored by Photo Friends. Presented by the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

An Architectural Treasure Trove — the Historic American Buildings Survey

In 1933, Charles E. Peterson, a young landscape architect employed by the U.S. National Park Service, had an idea. He conceived of a project that would not only provide jobs for the many architects, draftsmen, and photographers unemployed during the Great Depression, but would document the country’s architectural heritage. Funds were obtained from the Civil Works Administration and the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) was born. This survey not only produced photographic archives and meticulous records of America’s buildings but brought to light the importance of historic preservation. (Peterson is often referred to as the founding father of historic preservation.) The survey still continues to this day. The photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) has a huge collection of photographs taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey, with a selection shown below.

NOTE: All photos in this post are included in LAPL’s Historic American Buildings Survey collection with individual photographers credited accordingly.

The Gateway West Building, built in 1963, was designed by Welton Becket, an architect who designed many buildings in Los Angeles and whose popularity saw him working for celebrities such as James Cagney and Robert Montgomery. The building’s twin, Gateway East Building, stood directly across the street from Gateway West Building. These two buildings were constructed on what was formerly part of the 20th Century Fox Studio lot and marked the entrance to the Avenue of the Stars. Gateway West was demolished during the expansion of a nearby shopping mall.

Gateway West Building

Front view of Gateway West Building in Century City. Photographed by Jim Simmons in 2014.

Gateway West Building in Century City

Gateway West Building in Century City. Photographed by Jim Simmons in 2014.

The Westinghouse Electric Supply Company warehouse was designed in the Art Deco style of architecture. Opened in 1930, it consisted of two attached warehouses and served as storage space and shipping point for Westinghouse Electric Supply Company (WESCO), one of the country’s largest electronics companies from the 1930s through the 1980s. With a freight spur (railroad track for loading and unloading) just east of the building, the warehouse received and distributed electrical goods to and from companies throughout the United States, thus playing an important role in the industrial development and history of Los Angeles.

Westinghouse Electric Supply Company warehouse in Los Angeles

Front of Westinghouse Electric Supply Company Warehouse. Photographed by Tavo Olmos in July, 2012.

Westinghouse Supply Company building

Interior of Westinghouse Electric Supply Company Warehouse. Photographed by Tavo Olmos in July, 2012.

The Golden Gate Theater in East Los Angeles was designed by William and Clifford Balch, who also designed the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles and the Fox Theater in Pomona. The Golden Gate Theater was built in 1927 and designed in the Churrigueresque-style which features lavish adornment in the Spanish baroque style. Theatergoers accessed the theater through the courtyard of the Vega Building which surrounded the theater. In 1987, the Vega Building was severely damaged by an earthquake and subsequently demolished. The Golden Gate Theater remained standing but sat vacant for 25 years. The only building in East Los Angeles listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it was reopened in 2012 as a pharmacy.

Decorative molding and mural of Golden Gate Theater in East Los Angeles. Photographed by Tom Zimmerman in 2011.

PHOTO 6

Main entrance of the Golden Gate Theater, with clamshell backdrop of the concession stand visible through the middle door. Photographed by Tom Zimmerman in 2011.

PHOTO 7

Chandelier in auditorium of Golden Gate Theater. Photographed by Tom Zimmerman in 2011.

The Stationers Building, built in 1922 at 525 S. Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles, was designed by architect and engineer W. L. Schmolle and served as loft space for the York Realty Co. The Stationers Annex at 523 S. Spring Street had been built in 1913 as a loft building for the Realty Fireproof Company; it was designed by Parkinson and Bergstrom, an architectural team that defined the look of pre-World War II Los Angeles. At the time the two buildings were built, the Spring Street district was becoming a high-rise district, with several buildings being ten to 13 stories high. It was believed that these two buildings were to be developed into high-rises, however, both parcels were acquired by the Stationers Corporation and no expansion took place. Through the years, the buildings were stripped of their historic features and eventually left unoccupied. Vandalism, leaking pipes, neglect, and the passage of time weakened them, and they were eventually demolished.

PHOTO 8

North corner cornices on third story of Stationer’s Building and Annex on Spring Street. Photographed by David Greenwood in April, 2005.

stationer's building in downtown los angeles

South end of east façade of Stationer’s Building in downtown Los Angeles. Photographed by David Greenwood in April, 2005.

PHOTO 10

Stationer’s Building and Annex (behind trees) on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. Photographed by David Greenwood in April, 2005.

This is the first of a three-part series, please check back for future installments!

00064425 woman with penguins

In the Swim: The Wild Side

We wrote about swim fashions on Southland beaches in In the Swim. We will now take a look at the must-have accessory for your beachwear — an exotic animal!

In the land of Hollywood the exotic becomes almost commonplace. These photos from the archives of the Los Angeles Public Library show the wild side of California beach fashion. But first, we must add the disclaimer that exotic animals do not normally belong on  beaches and those who do should be left alone. Many of the stunts pictured here should carry the warning: Do not try this at home! (or anywhere else)

00009019 bear cub

Venice Beach is the location for many of our photos. Here a young woman feeds a bear cub from a bottle, 1936. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00009019.

 

00064163 alligator

Yes, there really was an alligator farm in Los Angeles  — until 1953. It was located right next door to the Ostrich Farm. Advertising from the Luna Park  Alligator Farm in Lincoln Heights proclaimed, with a bit of hyperbole, “Here are to be seen hundreds of alligators of all sizes, from little babies, hardly the size of a lizard, up to huge monsters, 500 years old or more. We make a specialty of alligator bags ornamented with genuine alligator heads and claws.” (LincolnHeightsLA.comSecurity Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00064163, undated.

 

00064425 woman with penguins

The photo was taken in Long Beach, “ca. 1920.”  We have no explanation for the penguins. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00064425.

 

00065006 boy with lion cub

This young man, protectively holding onto his lion cub, seems none to happy despite his trophy win at the Venice Beach Pet Show in 1936. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00065006.

 

00066776 seal

Strolling Long Beach with a seal, circa 1920. The young woman wears a beach coat with a nautical flair. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00066776.

 

00067860 baby elephant

An undated photo of a woman, probably a model, with a baby elephant. Her wool bathing costume places the photo in the late 1920s. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00067860.

 

00069336 piglet race

 

Piglets race on Hermosa Beach. The young porkers eagerly await the starting gun — well, perhaps not the one in lane two who appears ready for a nap. Although the photo is undated, the classic belted swimsuits place the event in the mid-1930s. Two girls standing at left appear to be twins. Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Collection, Image #00069336.

 

00066743 sea lion

Watch that shoe! Models feed a “sea elephant” (elephant seal) in an enclosure in Venice, probably mid-1920s. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, #00066743.

 

00071558 elephants at Long Beach pier

More elephants on the beach. The Long Beach Pier and Sun Pavilion form the backdrop for this photo shoot from about 1930. One of the keepers carries what appears to be a cattle prod. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00071558.

 

00117152 fawn

This 1954 photo from the Valley Times Collection is titled “Cute as a Bug,” probably the headline used in the paper. The caption used read: “Unafraid of children, this spotted fawn can be sweet and gentle but later on would not permit this type of petting without slashing out with razor sharp hoofs made for fighting off coyotes and other predators.”  Wise words. Valley Times Collection, Image #00117152.

 

We’ll end with a more appropriate way to celebrate the wild side of beach season — playing an accordion with a stuffed seagull!

00070574 seagulls

Miss California Bathing Beauty Contest, Venice Beach, 1936. This contestant displays her talent while serenading the wild life.  Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00070574.

“Service, Society and Social Change: Post- War Clubs from the Valley Times Newspaper” Opening Reception and Fashion Show

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Thursday, July 07, 2016

6:00pm to 8:00pm

Central Library
History/Genealogy Dept. – LL4

Join us for food, fashion, and FUN as we celebrate the opening of our latest exhibit “Service, Society and Social Change: Post- War Clubs from the Valley Times Newspaper” with a reception and fashion show!

The post-War San Fernando Valley was the quintessential American suburb. With the availability of affordable housing and jobs from the thriving aerospace, aircraft, and manufacturing industries, the Valley’s population boomed. The promise of prosperity inspired new opportunities for leisure time, family life and civic engagement. Membership in social and service clubs soared. Whether people united through shared identities or shared interests in hobbies, civics or philanthropy, the prevalence of club life defined the Valley’s growing community. The Valley Times newspaper, published from 1946 to 1970, documented the changes to the Valley’s physical landscape through suburban development, but also revealed how social networks impacted society. This sampling of images from the Valley Times photo archive, now held at the Los Angeles Public Library, presents us with a unique visual history of the ways people connect to build a community.

Copies of an exhibition catalog will be available for purchase with proceeds going to Photo Friends, who support the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

Special thanks to Pinup Girl Boutique, Photo Friends, and Besame Cosmetics, our reception sponsors.

Logos

Full details on the Los Angeles Public Library website. 

Go Forth and Celebrate the Fourth!

The Fourth of July is a time when Americans remember their history, look toward the future, and celebrate the present. As the photo archives of the Los Angeles Public Library show, Southern California takes its celebrations seriously, commemorating Independence Day with solemnity as well as fun and flair.

Less than 100 years after the United States was founded, a Fourth of July parade was held in Ventura, California. The Grand Marshall was Dr. Cephas Little Bard, a prominent physician whose brother, Thomas R. Bard, would become a U.S. Senator in 1899. Ventura had just become its own county one year earlier, having previously been part of Santa Barbara County.

Ventura 4th of July 1874

A Fourth of July parade is held in Ventura, California. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, 1874).

A parade should have its royalty, and this Fourth of July parade in Santa Ana, California, did not skimp on the princes and princesses!

FOURTH OF JULY SANTA ANA

A horse-drawn wagon carries costumed participants in a 4th of July parade in Santa Ana. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, July 4, 1890).

By the late 1910s, automobiles had been introduced into parades. Here, a group has decorated a vehicle and prepares to take part in Fourth of July festivities in Los Angeles.

FOURTH OF JULY MEXICAN AMERICAN

Marcelo Lopez and friends prepare to take part in a Fourth of July parade. (Shades of L.A.: Mexican American Community, 1918)

One of the essential elements of an Independence Day parade is a marching band. It plays the music that gets spirits raised, toes tapping, and crowds excited. In this photo, a marching band participates in a Fourth of July parade in Monrovia.

FOURTH OF JULY MONROVIA

Frank K. Carothers leads the Monrovia City Band in a 4th of July parade in Monrovia. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, ca 1920).

Wartime does not diminish holiday celebrations. A crowd gathers on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles to view the 1942 Fourth of July parade.

fourth of july downtown

Men of Uncle Sam’s Army march past spectators in Fourth of July parade (Herald-Examiner Collection, July 4, 1942.)

Don’t have a horse? Don’t have a driver’s license? This young American shows his ingenuity in a Fourth of July Parade in San Pedro, California.

FOURTH OF JULY GOLF CART

A boy drives a golf cart decorated for a Fourth of July parade in San Pedro. (Shades of L.A.: Norwegian American Community, ca. 1994)

The Fourth of July inspires family celebrations and home decorations, as this family in Watts proudly demonstrates.

FOURTH OF JULY WATTS

The Cazzara family with dog, flags, stars and ribbons on July 4, 2001, at their home Watts. (James W. Jeffrey, Jr./Los Angeles Neighborhood Collection, 2001)

L.A. and Southern California has a style all its own, and these low riders in Huntington Park show it during a celebration on the 4th of July in the city’s park.

fourth of july low riders

A collection of classic lowrider cars is displayed in Huntington Park for the Fourth of July. (Anne Knudsen/Herald-Examiner Collection, July 4, 1982)

El Sereno residents show their patriotism and panache with Fourth of July celebrations that include parades, celebrities, dignitaries, and fabulous costumes.

fourth of july el sereno

The El Sereno Fourth of July parade kicks off in high style. (Paul Chinn/Herald-Examiner Collection, July 2, 1983)

Space exploration and the use of rockets and satellites for national security were part of American life by the early 1960s, so when the City of Burbank displayed this model of Titan III during its Fourth of July celebration, it drew a considerable crowd.

TITAN ROCKET

Model of deep space probe rocket on display at Fourth of July celebration in Burbank. (Valley Times Collection, June 24, 1964)

Anyone can celebrate! At Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica (an amusement park which closed in 1967), monkeys get in on the celebration with a Fourth of July aerial display. Here they test their equipment.

fourth of july monkeys

Boxco, Salty, and Dinky prepare for the final showing of “Fantasy Over The Pacific”. (Valley Times Collection, July 4, 1961)

Of course, your Fourth of July celebration is not limited exclusively to parades and fireworks. Here, a young group cools off at Venice Beach.

FOURTH AT BEACH

A group of friends at the beach in Venice on the Fourth of July. (Shades of L.A.: Korean American Community, 1931)

A group of friends gathers for a backyard barbecue, a Fourth of July tradition for many.

FOURTH OF JULY BARBECUE

Burcey, Oni, Dutch, Al, and young friend at a Fourth of July backyard barbecue. (Shades of L.A.: African American Community, 1980)

 

LGBT Heritage Month, A Time For Commemoration and Celebration

June is LGBT Heritage Month (also known as LGBT Pride Month), a time to remember the challenges that the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community has faced and to commemorate the contributions they have made. The photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library features many images documenting the struggles and triumphs of L.A.’s gay community in their quest for recognition, respect, and equal rights, as well as showing them as simply our friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members.

During the 1940s, Malcolm Boyd was a hot shot junior producer of radio and television. He founded PRB, a production company, with Mary Pickford (America’s sweetheart!) before leaving the business world to become an Episcopal priest. Boyd was prominent in the American Civil Rights movement, participating as a Freedom Rider in 1961, riding interstate buses in the South in mixed racial groups to challenge segregation laws. He also actively protested the Vietnam War and was the author of 30 books. In 1977, Boyd came out and became the most prominent openly homosexual clergy person at the time. He became a spokesman for gay rights and served as writer-in-residence for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

Malcolm Boyd

Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers converse with Malcolm Boyd, their TV-radio production partner, who is beginning theological studies, having been admitted as a postulant for holy orders in the Protestant Episcopal Church. (Herald-Examiner Collection, May 7, 1950)

The Briggs Initiative, also known as California Proposition 6, was on the California State ballot on November 7, 1978. Named for its sponsor, John Briggs, a state legislator from Orange County, the initiative was designed to ban gays and lesbians from working in California’s public schools. The initiative was opposed by a diverse group of politicians including Ronald Reagan, Jerry Brown, Gerald Ford, and then-president Jimmy Carter. It was defeated by California voters.

Protest of Briggs Initiative

Members and supporters of Los Angeles gay community march down Hollywood Boulevard on July 2, 1978, to protest the Briggs Initiative. (Ken Papaleo/Herald-Examiner Collection, July 3, 1978)

In 1970, the first Gay Pride Parade was held in Los Angeles on Hollywood Boulevard. The parade was so controversial that the city’s police commission tried to stop it for fear that those who participated in it would be attacked. Today, LGBTQ pride celebrations take place in various venues and streets throughout Southern California, with the largest festival, LA Pride, occurring annually in West Hollywood.

Gay Rodeo Float at Pride Parade

A float from the Golden State Gay Rodeo Association is featured in the Gay Parade in West Hollywood. (Paul Chinn/Herald-Examiner Collection, June 23, 1985)

Proud Mom of Gay Man

A mother supports her gay son while participating in the Gay Parade and Festival. (Steve Grayson/Herald-Examiner Collection, June 26, 1989)

In 1979, Norman Laurila and George Leigh opened the bookstore A Different Light at 4014 Santa Monica Boulevard in the Silver Lake neighborhood in Los Angeles. The store specialized in gay and lesbian literature and publications, often hosting signing tours and reading from LGBTQ writers. A Different Light eventually added locations in West Hollywood, San Francisco, and New York, becoming one of the nation’s largest gay-owned booksellers.

A Different Light bookstore

Two men (unidentified) in the gay bookstore, “A Different Light,” located at 4014 Santa Monica Boulevard in the Silver Lake district. (Gary Leonard Collection, no date)

In 1985, Marine Sergeant Rolf Lindblom, a computer programming instructor at the Marine Corps Reserve Training Center in Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles, petitioned the Corps for an honorable discharge on the grounds that he was homosexual. The 25-year old Lindblom had an exemplary military record, had been named Marine of the Year in Los Angeles, and had two years left of service. The Marine Corps would not consider the petition until Lindblom provided proof of homosexual conduct, proof that Lindblom refused to give as he feared doing so would trigger a court-martial against him. After filing a second request, Corps spokesman said Lindblom had met all requirements for an honorable discharge and such discharge was granted.

ROLF

A crowd gathered outside the Marine Corps Reserve Center in Los Angeles shows support for Sgt. Rolf Lindblom who is seeking an honorable discharge because he is gay. (James Ruebsamen/Herald-Examiner Collection, October 21, 1985)

The 2004 LGBT Pride Parade celebrated gay life with lesbian bikers, Mr. Leather 2004 in a black convertible, stilt walkers, latex wearers, drag queen cheerleaders, and a contingency of Episcopalians quietly carrying signs with a powerful message.

Love is all you need

A group carries the message in the 2004 Gay Pride Parade in West Hollywood. (Douglas McCulloh/Los Angeles Neighborhoods Collection, 2004)

Saving Sinners and Skirting Scandal — Aimee Semple McPherson

No history of the City of Angels would be complete without a mention of Aimee Semple McPherson, a woman who came to Los Angeles with a mission and a message and achieved world-wide fame for both saintliness and scandal. Perusing the photo archives of the Los Angeles Public Library, you will learn of the prominent place McPherson holds in the annals of L.A.

Aimee Semple McPherson was an evangelist and philanthropist who first came to Los Angeles in 1918 at the bequest of Pentecostal minister William J. Seymour to participate in a series of revivals. At this point, Aimee had been traveling around and outside the U.S. to preach the word of the Lord for most of a decade. (In 1914, she ceased preaching to concentrate on married life and motherhood. She fell ill, became delirious, and, according to her recollection, heard voices telling her she had to preach or die.) She relocated permanently to L.A. in 1923, founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and built Angeles Temple directly across from Echo Park in Los Angeles. The Temple was McPherson’s base and is still the headquarters for the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

Angeles Temple

Angeles Temple (William Reagh Collection, 1982).

McPherson’s sermons were well reviewed and well attended and often featured faith healing. Known as an electrifying speaker, she also had a theatrical bent, once giving a sermon on a motorcycle. A savvy businesswoman, she knew how to use the media to maximum effect, publishing magazines and books and broadcasting a radio program from her own radio station, KFSG, bringing evangelism into the modern age. She tirelessly preached a life made better with the Lord and love for your fellow man.

Aimee Semple McPherson preaching

Aimee Semple McPherson preaching (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, no date given).

Sermon at Angeles Temple

Church service at Angeles Temple (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, 1930).

Radio towers

Radio towers visible on roof of Angeles Temple (Herman J. Schultheis Collection, 1937).

Having been raised by a mother active in the Salvation Army, McPherson’s church placed an emphasis on charitable work. She believed it to be just as important to take care of a person’s physical needs as well as their spiritual needs, and organized food drives, built a commissary, and distributed necessities from blankets to baby clothes.

Angeles Temple Food Baskets

Christmas food baskets to be given to the poor by members of Angeles Temple; arrow points to Aimee Semple McPherson (Herald-Examiner Collection, 1934).

MACPHERSON DINING HALL

Angeles Temple dining hall that provided free meals for destitute men (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, 1932).

Always interested in making life better for the common man, McPherson supported many civic causes. One cause was the police safety campaign in 1942 aimed at making the streets of Los Angeles safer for pedestrians.

Aimee Semple McPherson pledges pedestrian safety

Aimee Semple McPherson pledges support for the Police Safety Campaign (Herald-Examiner Collection, 1942).

As with any public figure, McPherson was not without her detractors, controversies, and scandals. McPherson’s support of the war effort in WWII alienated those who remained pacifists or uncommitted. She entertained celebrities and loved the camera, which raised eyebrows with more conservative factions. A reorganization of Angeles Temple upset many staff members, with fallout leading to McPherson’s daughter, Roberta Semple, suing McPherson’s attorney for slander.

Aimee in court

Aimee Semple McPherson in court for the defamation of character suit against Angeles Temple attorney, Willedd Andrews, a suit brought by her daughter, Roberta Semple (Herald-Examiner Collection, 1944).

McPherson’s biggest scandal, however, began at Venice Beach, California, on May 18, 1926. McPherson disappeared while swimming and was believed drowned. Five days later she appeared in Mexico just across the border from Arizona, claiming to have been kidnapped and tortured before she escaped. Controversy arose when several witnesses reported seeing McPherson with a man during her five-day absence. While many welcomed her return to Los Angeles, others accused McPherson of being involved in an elicit love affair in a cottage by the sea with a married man.

Carmel by the Sea

Lorraine Wiseman-Seilaff, a key figure in the Carmel-by-the-Sea story who accused Aimee Semple McPherson of faking a kidnapping (Herald-Examiner Collection, 1937).

Aimee Semple McPherson died on September 27, 1944. While the cause of death is officially listed as unknown, it was generally agreed by the coroner and other medical officials that Aimee died of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. Her body lay in state at Angeles Temple for three days while over forty-five thousand people paid their respects and mourned her passing.

Aimee funeral

Funeral for Aimee Semple McPherson (Herald-Examiner Collection, October 9, 1944).