I love Los Angeles…but there are times when I really do believe the stupidest people live here and somehow get to make decisions.
In virtually every city across the U.S., townfolk try to protect the history of their city. They preserve the historic buildings that reflect the contributions and significance of their founders. Yet, in the greater Los Angeles area, the owners of historic buildings fail time and time again to register buildings of consequence for historical preservation. And city councils fail time and time again in protecting the charm of their city by approving the destruction of historical buildings. The wreaking ball is allowed to swing capriciously, tearing down many of the structures that makes the city unique and a tourist destination.
Next to the Target on Sunset and La Brea lies Pickfair Studios aka The Lot, which at 90 years, is the oldest functioning studio in the world. The studio was bought in 1922 by silent film stars and powerful Hollywood couple Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.. Mary Pickford was the most powerful actress in Hollywood at the time, and many of her demands influenced how contracts were formed across the board.
The couple united with Fairbank’s friend Charlie Chaplin, who was the only other actor to rival Pickford’s popularity, and film pioneer D.W. Griffith, in 1919 to form United Artists. The joint venture was a way to control their films and their own futures, and the studio became United Artist Studios. It was one of the only major independent movies studios in Hollywood.
They were later joined by Howard Hughes and Samuel Goldwyn, and when sound was introduced and the acting careers of the original four shrank, it became Goldwyn Studios. In 1980, it was bought by Warner Brothers, and it became Warner Hollywood Studios. In 1999, it was sold to Skye Partners who renamed it as The Lot, and rented it out for private use but wanted to tear it down (albeit was dissuaded by Hollywood Heritage’s Robert Nudelman). Recently, it was acquired by CIM Group , to date, several of it’s seven sound stages are used for HBO’s True Blood.
LA Conservancy details how it got to this stage, as it started in 1991 when Warner Brothers proposed an expansion that included tearing down the historic Formosa Cafe (circa 1925). A successful grassroots effort preserved the Formosa Cafe, but the compromise given by West Hollywood City Council was the demolition of 5 historic building on the main studio campus. When Warner Brothers sold the property in 1999, they also sold the entitlements of development/demolition. A new 2003 plan saved a couple of the buildings slated for demolition, but not the 1919 Pickford building. Despite being fought by LA Conservancy, Hollywood Heritage, and others, West Hollywood City Council ignored them and approved the teardown in 2007.
CIM Group announced they were moving forward with their plans of “renovation” for the studio, which called for a teardown of the Goldwyn building, the Pickford building, the Fairbanks Gym and many others. The Pickford building came down early this week and the other buildings will follow
The Pickford and Fairbanks family has spoken out about the teardown at the studios and made a statement about Hollywood turning a blind eye to the demolition legacies.
When will Los Angeles, especially those who have a vested interest in tourism dollars- city governments, tourist outfits, the hollywood entertainment, etc – wake up, take some pride and preserve what makes it a fascinating destination and industry?
Wikipedia: Mary Pickford, United Artists
Save the Pickford Studios
Oscarvation, Cinema-fantatic, Google Streetview