Posted on June 29th, 2010

By Shelton A. Gunaratne © 2010

As my Fullerton Year (1983) was rapidly coming to a close, I realized that we””‚Junius, Yoke-Sim and I””‚had not spent much time exploring the multitude of attractions available in downtown Los Angeles even though we had been to numerous nooks and corners of California that many an inveterate native would have missed. The last 20 installments of this series have focused on California. To play “catch up,” I made four additional forays to downtown on three Saturdays (19 Nov., 3 Dec., and 18 Jan.) and a Wednesday (23 Nov.) afternoon. 

 Thugs “ƒ”¹…”Hurt’ Volvo

My exchange partner Larry Taylor’s Volvo, which we used for all our local travel, withstood all the rigors of our two long camping trips and sundry trips to San Diego, Santa Barbara and San Francisco until the Saturday (3 Dec.) morning, when we parked it in downtown Los Angeles at Fifth Street and Maple, close to Fire Station 23.

Having parked the car and making sure that it was safely locked with nothing visible to invite attention, we set off on a walking tour of the attractions in the vicinity.  We stopped to see:

  • The Coca Cola Building (1334 S. Central Ave.) with the appearance of a ship with portholes, catwalk and a bridge from five existing industrial buildings (1939)
  • The Herald-Examiner Building (1111 S. Broadway), which is used nearly exclusively as a film location since the Hearst-owned Herald Examiner folded in 1989. It brought memories of Hearst Castle, which we visited on 31 July.
  • The Flower Market (Seventh and Wall)
  • Fire Station No. 23 (225 E. Fifth St.), the “Taj Mahal” of firehouses, 1910-1960
  • The Stock Exchange (618 S. Spring St.) [Closed]
  • The Los Angeles Theater (615 S. Broadway) [Closed]
  • Clifton’s [terrazzo] Sidewalk (648 S. Broadway), which depicts L.A. area highlights; and
  • The James Oviatt Building (617 S. Olive St.), an Art Deco high-rise (1928)

Next, we spent some time at Arco Plaza; then, crossed over to Westin Bonaventure Hotel when it started raining. We took the lift to the hotel’s revolving restaurant at the top. Then, we crossed over to the World Trade Center and the Security Pacific Plaza. From there, I walked in the rain to the spot where we parked the Volvo.

To my utter dismay, I found the Volvo “in pain.” An L.A. thug had smashed its right-hand rear passenger window. We still don’t know what “booty” he took away from the vehicle. However, we recalled the uncomfortable feeling we had at the fire-station stop because of the body language of the shady characters hobnobbing there.

We promptly reported the matter to LAPD, which took it as a routine incident. The officer blamed us for parking the car in a downtown street.

We drove to the Heritage School (450 N. Grant), where we ate our picnic lunch in the rain. Then, we proceeded to Hammond Park to visit the Southwest Museum, Casa de Adobe, Lummis Home and Heritage Square. We reviewed the Dodger Stadium from Elysian Park. Finally, we drove to the Farmers Market to eat dinner at Peking Kitchen.

 Becoming Hog Friendly

If you want to appreciate the life style of a hog and like the smell of bacon, stop by at Clougherty Meat Packing Co., just to the south of downtown LA, to see the   Farmer John Pig Mural (3049 E. Vernon Ave., Vernon). That’s exactly what we did another Saturday (19 Nov.) morning on our way to downtown exploration.

The mural, which surrounds the entire building, basically depicts farm landscapes–fields, trees, corn, barns, etc., and of course, lots of pigs, big and small. It reflects the artistic talent of Hollywood painter Les Grimes, who approached Barney Clougherty, then owner of “Farmer John” brand meat-packing company, to decorate the outside of his building.  In 1957, with Clougherty’s blessing, Grimes started work on the massive mural, and spent the next 11 years working on his “masterpiece.” Unfortunately, Grimes died in a fall from the 50- ft.-high scaffolding he was using to paint a portion of the sky on the mural.  Then, Clougherty hired Arno Jordan to finish the mural.

 Niche for Performing Arts

In spite of its negative reputation for crime, we found downtown LA a haven for those who appreciate the performing arts. The testimony is in the success of the Music Center (135 N. Grand Ave.). Located in an 11-acre area, it comprises four venues: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (3,197 seats), Ahmanson Theatre (1,600 to 2,007 seats), Mark Taper Forum (745 seats), and (the 2003 addition) Walt Disney Concert Hall (2,265 seats). The complex is officially called the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, and it attracts some 1.3 million visitors annually. We saw the center from outside because none of the venues was open on the Saturday morning we visited.

For History Lovers

Our main destination of the day was El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park, where we gathered at the Old Plaza Firehouse (1884). Docent Grace King took us on a walking tour of the 44-acre park from noon to 1.30 p.m.

King showed us the Avila Adobe (1818), the oldest existing house in Los Angeles; the Old Plaza Church (1822), the oldest church in the city; the Masonic Hall (1858); the Sepulveda House (1884); the Merced Theater; and the Pico House
The Avila Adobe was the residence of Francisco Avila, a wealthy ranchero and alcalde (mayor) of the pueblo of Los Angeles (1810″”…”1811). Today only one wing of the original 18-room mansion remains. The adobe contained 3-ft-thick cottonwood timber walls. Originally built with packed earth floors, it now contains plank wood floors.
King also explained the other buildings on Olvera Street, one of the oldest streets in the city considered the home to Mexican culture.

After the tour, we visited the St Vibiana Cathedral (1876). Then, we went to the Grand Central Public Market, where we ate a late lunch at China CafĮՠթ.

Refreshed, we crossed the road to see the Bradbury Building (304 S. Broadway), an architectural landmark built in1893. Silver mining millionaire Lewis Bradbury hired architect George Wyman, who gave the building an Italian Renaissance-style exterior faƒÆ’†’§ade. “But the magnificence of the building is the interior: reached through the entrance, with its low ceiling and minimal light, it opens into a bright naturally lit great center court” (Wikipedia).
We stopped briefly at Pershing Square before visiting Biltmore Hotel (1923). Our final tour stops for the day were the Central Library and the shopping area of Westin Bonaventure Hotel (1976).

 Value-Added Wednesday

On a Wednesday (23 Dec.) afternoon, Yoke-Sim and I added a few more downtown-area attractions to our  “brag list” on our way to Burbank (pop. 108,000) for a two-hour tour The Burbank Studios or TBS (4000 Warner Blvd.), the home of Warner Bros. and Columbia Pictures. (We left Junius with a babysitter in Fullerton.) Dick Mason, an 18-year veteran of TBS, gave us an introductory talk and assigned us to a female guide who bundled us into an open vehicle to explain what was going on within the 108-acre premises of the studios.  We saw the actual filming of “Black Thunder” and “Falcon Crest.”

The value-added attractions we visited on this trip were:

  • San Antonio Winery (737 Lamar St.), founded in 1917. It is Los Angeles’ oldest winery still in operation. We bought a bottle of red wine for subsequent consumption.
  • Echo Park, a hilly neighborhood northwest of downtown. I walked along the lagoon enjoying the downtown LA skyline in the background.
  • Angelina Heights, where we saw the once fashionable Victorian neighborhood (the 1300 block of Carroll Avenue) dating back to 1886.

Junius and Yoke-Sim left for Australia on 1 Jan. 1984. My mother accompanied me on my Fullerton Year’s final foray into downtown LA on 14 Jan.  The important attractions we visited included the Convention Center, the Variety Arts Theater (940 S. Figueroa St.), the Otis Art Institute (2401 Wiltshire Blvd.), the Wiltshire Boulevard [Jewish] Temple, the Mormon Temple (10777 Santa Monica Blvd.) and the Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara (1847 Crenshaw Blvd.).

Next: The Huntington and Vicinity

 (The writer is professor of mass communications emeritus, Minnesota State University Moorhead)


Figure 1: SELECTED ATTRACTIONS IN DOWNTOWN LA AND VICINITY. A=Farmer John Pig Mural; B=Coca Cola Building; C=Herald-Examiner Building; D=LA Convention Center; E=Fire Station No. 23; F=Bradbury Building; G=LA Music Center; H=El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park; I=Dodger Stadium; J=San Antonio Winery/Chinatown; K=Heritage Square; L=Lummis Home & Gardens; M=Southwest Museum; N=Echo Park; O=1300 bloc Carroll St. (fashionable Victorian style homes); and P=Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Temple.






Picture 1:  Los Angeles Fire Station No. 23 Historic Site, where shady characters were apparently conniving to break into our vehicle on the Saturday (3 Dec. 1983) morning when we visited the site. We had parked the car on East Fifth at Maple, close to the site. Yoke-Sim and Junius are at the entrance.









Picture 2: A scene from the Farmer John Pig Mural in Vernon, three miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Yoke-Sim and Junius are trying to hobnob with the hogs.  The smell of bacon added to flavor of the mural. (19 Nov. 1983)


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2021 All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress