It’s the 1929 Spanish Colonial Revival theater in the heart of downtown Riverside, California. Like many great buildings of it era, it had its heyday and decline. But what stands out here, the site was saved and brought back to its former glory as an up to date regional performing arts center.
It was the first theatre to screen Gone With The Wind, one of the gold-standards of all time successful films. Hollywood liked to have test screenings here because it wasn’t “big city.” and Riverside better reflected how middle America would react.
The Riverside Fox Theater was designed by Los Angeles-based architects Clifford Balch and engineer Floyd E. Stanberry, who were responsible for designing many of the Fox West Coast Theaters. Some 58 theaters in total by Balch.
The Fox Riverside is a perfect example of the undeniable attractiveness of original historic fabric. The unmatched beauty achieved by original design integrity. A far superior option than demolition and replacing with bland generic cookie cutter junk.
Stenciled beams and light fixture of the Fox Riverside.
The San Diego regional portfolio of Clifford Balch includes the Adams Theatre in Normal Heights, Aztec Theatre (now basically a stripped hull used for Urban Outfitters 665 5th Avenue), and the Sunshine Brooks Theatre 217 North Coast Highway, Oceanside. And once upon a time the Balch and Strawberry Palomar Theatre 314 N. Coast Highway. Now long gone.
Last but not least the historic neon blade sign. A beauty and landmark in its own right.
In a Preservation story that began in 2005, some 14 years later a milestone was reached in Amboy with the 2019 relighting of the landmark Route 66 neon sign – Roy’s Motel Cafe. One of the most recognized sites associated with that legendary historic highway.
Amboy exists from as early as 1859. And like a lot of sites that sprinkle the Mojave map it came about because of the emergence of railroads and mineral discovery. It became a town in 1883. But the opening of Route 66 in 1926 is what gave Amboy life. Its isolated spot in the Mojave worked strategically well for weary travelers needing gas, a place to sleep, and eat.
Roy was Roy Crowl who opened the gas station here in 1938. In the 1940’s Roy’s stayed open 24 hours and expanded operations with the addition of the cafe and motel. Post World War II Amboy was hopping with business.
The Googie elements, the office and magnificent neon sign – which make the site so recognized and beloved – were added in 1959.
But it was the Interstate that killed Amboy, when I-40 bypassed the town in 1973. Amboy eventually became a ghost town.
But fast forward to 2005 when a chain of chicken restaurants came to the rescue. It was Albert Okura The Chicken Man, founder of Juan Pollo Chicken, with operations in 28 Southern California locations.
One location is on Historic Route 66 in San Bernadino. At the same spot Okura operates a Route 66 museum. Also nearby he owns the site of the very first McDonalds restaurant site. The McDonald’s building no longer exists, and you can’t buy hamburgers there. But there is a McDonald’s museum on the property.
Okura’s dream is to have the entire site at Amboy, the Motel, Cafe, and gas station, in full operation once again. Restore it and they will come seems to be his driving belief.
Only a puddle remains where the historic Summit Inn diner once stood. One of the most recognized roadside landmarks in all of Southern California, this beloved diner burnt to the ground during the Blue Cut Wildfires on August 16, 2016.
The history of Summit Inn dates back to 1928. It was replaced by the Summit Inn people remember today in 1952. A time when Route 66 flourished. Patron over the years include Elvis, Danny Thomas, Clint Eastwood, Pierce Brosmon, and Pearl Bailey, to mention a few.
Nearly four years after it was destroyed it appears hope has faded for rebuilding. Early-on the owners vowed to rebuild. But conceivably the cost of clearing the site and removing contaminated toxic ground soil became cost prohibitive for rebuilding the Summit Inn.
Waking up to a winter wonderland in the Mojave on November 30, 2019 as I was VW Kombi camping and road tripping.
One will encounter a number of sites and markers on the trek through the Mojave National Preserve.
One is the Mojave Cross. It is officially known as the White Cross World War I Memorial.
The cross stands on Sunrise Rock, a granite outcropping adjacent to Cima Road about 12 miles south of Interstate 15.
In a story that parallels the Mount Soledad Cross story in La Jolla, there was a decades long battle over the Mojave Cross.
In April 2012, a settlement was reached to allow the cross to remain at the Mojave Land Preserve via a land swap. Five acres of private land given to the federal government in exchange for the one acre of land surrounding Sunset Rock. Ownership of that site was transferred to the local Veterans of Foreign War post.
The site is fenced, with entrances for visitors. There are benches and picnic tables. And ample signage explaining that the cross is on private land and noting it is a memorial for war veterans
Seemingly out in the middle of “nowhere” along Cima Road in the Mojave Desert, this jewel of a train station suddenly appears as a desert oasis. It’s the 1923 Kelso Train Station. Unlike the ghost town relics surrounding it, this beautiful building is in nearly pristine condition.
While the station is from 1923 the importance of the site as a railroad rest stop goes back to at least 1905 when Kelso was founded. The name was chosen purely by chance. Name rights were submitted on pieces of paper and placed into a hat. Upon draw, all at once John H. Kelso had a town named after him.
This Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival design comes from the drawing boards of John and Donald Parkinson. If you don’t know their names, you certainly know their portfolio. They designed the USC Master Plan, LA Coliseum, LA City Hall, Bullocks Wilshire, Union Station, and Grand Central Market – to name a few.
The train station survives today by the sheer will of concerned citizens who stepped up to save the building from demolition when it closed as a train station in 1985. Key to this preservation effort was The National Park Service gaining control of the site in 1994 .
The building reopened to the public in 2005 as the visitor center for the Mojave National Preserve. There are interpretive displays, both inside and out, providing a valuable understanding to the historical significance of the station’s location.
It is explained why a fancy train station is in the middle of “nowhere.” One reason is an abundant supply of ground water for steam engines.
It was a “helper” station. Because of the severity of the long steep Cima Grade, helper engines were needed to assist trains on that grade. Kelso was home of those helper engines, and there was a big roundhouse there to direct, turn around, and utilize them. Kelso was the helper station in regards to fuel and water as well.
A beautifully designed building that was well used and well loved for a long time. It became affectionately known as the Kelso Club House. More than a train and ticket station it was telegraph office, restaurant, reading room, and dormitory rooms for railroad employees.
The interior has been restored and preserved as well, including the lunch room. Nice they didn’t forget to save the neon sign. However it appears it has suffered some wind damage, as the power cable was pulled out of the wall.
The focus of my photo essay is the exterior. Visitors wanting to see the Kelso Train Station inside and out – be advised they are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
In addition to the historic translation, visitors may also view the Kelso Jail. These human cages were utilized from the mid 1940’s all the way to 1985. To lock up, for a night or two, the town drunks who became unruly. Neither the heat or the cold of the Mojave made these cages very comfortable.
But by all accounts, this sort of imprisonment hasn’t gone away. Only from here.
You know you’re in downtown Kelso when…you see the Post Office. Open from 1905, through Kelso’s boom years during WW2, and finally closing in 1962.
Ghost Town…ghost sign.
Foundation and Fireplace, Kelso Ghost Town
The warmth and comfort once provided, now a ghost town ruin.
There’s a whole realm of study, philosophy, and psychology that went into Richard Neutra’s 1927 -1929 Lovell Health House.
Called the Health house for a reason. It was meant to be a place to practice physical fitness, dietary discipline, sunbathing, and outdoor sleeping.
Neutra believed that a thorough study of psychology and science of the mind, and creating design practices from that, an architect could establish a profound and direct relationship between architecture and psychology.
Upon completion it stirred enormous interest in Los Angeles. Truly nothing like this steel constructed house existed there before. And the health spa aspect of it was of great interest as well. Upon its completion an organized tour of the house attracted some 15,000 visitors.
While Neutra intensely pursued his psycho-physical architectural theories, it’s doubtful living in any of his great designs ever cured psychosis.
But there’s no question creating a beautiful environment in which to live enhances one’s quality of life. We as humans are stimulated, inspired, and thrilled by great design and creation, whether it be architecture, music, theater, or dance.
La Misión San Diego de Alcalá. 1769.