Built in 1953 as the Big Donut Drive In this Los Angeles landmark is an example of programatic/thematic architecture that was once a rage in Southern California. An architecture related to roadside convenience for freeway laden modern society. There’s a great book by Jim Heimann and Rip Geoges about this type of architecture titled California Crazy – Roadside Vernacular Architecture. Chronicling the times when architecture was allowed to be distinctive and fun.
Diary of Helen Hussey
Shopping along Fillmore Street and the New Fillmore Hotel on the right. Image source: http://newfillmore.com “The New Fillmore – The Latest News From The Heart And Soul Of San Francisco.” Robert F. Oaks the the author of the Arcadia published “San Francisco’s Filmore District.” https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/9780738529882/San-Franciscos-Fillmore-District
Wednesday November 8, 1939 “Went to the bank and post office. Money Order came from Ruth McKales. Sent receipt and final payment on tires! Matinee at the Alexandria. Nite – Sam and I to Fillmore to buy dinner for tomorrow. Bought some Port.
On the marquee “Tea And Sympathy” starring Deborah Kerr. It was released November 5, 1956. Image source: Richmond Street Blog
From Cinema Treasures
The Alexandria Theatre opened on November 26, 1923 with Douglas MacLean in Going Up. It was built at a cost of $350,000 by Oppenheimer & (Alex) Levin; Reid Brothers were the architects. From the beginning, it was one of the Richmond district’s leading second-run theaters.
In 1941, it underwent extensive remodeling, emerging totally Moderne, with only the original stone pillars on its corner facade still exhibiting evidence of its original Egyptian roots.
It re-opened on June 19, 1942, but due to wartime blackout restrictions, much of its new neon elegance had to be subdued until sometime later. In the late-1950’s it was upgraded to a first run 70MM, reserved seat policy premiering such roadshow attractions as South Pacific (48 weeks), Exodus (20 weeks), Can Can (19 weeks), El Cid (21 weeks), The Longest Day (19 weeks),Cleopatra (56 weeks) & Oliver! (43 weeks).
On November 24, 1976, it re-opened as Alexandria 3, with the former balcony and loge sections converted into two separate, smaller auditoriums, but with the original downstairs section more or less intact.
Beneath the remodeling, rumor has it that the original dome and atmospheric ceiling still exists, retaining its twinkling lights, or at least the sockets, and that behind the bland walls of the lobby one can still see lotus-topped columns and colorful hieroglyphics.
The theater closed in the beginning of 2004 and its future is uncertain.
The Golden Gate Theater
Image Source: Amazon
Thursday November 9, 1939 “To town and bought shirts and shorts for Sam. Went to the Golden Gate and saw the
Marx Ritz Brothers. Very funny. Marc out with Sam for dinner. Phil stopped in tonight.”
Friday November 10, 1939 “Busy morning. Shampoo and bathed Bijou. Washed, shopped, etc. Walked in the park. Nite met Sam and dinner at Hotel Espanol. Stopped at Tony’s. She’s not feeling so well. Home and port. Sam doesn’t have to work tomorrow. Found a parking ticket on the car. Pacific.
Hotel Espanol was at 719 Broadway. There is no 719 there anymore – probably demo’ed. The highest number on the corner building goes to 715. The peach color stucco building next to it is number 777. Google maps points to the empty space of an alley for 719. Nothing there.
Saturday November 11, 1939 “Jeanne and I to town. Had to walk from Civic Center on account of the Armistice Day parade. Bought new hat, sweater for Jeanne. Nite Ruth and Bill came in. Quite a binge. They brought a bike, etc.”
Sunday November 12, 1939 “Tony, Jeanne, Ruth, Duke, and I to see Winchester House. Picnic in San Jose – lot of fun. Beautiful country. Home about 3:30. Nite gabbed and beer. Bed about 11:30.
Monday November13, 1939 “Ruth and Bill left about 9. Met Tony at 5 and to the Palace Hotel. Saw Boys of Brazil band. To Jacopetti’s for sandwiches. Then to the Curran – first night of Taming of the Shrew, Lunt and Fontaine. Swell!!
Tuesday November 14, 1939 “Ironed in the morning. Then shopped, library, and walked Bijou in the park. Afternoon and Nite, Read + Radio.”
It was a building inspired by a vision of the 21st century depicted in an 1888 novel. Then 94 years later was depicted in a film vision of the 21st century.
Image: Creative Commons
The street view doesn’t quite reveal the characteristics of a future vision. The building’s facade is clearly an Italian Rennaissance Revial, Romanesque Revival design of its time (1894).
Image: Creative Commons
You might walk by without ever knowing what lies beyond the arched entry.
Image: Creative Commons
But the inside – that’s another story. It was the shared dream of two men. Lewis Bradbury who had a specific philosophy and ideas of what he wanted built. And the young man whom Bradbury met – they shared that philosophy and those ideas. He was George Herbert Wyman – who wasn’t even an architect, but draftsman by trade. Their common vision stemmed from a futuristic novel called Looking Backward 1887 – 2000 by George Herbert Wyman.
Image: Creative Commons
Bellamy’s futuristic structures in Looking Backward were described as “vast halls filled with light.” The Bradbury building has a glass roof which baths the entire central portion of the interior in daylight. The railings, balconies and supporting columns are made of iron. The resulting effect is a suspended, floating illusion of interior elements.
It stands as one of the most distinctive and remarkable interiors of any office building ever constructed.
Images: Creative Commons
The Bradbury interiors inspired by a Utiopian future depicted in Looking Backward by Edward Belamy.
The building not only attracted the producers of Blade Runner. There have been dozens of other Film, Television, and Commercial productions that have used the Bradbury Building as a set.
Image: Dan Soderberg
Louis Bradbury died before his building was complete. His dedication to creating his lasting legacy notwithstanding, even he likely wouldn’t dare imagine how the building would continue to inspire and fascinate well into the 21st century.
The Bradbury Building is located on Broadway at 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA
Lunt and Fontanne, an American husband-and-wife acting team who performed together in more than two dozen theatrical productions, from Sweet Nell of Old Drury (1923) to The Visit (1958). Alfred Lunt (b. Aug. 19, 1892, Milwaukee, Wis. d. Aug. 3, 1977, Chicago, Ill.) and Lynn Fontanne (original name Lillie Louise Fontanne; b. Dec. 6, 1887, Essex, Eng. d. July 30, 1983, Genesee Depot, Wis., U.S.) were long associated with the playwright Noel Coward, whose play Design for Living (1933) was written for them. They eventually earned a reputation as the greatest husband-and-wife team in the history of the theatre. — Encyclopedia Britannica
Thursday November 2, 1939 “I went to cooking school in the morning. Afternoon to the library and the park. Nite at home and read. Tony over for a few minutes. Marc and Ruth phoned. ”
Friday November 3, 1939 “Jeanne home with a sore back. Went to cooking school in the afternoon. Jeanne feeling better – walked in the park + to Clement Street. Had dinner at the Grotto. Went out with Marc and the Rosses to Burlingame + saw Ruth. Good Scotch. Home at 12:30”
Number 9 Fisherman’s Grotto was typically referred to in 1939 as “The Grotto.” It was built on stall number 9 at Fisherman’s Wharf in 1935.
But there was also Bernstein’s Fish Grotto, dating back to 1880. It was at this location, 123 Powell Street, since 1911. Its street-front replica of the bow of a ship was added in 1930. Fun! But sadly it all came to an end in June of 1981.
Another Grotto, Exposition Fish Grotto
Saturday November 4, 1939. “Jeanne and I downtown in the morning. Met Sam at noon. Ate at Jacopetto’s. At nite Jeanne and Duke to the theatre. Sam and I to Filmore Street. It was interesting.
https://images.app.goo.gl/vLvzQT633tYjc6Lx5 San Francisco rooftops looking toward Coit Tower on the left, and the Golden Gate International Exposition at Treasure Island on the right. 1939.
Sunday November 5, 1939. “A Grand Day. Sam and I walked through the park to the beach, and along the beach, and then back. Tony phoned, also Ted! Jeanne and Duke went to a show. Sam and I stayed home. Read and Radio.
In view here on the left is Playland. It was a 10-acre seaside amusement park located next to Ocean Beach, in the Richmond District at the western edge of San Francisco along Great Highway where Cabrillo and Balboa streets are now. It began as a collection of amusement rides and concessions in the late 19th century and was known as Chutes At The Beach as early as 1913. It closed Labor Day weekend in 1972. Condos are there now. Beyond that are the windmills marking the Western entrance to Golden Gate Park.
Monday November 6, 1939 “Up early to town – paid electric bill and window shopped. Bought gloves and writing paper. Walked in the park. Nite – wrote to B. and Irene. Radio and read. Tony phone about card from Humberto.
Tuesday November 7, 1939 “Up early and voted in S.F. for the 1st time – machines. Took Sam to work. Went home and walked in the par. Afternoon Jap washed windows. Jeanne and I picked Sam up at 5:15. Up to 11:30 for election returns. Rossi re elected. Ham and Eggs beaten. Also number 5 – oil – defeated.
Angelo Joseph Rossi (January 22, 1878 – April 5, 1948) was the 31st mayor of San Francisco. He was the first mayor of 100% Italian descent of a major U.S. city (top 10 most populous U.S. cities between 1776 and 1931). Rossi served as San Francisco’s mayor from 1931 to 1944. He was mayor when the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge were built, and he presided over the building of Treasure Island and the Golden Gate International Exposition (World’s Fair) of 1939. Under his administration, the city resisted compliance with the Raker Act which required San Francisco to sell power from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite to municipalities or municipal water districts, and not to any corporations, a condition of use of the Hetch Hetchy Valley. He dedicated the Mount Davidson Cross in March, 1934. Though a Republican he was a strong proponent of the New Deal “alphabet-soup” roster of work programs and worked vigorously and constantly with Washington to bring as many dollars to the City as possible in order to create jobs and improve the City’s infrastructure. Being unfriendly to the Labor movement, Husseys most certainly voted against him.
“The Great Depression of the 1930s brought economic distress to many Americans. Although poverty was widespread, the elderly suffered more than any other segment of the population. Faced with a real threat of hunger, many Americans looked to government to provide them some form of financial assistance.
In response to this critical need, various special programs were proposed. The federal government’s New Deal initiative created the Social Security system in 1935. In California the most prominent pension schemes were Upton Sinclair’s End Poverty in California (EPIC) campaign, the Townsend Movement (named for its architect, Dr. Francis E. Townsend), and the Ham and Eggs or 30-Thursday crusade, which proposed a $30 weekly pension for every resident fifty years of age and older.
The Ham and Eggs proposal was first presented to California voters as Proposition 25 in the 1938 general election. The initiative was narrowly defeated with a statewide vote of 1,398,999 to 1,143,670. Because of the closeness of the vote, the movement’s backers, the Retirement Life Payments Association (RLPA) decided to try again. They were able to secure over one million petition signatures–enough to persuade Governor Culbert Olson to call a special election for November 1939.” –Chris Ernest Nelson, Graduate student, San Diego State University
Monday October 23, 1939 “Felt Low. Walked in the park. Cold day. ”
Tuesday October 24, 1939 “Cold clear day. Walked Bijou in the park. Read and shopped.
George Stinson “From Policeman to Opera Singer.” Image Source: HistoricImages – Store
Wednesday October 25, 1939 “Jeanne and I went to the Fair. Count Basie played. Heard George Stinson sing – grand voice. Also watched the Hawaiians, the Marimbas. 5pm met Tony at Brazil. Saw the gang. Home early. Then late had to pick up Sam and Phil at the plant. Lots of drinks.”
Thursday October 26, 1939 “Slite hangover – long walk in the park. Saw a crazy nut in the street.”
Friday October 27, 1939 “Had to pick up Sam. Out for drinks. Home late.”
Image Source: Cruising The Past
Saturday October 28, 1939. “To the Fair with Tony. Heard Orrin Tucker. Met Ted and had a couple of drinks. Stopped at the plant. A few more drinks. Home and more drinks. Sam drunk with Cy and Tommy. To bed late.”
Sunday October 29, 1939 “Last day of the Fair – quite a time. Jeanne, Duke, Tony, and Phil closed Brazil House – got three bags of coffee. Danced and drank at various places. Saw the closing ceremonies. Home, and Sam in not very good condition.”
I haven’t been able to locate images of closing day. But below is a newsreel style summary of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition
Monday October 30, 1939. “Felt low. Jeanne stayed home – in bed most of the day.”
Tuesday October 31, 1939 “Still slightly shaky. Lazy day. Jeanne and I went to a show. Halloween – quite a lot of noise.”
Saturday October 14, 1939. To the Fair with Tony, Dodo & Jeanne. Saw glassblowers, the Honolulu Clipper. Lovely day. Nite – Ted back the house with us. He and Tony left about 1 am.
San Francisco Fox Theatre, One of the grandest movie palaces ever built was demolished in 1963. Image Source Cinema Treasures
Sunday October 15, 1939 “Sam to Union meeting. Jeanne, Tony & I went to the Fox Theatre – Then drove to Fisherman’s Wharf and saw the fishing fleet go out. Nite with Sam to Scotts – Tired!
Monday October 16, 1939. “Downtown – paid phone. Shopped a little. Nite with Sam to Library. Ted phoned & tried to date Jeanne.
Tuesday October 17, 1939 “Lovely Fall day – Walked in the park. Shopped on Clement Street. Read.
Image Source Jazz Lives – Count Basie seated, middle.
Wednesday October 18, 1939 Sam and I to the Fair after picking up Press Card at Marc’s. To Palace of Arts and heard Count Basie. Saw the Guard Mount and the Clipper departs. Bought shakers for Carola. Home early Tony called – party to be Friday.
Views of Fillmore Street, image source http://www.cable-car-guy.com
Thursday October 19, 1939. “Went to Fillmore Street for Brazil coffee – window shopped – very interesting. At the library afternoon and nite. Went alone to a show at nite. Nice walk in the park. Beautiful Fall day.”
Friday October 20, 1939. “Cleaned house. Nite to the party at Tony’s for the Brazil band. Vic and Ginni had a fight on the way home.”
Lily Pons 1939. Image Source www.albionmich.com
Lily Pons was renown and successful on many tracks. She was an opera singer known for her coloratura soprano repertoire – distinguished by agile runs, leaps and trills. She was also a successful concert singer with a lucrative schedule until her retirement in 1973. She was a recording artist, worked in movies and television.
Saturday October 21, 1939. “Hot today. Jon & Fred got in from L.A. Tony and I to the Fair. Heard Lily Pons. After coffee Tony and I went to the Press Club, etc. with Vic. Then home. Waldrons here. Drank Tom Collins. Vic stayed at Tony’s.”
Sunday October 22, 1939 “Jon, Sam & Fred to the Fair together. Tony, Jeanne, Phil & Vic and I met Sam and Jon and we did the rounds.”
From the ongoing series, Diary of Helen Hussey – Golden Gate International Exposition Years, 1939 – 1940.
Photo is from Jeanne’s 10th Grade, Fall 1939 Year Book, The Polytechnic. “Athletes of Polytechnic.”
Tuesday, September 26, 1939. “Lovely day. Walked to the beach + back. Sam home early. Nite to the library.
Wednesday, September 27, 1939. “Perfect day – walked in the Park with Bijou. Met young man with a dog. Nite read and listened to the radio. Torry stopped in for a few minutes.
Thursday, September 28, 1939. “Lovely day. Walked to the beach and back. Quiet evening of radio. Wrote to Irene and Carola. Jeanne to the first football game of the season. Marc and Rosses over for gin.”
Friday September 29, 1939. “Hangover. Took Bijou to the park -Saw a Packard! Nite, Sam, Jeanne + I to dinner in Chinatown. Window shopped + Sam made a deposit on a bracelet for my birthday present. Got a card from Zella.”
The parade for San Francisco Day at Golden Gate International Exposition, September 30, 1939. Image source sfgate.com (Photo published 10/1/39).
Saturday, Sepetember 30, 1939. “To the Fair with Tony + Sam. Did a lot of trekking around. Met Jeanne at Brazil – saw the San Francisco Day parade. It poured at nite. Cabbed over to the car. Bought sherry. Home about 9.”
Sunday October 1, 1939. “Took Sam to Union meeting. Scott, Ricco and another man came back with him – drank martinis. Nite Rosses came over – more gin.”
Monday October 2, 1939 “Hangover. Nite to dinner at Salad Bowl. Cold nite. Saw airplane and lights from Presidio. Kathleen phoned.
Tuesday October 3, 1939 “Cold worse. Felt rotten. Cleaned the flat, and man came for the vacuum. Paid some bills and to the bank. To bed early.”
Paramount Theatre 1066 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102. Photo source cinematreasures.org
Wednesday October 4, 1939 “To town. Paid on the car. To the Paramount to see “The Women.” Missed first game of the World Series. Yanks 2 Cincy 1. Nite Tony + Phil over. Then Sam and I to the library. News – the Fair closes October 29 instead of December 2. Duke called Jeanne and made date for Saturday.
Just a nondescript plug a building fills the void of where the beautiful Mission Revival Paramount Theatre once stood. The magnificent theatre held 2,656 seats.
Thursday October 5, 1939. “Listened to the series. Yanks 4 – Cincy 0. Took cat to pet hospital for operation – $10. Check from Ruth. Nite – Marc to supper + then went to Kathleens’s. Had gingerbread and drinks. Stopped at Jacopetti’s for cafe diablo. Marc here all night – pouring rain!”
Colonel Andrews Diamond Palace at 50 Kearny Street – “Most beautiful jewelry store in the world”.
Friday October 6, 1939 “Rather weary today. Nite-with Jeanne to meet Sam for dinner in Chinatown. Picked up bracelet + bought bamboo table mats. Home + bed early.”
Friday September 22, 1939 “Hotter than ever. Jeanne and I drove to Rockaway Beach (Pacifica). At nite surprised by Cy and B. calling. Later Amy and S. Ross over for Tom Collins. Bed at 1:40.”
Saturday September 23, 1939 “Another hot day. Sam, Tony, and I to Vanessi’s late…”
“After went to the Fair – Coffee at Brazil…”
Leopold Stokowski conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra, 1939
“…And then to Stokowski’s concert. Marvelous! Home about midnite. B came in later and spent the nite.”
Sunday September 24, 1939. “Cool again. B., J., & I to the Fair. A lot of walking. Jeanne came home early. B.& I did the Gay Way.”
Monday September 25, 1939. ” Showers today. Took B. to the 11:50 bus. Registered at the Emporium. Then went shopping at Crystal Market. Picked Jeanne up after school. Picked Sam up at 6:30 or 7.”
The Emporium, 835 Market Street, operated from 1896 – 1995. The site became a reconstruction project with much of the original “bones and fabric” of the building demolished, save the facade and iconic dome.
The Emporium Rotunda in 1905. The building was gutted by the 1906 Earthquake, but reopened 2 1/2 years later including the rebuilt dome.
Photo source blog.sfgate.com
The enormously delicate operation of saving the historic facade and dome during the modern day reconstruction.
Emporium facade today. The cast-iron window system, sandstone walls, columns, historic wood windows and glazing were completely restored. The revived street level features extensive display windows, bronze doors and copper piping, all elements of its 1908 appearance, as well as charming concealed entries and windows. Balustrades removed in years past are again prominent at the building’s cornice and over the main entry of the fourth floor. At night, lighting highlights the facade’s remarkable architecture. The Market Street facade serves as a main entrance to the centre preserving the old world charm of historic Union Square and Market Street. Image source: www.kainc.com
On August 1, 1959, the Crystal Palace Market closed its doors and was demolished to make room for an $8 million, 400-room Del Webb TowneHouse luxury motel.
“The complex was originally built in the 1960s as a motor hotel known as Del Webb’s Towne House. Webb may be better known for building a Japanese internment camp during WWII, and later The Flamingo Hotel & Casino for famed mobster Bugsy Siegel. Webb built the Towne House as part of a national chain. The motel was unsuccessful from the start, and later converted to apartments.” — http://sf.curbed.com
Replaced by 1,900-unit Trinity Place apartment project. Looking hard to see just what part of this architecture says anything uniquely positive about San Francisco.
“San Francisco in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the City by the Bay” lists the House That Jack Built as a Costa Rican restaurant located at 2014 Grant Avenue. No indication of that historic time and place today here at the end of Grant Avenue.
Former Koffee Kup, now two store fronts. One selling comics. The other an ice cream parlor.
Image courtesy of Bjorn Palenius
Saturday September 16, 1939. “Beastly hot! To the Fair with Tony – Saw Harry Owens Show…”
Selection from Harry Owens and his Royal Canadians Voice of The Trade Winds.
Owens was the band leader who organized The Royal Hawaiians orchestra at the hotel of the same name in Waikiki in 1933.
But he was most renown as the composer of “Sweet Leilani,” a song he wrote for his daughter 0n the day she was born in 1934. It won an Academy Award for Owens when sung by Bing Crosby in the picture “Waikiki Wedding” in 1937. More than 20 million recordings of the song have been sold, with Crosby’s alone accounting for 5 million copies.
“Went to Brazil. Saw Mayor Bowron of Los Angeles…”
“Nite: To Sally Rand’s new show – home about 9:30.”
Lake Merced 1939
Sunday September 17, 1939. “Sam to Union meeting. Tony, Jeanne and I to the beach for several hours. Another hot day. In the evening took sandwiches etc. + ate by Lake Merced. ”
Monday September 18, 1939. “Hotter today – Went downtown – got iron with coupons – book left at Penney’s. Bought ticket for the Fair. Met + talked to Vic, Carlos + Ted on Market Street. Nite: went to see Old Maid while Sam worked. Home about 11.”
Tuesday September 19, 1939. “Hot morning – cooler in the afternoon with showers but hot again later. Evening to Tony’s + got a grape jacket.”
Wednesday September 20, 1939 “Hotter than ever. Bought a lite dress. Went to the Fair about 1. Grand Hotel Day. Saw the Cavalcade and Jade Exhibit. Nite with Tony + San Diego man to Sally’s Nude Ranch. Still hot all nite.”
Thursday September 21, 1939 “Up early and to the park. Took Sam downtown. Went to Fort Winfield Scott – cool there. Scorching day. Hottest yet. School let out at 12:30…”
Today it is See’s at 754 Clement Street. In 1939 it was Ladenheim’s Women’s clothing, as many of the shops on Clement street were clothing stores for men and women.
“Jeanne and I to Clement Street and bought dresses. Nite, Tony over and rode to the beach. Walked along the shore-cool-but…”
Front Room at 4320 Fulton
“at 10:10 still 81 degrees in the front room.”
It was built in 1917 as a Shriners meeting hall known as the Islam Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of Mystic Shrine. Today it is called Alcazar Theatre, San Francisco Historic Landmark #195.
Source: Internet Archive
The historic designation research paper shows that it was designed by Thomas Paterson Ross, and that it is one of the most unusual buildings of downtown San Francisco. Most of the original interior is gone. However today remaining historic interior elements blend with modern spaces featuring not only the 511 seat auditorium, but well designed art galleries and meeting areas.
The facade of this concrete and steel structure with its Byzantine arches and filigree is primarily of ornate polychrome terra cotta with a granite water table.
Image source Carol Byrne/www.spain-holiday.com
This was the inspiration, the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.
The old Alcazar Theatre that was located at 260 O’Farrell Street. After it was torn down in 1963, the Alcazar then reopened at the Shriner meeting hall site, 650 Geary Street.
In addition to originally serving as a Shriner meeting hall, the building featured exotic smoking rooms and parlors which had become popular by 1917.