IL Duomo

Milan’s High Gothic Cathedral “Il Duomo,” from 1386 is having a face lift. A long needed cleaning to turn dark gray into white with hints of pink. So for now views are obscured by scaffolding. Several of the statue topped spires are complete. And looking nice. Ceremonies and services continue inside.

Bull’s Balls Worn Off

The Galleria, Milan, has Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Sherman Oaks Galleria) beat by a hundred years. The mall entrance is at 45 degrees from the Milan Duomo (Cathedral), facing the piazza. Exit The Duomo after completing spiritual obligations. Make a right hand turn and indulge in materialistic quests at The Galleria, Vittorio Emanuele II.
An array of Italian Designers retail here. But moreover, a place to see and be seen. Here you’ll see Milan is no different than many popular destinations when it comes to the ritual of tourists adopting some beloved object or icon to rub on. Here the genitals of a bull are offered. And it works like this. You find the bull’s mosaic on the mall’s terrazza. Step on the bull’s doo-hickies with one foot and perform a pirouette. Its a real crowd pleaser. All ages and genders join in. But so much fun has worn off the bull’s balls. There’s a hole, a perfect circle, marking the spot for everyone to take their turn, their spin, on his goodies for good fortune.

Milan Central & The Original “Dukestir”

The Milan Central Train Station is undergoing restoration. There’s not too much mention of this being an architecture of political statement. A looming Fascist monument. Designed in scale beyond anything human. It took more than 7 years to complete. A cavernous mountain of concrete and marble adorned with power icons. Ferocious beasts, Muscular men, angry gargoyles.
I was approached by an Italian gentleman while shooting pictures. He asked me if my interest was in the distinctive advertising displayed.
I replied it was the architecture.
He said this was a pet project of Benito “Duce” (“Duke”) Mussolini. A statement to the world about Milan’s importance as the railway hub for all of Europe. A show of Italian power.
The marble interior and barrel vault ceilings are impossibly high. A hall that breathes power. Loudspeaker announcements are like a frightening voice of God.
Yet amidst the hustle and bustle (train travel seems no less busy now than ever) there is a quiet. Sound radiates through the vast space and vanishes. The filtered sky lighting eases your senses.
Overall, an approach to architecture that occurs when a head of state is in love with the pomp and circumstance surrounding his bloated ego.

Click Clack Trolley Track

While the trolley street cars of San Diego and Los Angeles are only a memory, Milan, Italy, kept theirs from that same era in service. These vintage cars creak and clatter. They smell of fuzzy dusty machine grease oozing from joints and rivets. Doors, benches and interior siding all of varnished wood grain. A trolley driver works a worn shiny brass crank. A sign “don’t bother or harass the driver while the car is in motion.” And “trolley dodgers” are chased from tracks by a clanging bell. For three Euros ride all day–go on and off as you please. It’s a decidedly slower trip than the Underground. But the street car/trolley is a good and fun way for a tourist to enjoy a city’s scenery and street life. And the locals utilize it as well.

Trolley Servicing Milan, 1920’s. Milan Central Train Station

Pan Pacific

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Pan Pacific Auditorium, Welton Becket, architect. Surrounded by barbed wire and cyclone fence, circa 1988.

Before Los Angeles had a commerce and population requiring such indoor venues as The Staples Center, The L.A. Sports Arena, and the L.A. Convention Center, there was the venerable Pan Pacific Auditorium. The nearly endless list of events there included Ice Capades, Harlem Globetrotters, Wrestling, UCLA basketball, Political rallies, and concerts of all musical genres. In fact, Elvis had left the building…following his concert there in 1957.
The striking streamline moderne facade of that multi functional hall made an impression on me at an early age (1960’s) when Dad took me on his tropical fish store route. Later during my years at UCLA I liked to drive by and admire it. But the old beauty by then was neglected and left behind by the newer, larger, exhibit halls. Talk was afloat for years about restoration. But the only result was more crumbling and decay. It is a scenario all too familiar, especially in San Diego with the California Theatre and the La Jolla cottages, Red Roost and Red Rest.

While I was taking this photo from behind the post office, a resident of the neighborhood said “It’s a fire waiting to happen.”  Sadly he was right.

http://www.lafire.com/famous_fires/MajorIncident-index.htm

“Even vanished Becket buildings have left an indelible after-image: the Pan Pacific Auditorium remains a part of the mental landscape of L.A. long after the actual building burned and crumbled.” –Alan Hess

Historical photographs of this and other L.A. landmarks, go here:
hollywoodphotographs.com/search….

The Ferry

2009 marks the 40th year since we last saw the graceful San Diego Coronado Ferry Boats.  This part of San Diego history is remembered fondly by many of us who rode these wonderful vessels.  There was kind of smell associated with the ferry boats.  A combination of marine air and the tar coated timber pilings at the dock.

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The Crown City was one of the newer sleek ferry boats.  It could carry the most cars of any in the fleet.  The Coronado Historical Association’s Newsletter of Spring 2008 reports it is still in service at Martha’s Vineyard.
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The Coronado went to Argentina and served on the Amazon River.  It is reported she is beached and abandoned somewhere there.

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The San Diego skyline from the Coronado ferry dock.  Not so big and built up as we know it today.
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The ferry boats were basically an extension of Harbor Drive.  Here you can barely make out the the Harbor House Restaurant sign.

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The San Diego is aground on the banks of the Sacramento River.  The Coronado Historical Association indicates there were repeated efforts to bring her back to San Diego to be adaptively reused as a dinner boat.  But no such success. UPDATE: The San Diego was finally taken apart for scrap. She is no more.

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The handsome San Diego Coronado Ferry offices.

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The bridge that replaced the ferry boats is a great achievement and an important element of our cityscape. But we missed a great opportunity to save part of San Diego’s history by letting all the ferry boats go away.   They were an iconic part of San Diego’s identity for so many years, and added a lot of character to our port.  No doubt in my mind if one had been kept in service here for harbor cruises or a party boat, it would have been a very popular tourist attraction.  Is all hope gone to ever bring one back for that?

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The passenger deck. Gorgeous wood interior – benches, rails, banisters. Brass fittings. Very craftsman.

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Stairs from the auto deck to the passenger deck. Note the city bus on the right.

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The San Diego crossing toward Coronado

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Cable Crossing Don’t Anchor West

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City Bus Route on the ferry.

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The Coronado departing Coronado.

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The Crown City with Coronado and North Island in the background. Shot from one of the other ferry boats.

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Coronado Ferry Landing

 

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The ferry boat on the right was the Silver Strand, which appears to have been moth-balled at this point.

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The inactive Silver Strand.

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The apparently moth balled Silver Strand and North Island. Tied up at a rather cluttered repair and maintenance dock.

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While autos obviously drove onto the ferry, passengers had a separate ramp.

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Pedestrian Passengers came aboard the upper deck.

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The San Diego loading cars and passengers in Coronado.

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The San Diego leaving Coronado

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The Crown City boarding cars at Coronado. Note the Western Metal building in the background

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The easy-on-the-eye San Diego skyline of January 1969 – and jet landing.

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The view of the San Diego ferry landing from the Coronado ferry landing. Several sites in good view here. Old City Hall (County Admin Building), Harbor House Restaurant, The SDG&E Power station, and before the Power station is the Old Police Headquarters.

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Ferry passenger ramps, Coronado terminal.

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Looking over to the moth balled Silver Strand ferry boat. Some of the windows are boarded.

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The Crown City heading to San Diego.

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The Coronado.

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The Coronado once more.

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The San Diego.

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A past facing the future.

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The Crown City

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The inactive Silver Strand

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The Coronado

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Life boat aboard The San Diego.

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Certificate courtesy of Steve Lieber.

Belvederes of La Jolla

 

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Perhaps small in stature compared to the breakwater wall at Children’s Pool beach or La Jolla Cave. But La Jolla coastline wouldn’t be quite the same without little Belvederes. Those four small green wooden structures nestled to La Jolla’s coastline between Scripps Park, Shell Beach and Children’s Pool beach. For a sheltered sit and ocean view. Moreover, these are among the last few links to “Old La Jolla.” Days when this was a seaside village and artist colony. When it was only accessible over hills of dusty roads. When Scripps Park was populated with vacation tents during summer months.

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The old photo from La Jolla Historical Society shows a belvedere at Scripps Park between 1890 and 1905. The gingerbread roof. Ladies in their Victorian dresses and hats. A picnic meal. All atop a dirt bluff.

Perhaps its a bit miraculous the belvederes survived. Not disposed of in the name of “progress” or replaced by plain old benches, or something tacky.

But there they are. A concrete foundation and boardwalk nowadays. But still board and baton painted green.. Braving the sometimes not so peaceful Pacific.

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