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.
That relatively small sign on a wooden post reads “Scripps Cove Park.” Documents show that in 1887 it was designated as La Jolla Park. It was also known as La Jolla Shoreline Park. Those names changed on October 18, 1927 – the 91st of birthday of La Jolla and San Diego regional philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps – when San Diego Park Commissions dedicated the park to her and renamed it the Ellen Browning Scripps Park. It was, in a manner of speaking a ceremonial renaming. An official change came in 1961 when it was designated in the charter as Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Park.
Besides being one of the most actively used parks, especially for one so relatively small, it is one of our great cultural landscapes with it’s nature growth of tress and shrubs. The “soldier row” of Mexican palms, the twisted and turning Australian tea trees, and the single-trunk dragon trees.
With a look to the future new plantings of the Mexican fan palms are spaced between their elders as the life expectancy of those historic trees draws nearer. A gift that will keep giving for generations to come.
Special thanks to Historian and Researcher Vonn Marie May for her discussion with me about one of her passions. Historic landscapes. I’ve included her article from La Jolla Historical Society TimeKeeper newsletter below.
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.
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.
It is a curious twist in the history of the building that 94 years later it again would be part of another science fiction spin of the 21st Century – the 1982 film The Blade Runner.
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