Exploring Los Angeles, this time historic Chatsworth

I’m always on the lookout for things to do and see in LA. I have to say, these days Facebook isn’t much fun anymore, but it is the place where I find out about this kind of activity, so I still check it out.

There was a flyer to visit the Historic Hill-Palmer cottage, a vestige of homesteading in Chatsworth. so I went.

I wasn’t expecting much, but that’s ok, because then I was pleasantly surprised. the cottage was very non descript. Turns out that the museum building used to the golf course office and was built in the 1970s. Not much information in the museum, except for this:A quilt made in 1988 for the centennial of Chatsworth. This really caught my eye and I wanted to spend time really studying the book. But the volunteer wouldn’t leave me alone and kept on talking about what interested her. The one interesting piece of information she did give me is that this is the first quilt that Zena Thorpe worked on. Yes, she was in the book.  Zena in a legend, when I first went to the SFVQA there was this rockstar Zena, she was from Chatsworth England and had moved to Chatsworth CA. Go look at her work, you probably won’t be coming back to this little blog anytime soon.

Inside the cottage there were better docents, they shared the history of the area and yes, the Hill family and then the daughter Minnie Palmer, homesteaded here. I always thought of the homesteading act as something that happened in the midwest. I never really thought that California needed that act, gold brought miners to the state and many smart people came and farmed the land so they could supply the miners and actually make much more money. Who knows, maybe they came under the homestead act?Kudos to the Chastworth Historic society, for saving this home and turning it into a museum. Like most of these museums, a lot of the original items are long gone, so they fill the house with ‘period’ pieces they find. This old wood burning stove is a treasure.They put quilts on the beds! I doubt this is an early 20th-century quilt. Yes, it’s a log cabin, yes, I adore those pompoms used to tie the quilt together.It just looks too new, but the fabrics are not quilting cotton. Looks more like wool suiting fabric. Very cool.This is probably an early 20th-century log cabin quilt. It is falling apart, the fabrics are a mix. Shirting, silk, gingham. Much more authentic to the period.Someone donated a spinning wheel. Not because Minnie spun fabric, but because, it fits with the theme.This Home treadle sewing machine was probably like something she would have owned.So beautiful for a simple workhorse.The information plaques are really there for the children who come through with their schools. Which is a very good thing, everyone should learn the history of their area, especially when these days Chatsworth is simply suburbia. I do enjoy the mention of crochet work.No, Minnie’s father didn’t make this, that pearl cotton is too new. But it would have been fun to see what he did make. With no electricity or running water, it’s nice to know he found please in making something delicate with his hands – a real break from working a farm.


LA Aqueduct walk

Last Sunday we walked with Charles Fleming around a cemetery. This week, we took his book, Secret Walks and headed out the northern part of the valley. This is a view that anyone driving on the 5 Freeway, is very familiar with. The end of the LA Aqueduct. Sometimes water is being aerated down both spillways, today it was clearly not.  The water goes under the freeway to a very large holding area, which these days is covered with large black balls to prevent evaporation. We walked up the very northern part of Balboa Ave, I had thought it ended at Foothill, but now, it makes a loop around. There is plenty of large warehouses and a few housing communities.  Most of the water is pumped through these massive pipes, all the way from the Owens Valley.Gotta love the bombastic name and gate in front of one of these complexes.  The street is named Nicklaus Dr. We soon found out why.This area was intended to be a planned golf community, with the course designed by Jack Nicklaus.  They dug up a pond and lined it with heavy plastic, which surprisingly enough has survived all these years. I bet it had water in it last winter when we had heavy rains.They also paved pathways for golf carts, although they don’t want motorized traffic on them now.Someone planted bougainvillea Since these are native to Mexico, they thrive out here without any care.Gazania, another domesticated plant that manages to thrive with no care.Looking up at the final water tower of the aqueduct itself.Down at the water splashing and aerating on it’s way to the sanitation reservoir. These days people love to bash the aqueduct and its designer, William Mulholland. Me, I’m grateful to both. LA would never be what it is today without the water. I love this massive, crazy megalopolis. Sure, these days much of our water comes from the Colorado River. Why is it that people are so impressed with ancient world engineering (Machu Pichu, the Pyramids) but dismiss modern day wonders?  I’m impressed with them all.The Los Angeles Freeway system is a wonder unto itself.Cars on the freeway and a Metrolink train speeding by on tracks.Massive power lines are overhead. Part of the power comes from the aqueduct and hydroelectric power. Walking under them is a little disconcerting, the hum and crackle of the massive power running through those wires are very noticeable.I saw a couple of these boxes, fuses just open to the elements. Maybe they are completely non-functional, I hope so. We walked alongside this condo complex. It faces the freeway and all of the noise, but at least in the back, they have this lovely expanse of grass. I hope people take advantage of this.Look what I found! A quilt! It looks handmade. I didn’t dare touch it, who knows what kind of germs are on it. But a quilt, out in the wild.It was too early for tacos, so instead, we found a cute coffee shop, Coffee and Cream, in Sylmar. We sat out on the patio and enjoyed the mural, as well as a conversation with a fellow cyclist. I don’t ride bikes, but Joel does, so they had a lot to talk about. As I said, I love this crazy megalopolis.


A Sunday walk in a cemetery

Once a month at least 100 people come out to walk with Charles Fleming. He wrote the Secret Stairs book. Most of these walks are based on the book. Today was different, we walked around Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale.This cemetery was built in 1905, one of the first to embrace the parklike environment. A place to celebrate life. In a dry area like this, fountains are a must.Replicas of world-famous art is a big draw here. If you can’t travel the world, come here and see some very credible replicas.Hmm, who is that peering over the wall?A plaster mold was made out of the original and this one was also carved from Carerra marble. In the oldest part of the park, tall tombstones were used. But Eaton, the man who developed the open concept of cemeteries, decided to use plaques in the ground, so the overall feeling is open and expansive.He even created two heart shaped plots – these were meant for babies and children.  Interesting to look down the hill and see not only the heart but the busy commerce just beyond the fence on San Fernando Rd. A large European castle? No, the mausoleum. Here is Charles (in the white shirt) describing the ornate burial site of Aimee  Semple Mcpherson. She of the Four Square Church fame, the first radio evangelist, and Show-woman for God.I bet Hollywood would love to use some of these shots. It looks like a real castle.It is easy to see which areas hold the newer graves. They tend to have flowers and in this case – flags. There are people visiting and tending to their loved ones. As time passes, even the loved ones end up in a graveyard – so in the older areas one doesn’t see people or flowers.There are strict rules about how one can decorate gravesites for the holidays.As well as this warning. Another man took the same picture, then admitted that his mother used to do just that. Steal flowers from another grave to put on her loved ones. She didn’t want to spend the money….  A Church or Chapel on the top of the hill.Quiet and peaceful, but not open on a Sunday.  There is also a large museum, I have visited it in the past and really should do so again.

An hour and a half, three and a half miles of walking up and down the hills.  A lovely way to spend a Sunday morning. Then instead of tacos, we had some juicy burgers for lunch. A little break from our ‘after-walk’ tradition.


Chapman court and plaza

On the tour of KTown, it was fun seeing old historic buildings.  1929 wasn’t all about Art Deco, another style that was still being built was Spanish Revival, with a touch of Churrigueresque. Yes, that is a tongue-twisting word that means a facade encrusted with design details.These two buildings are going through some renovation. Both are named for their developers – The Chapman Brothers, same ones that donated enough money to a small Christian college in Orange – so it was named after them.The plaza was a first of it’s kind, all the stores face inward to a large parking lot. Good old LA, drive your car in, shop for groceries and then drive out again. The first Korean BBQ that attracted the general population of LA was here. Today the whole complex is restaurants and bars – and is very successful.Across the street is Chapman Court, retail on the ground floor, apartments on the second. In some cases, the apartments were connected to a large studio – for a business or an artist studio. The tower was it’s own apartment, with tenants who only left a few years ago.A local resident of Ktown walking by. The facade is made to look like stone, along with that heavy decoration – Churrigueresque.The main arcade opened onto stores and went back to an open courtyard. The plasterwork is original, not sure about the paint, but it certainly fits in with the feel of the building.Wonderful castiron design. The new style of Art Deco (or Moderne as it was called then) was all the rage. A new style doesn’t take over right away, many designers are still work in the old familiar styles.Look at this metal work, so different from what we saw at the Wiltern.An original storefront cut up into smaller rooms for Bank of America. Once again, even though they created drywall partitions, look at the care taken to cut around the column and the crown molding.For almost 30 years the building was owned by one man, he lived in one of the apartments, where he paneled the whole place in wood. Although the library is full of law books it’s not clear he was a lawyer. Maybe he just chose law books, because they look good.Another element that probably predated the paneling – an interior Juliet balcony.The view from the tower apartment. This is iconic Los Angeles, palm trees as far as the eye can see.




The Wiltern

Twice a year the LA Conservancy has a full day special tour. This time it was over three days and it was in Ktown, otherwise known as Korea Town.

Our first stop was at the Wiltern Theater. I have been there years ago, this is a gem worth visiting. Our day started with a panel, with Wayne Ratkovitz, The Developer who set out in the 1970’s to save many of our Architectural gems.  This is one of his big saves.  We also heard from a professor and City Councilmember David Ryu about how this area became Ktown. The LA riots, 25 years ago had a lot to do with bringing the community together. Up until then, the Korean community was another invisible hard-working group of immigrants. They suffered terrible losses during the riots, and I’m sure vowed – never again. It also made the community aware that they need to become American, part of our local fabric and they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Probably to the point that some older Koreans wish their kids were less American and more Korean.Here is a great example of the success of both Ktown and the Wiltern, these aren’t homeless people, these are kids who camped out overnight to be first in line for a concert. These days most of the events at the Wiltern are aimed at a very young crowd. To my mind this is wonderful, it means that when these kids get older and discover that conservation is a good thing, their fond memories of the Wiltern will make them advocates for maintaining this beautiful building.  This building is an example of the height of Art Deco in Los Angeles. Initially, the theater was a movie theater, with retail on both sides and offices in the tower. It never did well as a movie theater, there was competition from a much larger theater down the street. As a live performance location, it has fared much better. The interior is amazing, so much plaster Art Deco elements all over. On the pillars, along the ceiling. Even on the ceiling.Inside the theater is this wonderful sunburst. Most of these elements were in such bad shape when Wayne bought the building that they needed a lot of repair work. The sunburst used to have 9 rays, now it has 7.Take a close look, each ray is a representation of an Art Deco skyscraper. This is how people imagined Wilshire Blvd would look like, except the depression happened and building stalled.All of the light fixtures were gone, Wayne went searching and paid a lot of money to find this original and put it back in its rightful place.Not easy to photograph a light in a dark room. Love the details on the frosted glass. Inside the theater are more lamps, some were bought back from antique shops, but that became very expensive so many are reproductions.More examples of the wall decorations.Tile was very important in the 1920’s-30’s. The whole exterior is different shades of Turquoise glazed terracotta.  Inside we have a number of these drinking fountains.The railings!  That wonderful industrial aspect that Art Deco has!

Thank you, Wayne Ratkovitz for saving this gem and thank you to everyone who has kept this place alive and very very viable.





Sunland Tujunga Open Studios

It was a busy weekend, The Brewery artwalk on Saturday, then up to the far northeastern reaches of the city of Los Angeles on Sunday. For those not in southern CA, Tujunga is pronounced Ta-Hung ah. Yup, Spanish J.

These two communities are beyond the Verdugo Hills in the Crescenta Valley. An Area that would make for a nice suburb, but in the 1930’s decided to become a part of the city of Los Angeles. It has a rural rustic feel, partially because it is far removed from the rest of the city.  McGroarty Arts Center was the home of John McGroarty, journalist, statesman. Notice how local rock was used in the construction, La Crescenta Valley is very rocky, so the rocks were put to good use. Olive tree orchards were planted here because these trees can thrive in rocky Mediterranean soil.His library is used as a little museum, there is a caregiver living in part of the house, most of it is used for classes and performances.The view from the house. Beyond these hills lie Glendale, Burbank, and the San Fernando Valley, and yet, this area is very secluded.

The art was OK, I think I missed some of the best artists, this event had 40  artists in 17 locations. This is the second year this event was held, I hope it continues to grow and thrive. In this post, I’m going to concentrate on architecture rather than art.Down where I was standing is a studio made out of a shipping container, I looked up at the house and knew this is special. Sure enough, the artist/owner confirmed, this is an original Pierre Koenig Mid-Century modern. They bought the house from the original owner. She had seen an interesting house in Glendale, back in the 50’s and knocked on the door. She had $5000 dollars to build a house. Turns out the house was owned by Architect Pierre Koenig himself, so he built the home for her.Steel, a lot of glass, look what $5000 dollars could build 60 years ago!The original owner is still alive in her 90s. The new owners had a lot of deferred maintenance to do, which they did beautifully. I think I saw this house being advertised 3 years ago. I also saw comments from people who love the style but would ‘never’ move out to the boonies for this gem. The price was no longer $5000, it was probably $350,000, that is still a steal for an original Pierre Koenig home. The present owners are very well aware of their good fortune.

As I was driving to another studio, I had to slam on the brakes find a parking spot and get out to photograph another house.A Storybook house!!!  These fairytale houses were built in the 1920’s-30’s in Los Angeles. There are a number of famous ones in Beverly Hill, the Hollywood Hills, and even Culver City. When researching this one, I found one mention on someone else’s blog, no mention of this one in the ‘big’ articles I found online.The details!! I could have taken so many more pictures. One of these days I may go back just to look for hidden gems. Look at the craftsmanship! The combination of brick and stone, the interesting bricks on the walkway as well as how they are patterned. I just listened to a podcast where Clare Graham was talking about craft versus art. This time he was extolling craft over art! A man after my own heart! I would love to see more of this home, maybe from the inside.

My last stop includes some art, well if a sculpture garden based on world religions is art.This is the wonderful thing about being off the beaten path, you can get away with being eccentric. Unfortunately for me, the owner wasn’t there, so I just wandered, looked and took pictures. Wendy Aft creates all of these from found objects. Clearly, she is influenced by Eastern Philosophies. The Taj Mahal.Thai Nagas, made like they would be in Thailand, out of glass tesserae.Some native American influence.A gay Jesus? Surrounded by Chinese inspired dragon and art.

There was more, I’m limiting the pictures, this post is quite long as it is. I hope not to wait until next October to go back and explore. The artists themselves were really nice, this was supposed to be about art studios, but I got sidetracked.




Fuller Theological Seminary

I was heading to Pasadena to see some artwork at PMCA, one of those small museums that offer very good exhibits. I parked a few blocks away and made my way to Union st. My shortcut took me here:Pasadena is a fascinating little city. Most people think of this as a nice suburb of Los Angeles, but it has so much happening here. The city is beautiful, it is full of interesting buildings and institutions. The Norton Simon Museum, the Rose Bowl, a myriad of churches, and the best example of Craftsman homes around.

It is the home of Caltech, Art Center and The Fuller Theological Seminary? What is that you ask? I had heard of it, religious seminary schools aren’t a hot ticket item, but they do exist. So why not one right here in the middle of Pasadena? These wonderful buildings are about 70 years old. They all house classrooms, not dorms. Charles E. Fuller was a radio evangelist back in the 1940’s when radio evangelism was the rage. He went further and 70 years ago established this school. In the middle of the campus stands the Women’s club, it was built in 1945, so the rest of the university grew around it.It looks like the members know how to enjoy an afternoon on the balcony.The Seminary is keeping up with the times, they have added newer buildings as well as campuses around the West.  As small as this campus is, there were plenty of students and faculty walking around.I came across this, now this is a very interesting sculpture. How often do you see artwork that depicts the actual nailing of Jesus to the cross?I have to admire the artist, what a realistic scene. Not that art has to be realistic, but it certainly is effective here.OUCH! That is painful to see even in art, clearly, I’m not the only one who has stopped here.Are these flowers ironic? or is someone appreciating the pain and sacrifice?Right next door is a small quiet little chapel. With an interesting stained glass cross built into the corner.And what I guess is a meditation corner. A pit full of pebbles that people can come in and create messages with. Like a heart, peace, and Jesus. So someone is coming in here.

So there it is another exploration right here at home, it’s what makes each day interesting.



There are animals all around us, live ones, of course, but also on quilts or in garden sculptures.  A few more quilted ones. A chicken as garden art. A sheep on a quilt.A turtle…… and a frog.Here is my own frog on the front porch.Birds, maybe they are ducks?I, of course, have owls around the yard.Dogs heads on the Mulholland Dam at Lake Hollywood.A dog sculpture doing what dogs do outside a veterinary clinic.

Needless to say, these aren’t the live ones, they are all around us as well.


Back to a Stairway walk

I think it’s been almost two years since I joined Charles Fleming on one of his secret stairway walks.This was a level 4 walk, only two miles, but it included almost 700 stairs, most of them going up. Really, on the downhill, we were on steep streets, uphill was on the stairs. We were a large group, somehow I managed to get a photo before anyway started up on these.We walked by Neutra’s home and office. He is one of the fathers of midcentury architecture. The neighborhood of Silverlake is home to many midcentury homes, as well a much much older ones.I don’t know what this is called, all I know is that it’s old and no one builds houses that look like this anymore.Across the hill and across the reservoir is this Lautner home, Silvertop.

If you follow the link, it’s in the real estate section of the LA Times from a few years ago. Charles admitted that he used to be able to play tennis on their courts until this sale went through.This is an interesting perspective of the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory. In reality, the Observatory is east of the sign, but from this angle, it looks the opposite.Here we are, starting up the Loma Vista Stairs. Quite long with many interesting homes to see.I guess it’s been a while since Charles climbed these stairs, this painted wall was new to him. And yes, quiltspiration! I love that I stumped spell check with this world – a combination of quilt and inspiration and no, I didn’t invent it, I’m just using it, in hopes that one day, everyone will know what a quiltspiration is.Across the way was this house with artwork from A to Z. The fall decorations are coming out!Some people still like kitsch, I counted 5 or 6 teapots on the fence of this house.There were a lot of us, I’m not good at estimating crowds, but I’d say at least 50 people if not more.Which caused local residents to turn as watch us go by.This initiative and signs are new to me. I do think that Charles deserves a lot of credit for bringing these stairs to the publics’ awareness.It’s always good to catch a glimpse of downtown LA.And the beautiful refurbished Silverlake reservoir. Oh, and as we were climbing one set of stairs, we bumped into a couple coming the opposite way, with Charles book in hand. They didn’t want to turn around and join us, but Charles directed them to his FB page, to find info on future group walks

I must say, most of the walkers seemed to be new, I heard many mentions that this is the first walk people have taken with Charles. Pretty impressive, he wrote a book ten years ago, not thinking it would gain any traction, and yet it has, it really really has.


First project I made on my Featherweight.

I was itching to sew on my new/old sewing machine.  Last year I saw pictures from Houston Quilt Market, one of them was an adorable cat made by Funky Fiber Factory. I found the pattern in a quilt store in Las Vegas. I was so anxious to start, I made some mistakes sewing the head together. Luckily I was able to remove the ears and recut some of the face pieces.Still awkward looking, but this is correct.Interesting construction on this one. I had to read the instructions very carefully. Some things weren’t clear, but reading slowly, really stopping and paying attention, paid off. So how was it working on the Featherweight? Interesting. Irene had told me that there is no reverse. I guess by 1948 they included a reverse stitch, I found this out by accident, very lucky accident.

Like any new tool, I need more practice, most of the seams I was sewing are curved seams. I had to rip out quite a few and resew them. Every machine has its own temperament. All in all, I think this is a wonderful little machine, we just need to get better acquainted. Here he is, all sewn together, just waiting to be stuffed. Then it was time for pictures, I decided to combine a Sunday walk with pictures of the cat.After a horrible heat wave with a massive local fire, we had cool overcast weather on Sunday. So off to Lake Hollywood, we went.  Yes, I got smiles and interesting looks, kitty didn’t stay put in the bag.He came out to walk himself.To lord it over all those dogs that aren’t allowed here.To climb on pipes. He had to stop on the walkway on the Mulholland Dam, everyone needs to pose with the Hollywood sign in the background. A father and son stopped to admire him, I told them he already has a special home to go to. You got it, he is going to my fifth grandchild. Here he is looking down, lording it over the dogs.So I guess certain dogs are allowed here after all.Posing with Smokey. Very good advice indeed! Especially since the Hills on the valley side are one fire.