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.