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Looking for Hollywood history and David Lynch’s Los Angeles: Part 7

MISCELLANEOUS MOVIE LOCATIONS

Point Dume

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.

In this part: The Firestone from Lost Highway / Echo Lake Park / Chili John’s / Handy Market / Point Dume / Lankershim Arts Center / Burbank Water and Power / The Music Box Steps / Venice Beach and Santa Monica / The Dude’s apartment

FINALLY, here are few more of the places I saw around Los Angeles during my visit in September 2019…

THE FIRESTONE FROM LOST HIGHWAY

In David Lynch’s 1997 film Lost Highway, Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty) works at an auto repair shop called Arnie’s, whose owner is played by Richard Pryor. These scenes were in the Firestone Tire Building at 800 South La Brea Avenue, in in central L.A.’s Mid-Wilshire neighborhood.

“I want you to take a ride with me. I don’t like the sound of something.”

Built in 1938 with an art deco “Streamline Moderne” design, the building was designated in 2012 by city officials as a historic-cultural monument. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see much of the building when I visited, because it was covered up with boards.

As it turns out, the Firestone building is being converted into a “Market Hall”-style microbrewery and three restaurants, scheduled to open in 2020, the Larchmont Chronicle reported.

An artist’s rendering of the restaurants being constructed inside the Firestone Tire Building.

ECHO PARK LAKE

As seen in Chinatown (minus the swan boats) … and Under the Silver Lake (swan boats included).

CHILI JOHN’S

This restaurant at 2018 West Burbank Boulevard in Burbank has been open since 1946. It makes an appearance in Part 8 of Twin Peaks‘ third season, masquerading as Pop’s Diner in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1956.

This is where we see a waitress cleaning up the counter while listening to “My Prayer” on KPJK radio, when a voice interrupts the broadcast, repeating over and over:

“This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eye and dark within.”

The waitress collapses, falling to the floor.

Chili John’s also can be seen in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. “In a seamless conflation of film location editing, Brad Pitt encounters a hitchhiking Manson girl, Pussycat (Margaret Qualley), in front of Chili John’s and Jackalope Pottery (10726 Burbank Boulevard in North Hollywood) in the same scene, even though the two locations are two miles apart from each other,” location manager Rick Schuler said.

As I was sitting at the U-shaped counter eating a bowl of delicious chili, a man walked into the restaurant and asked to see the owner. “I’m a location scout,” I overheard him saying, as he started trying to work out a deal to film scenes inside this retro diner.

John Isaac opened the first Chili John’s restaurant in 1911 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. His son, Ernie, opened the Burbank one and painted a mural that’s still on the wall today.

HANDY MARKET

Not far away from Chili John’s, there’s a grocery store that appeared in the third season of Twin Peaks. In the show, it’s supposed to be in Twin Peaks, Washington. This is where Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) goes shopping for liquor—and freaks out when she notices a a display of turkey jerky behind the register.

“I don’t remember seeing those beef jerky there before.”

These scenes were filmed at Handy Market at 2514 Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, which seemed like a perfectly nice little grocery during my visit. There was no display of jerky by the checkout lines.

POINT DUME

The scenery is stunning at Point Dume Nature Preserve and State Beach in Malibu, where a promontory juts out into the Pacific Ocean.

Sitting on the promontory, I saw and heard dolphins in the water below me:

This area of Point Dume State Beach may look familiar from a couple of old movies…

This shore is seen in the climatic scene of director Robert Aldrich’s 1955 film-noir Kiss Me Deadly, in which — SPOILER ALERT — a nuclear fire erupts in a beach house.

Kiss Me Deadly

A decade later, the same place became the setting for a famous post-apocalyptic image in Franklin J. Schaffner’s 1968 movie Planet of the Apes. (If you’ve somehow missed seeing it, here’s another spoiler alert.) This is where Charlton Heston’s character sees the wreckage of the Statue of Liberty in the movie’s final shot, realizing that he’s on Earth, not some other planet. The geography of this image seems highly unlikely. Apparently, this rocky landscape was supposedly created in New York Harbor by a nuclear explosion?

“Oh, my God! I’m back! I’m home. All the time, it was— We finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

LANKERSHIM ARTS CENTER

This arts center at 5108 Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood appears in Lost Highway as Luna Lounge.

BURBANK WATER AND POWER

This complex at 164 West Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank appeared in the last episode Twin Peaks‘ first season as the water processing plant on Black Lake. But as I discovered when I visited, the areas where that filming took place can’t really be seen from the roadway. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty nice building.

THE MUSIC BOX STEPS

In their Oscar-winning 1932 short film The Music Box, Laurel and Hardy struggle to move a piano up a long outdoor flight of stairs. Those steps—now known as the Music Box Stairs—are a tourist attraction in the midst of a hilly residential area in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Central L.A. I walked up the steps, which connect Vendome Street at the base of the hill with Descanso Drive at the top, then came back down.

Just as I arrived at the bottom, the woman who lives next to the steps was pulling up in her car and getting ready to park in her garage. I expected her to be tired of all the tourists visiting the spot next to her home, but it was quite the opposite. She was eager to show me a miniature piano left behind by some previous visitors.

VENICE BEACH AND SANTA MONICA

Here’s one movie location I wanted in L.A.’s Venice Beach neighborhood: Samesun Venice Beach, where Orson Welles filmed scenes for 1958’s Touch of Evil. It was the building where spies watched Susan (Janet Leigh). The neighboring building where she was honeymooning with Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston), St. Mark’s Hotel, is no longer standing.

Other random sights around Venice Beach and Santa Monica:

THE DUDE’S APARTMENT

The last movie location I saw before heading to LAX for my flight home was the apartment where the “Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) lives in The Big Lebowski. Actually, there’s some dispute about which of the houses on this block it was: 606 or 608 Venezia Avenue in L.A.’s Venice neighborhood. Either way, it’s a private home, so I kept my distance. I wonder if the current residents appreciate the history of where they live?

THE END.

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.

In this part: The Firestone from Lost Highway / Echo Lake Park / Chili John’s / Handy Market / Point Dume / Lankershim Arts Center / Burbank Water and Power / The Music Box Steps / Venice Beach and Santa Monica / The Dude’s apartment

Photos by Robert Loerzel unless noted otherwise.

Looking for Hollywood history and David Lynch’s Los Angeles: Part 6

SOUTH L.A. AND VICINITY

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.

In this part: Doheny Mansion / “Winkie’s Diner” / The diner that inspired Winkie’s / “Eat at Judy’s” (Rudy’s) / The lot where Tyler Durden’s house was / Point Fermin Park / Pelican Cove Park

During my visit to L.A., I spent a few hours one day driving south from downtown to see a few locations associated with David Lynch films and other movies…

DOHENY MANSION

My first stop during this trip was Doheny Mansion—not to be confused with another house connected with the Doheny family, Greystone Mansion. Greystone, which I wrote about in Part 1, is the lavish Beverly Hills palace that oil tycoon Edward Doheny Sr. had built for his son, Ned.

But the father lived in Doheny Mansion in South L.A.

Three decades after David Lynch made 1977’s Eraserhead at Greystone Mansion, he filmed at Doheny Mansion, using the house as a key setting in his 2006 movie Inland Empire.

In the movie’s early scenes, this is the home where Laura Dern’s character, actress Nikki Grace, resides. Playing a woman who lives nearby—who is possibly a witch—Grace Zabriskie walks up to Doheny Mansion and sits down with Den’s character for a disturbing conversation.

“I am a new neighbor. I live just down the street. … I don’t mean to intrude. I am your new neighbor. I hope that it is not being inconvenient for you?”

The mansion was built in 1899 for Oliver P. Posey, with a Romantic Revival exterior including elements of the Gothic, Chateauesque, Moorish, and California Mission architectural styles. It was part of Chester Place, a gated community of Victorian mansions. After Doheny bought it in 1902, his family owned it for nearly 60 years.

Today, Doheny Mansion is part of Mount Saint Mary’s University’s campus, along with the surrounding properties on historic Chester Place. I had a bit of trouble finding an entrance to the campus, which is closed off to traffic with a private parking lot. But I eventually noticed an open gate for pedestrians on Addams Boulevard, about a block south of the mansion.

As I walked around the house, I saw only a few other people on the quiet campus. On the surface, it was a beautiful and idyllic scene. I’m guessing that most people wouldn’t find anything spooky about it. But I couldn’t help sensing something strange and sinister—probably just an after effect from watching Inland Empire. I did not go inside the mansion, which the university uses for offices. Tours are available.

“WINKIE’S DINER”

Driving farther south, l crossed L.A. city limits, entering the suburb of Gardena in the South Bay region—for a visit to one of the most iconic locations from Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. The movie includes scenes at a diner called Winkie’s, which is supposed to be somewhere on Sunset Boulevard.

“I just wanted to come here.”
“To Winkie’s?”
This Winkie’s.”
Okaaay… Why this Winkie’s?”
“It’s kind of embarrassing…”

In reality, Lynch filmed the Winkie’s scenes in and around a restaurant at 1016 West El Segundo Boulevard in Gardena. When I visited in September 2019, the building still had signs identifying it as Caesar’s Restaurant, but it had been out of business for some time. The building seemed to be under renovation; a phone number was posted on one window for a roofing contractor.

The building was still filled with the former restaurant’s furniture—and even some kitchen supplies and coffee cups. The decor doesn’t match the colors seen in Mulholland Drive, but the restaurant’s layout looks similar. I held my iPhone window up to the glass to capture some pictures of the interior. A Gideons Bibles box sat on one table.

In hindsight, I wish I’d taken more pictures of the surrounding area. Rewatching Mulholland Drive now, I recognize nearby buildings in the background of those scenes, including an adjacent hotel.

In Mulholland Drive, Dan (Patrick Fischler) tells Herb (Michael Cooke) about a nightmare he had about Winkie’s. He’d dreamed that a man was behind the restaurant, somehow causing him to feel frightened inside the dinner. “He’s the one who’s doing it. I can see him through the wall. I can see his face. I hope that I never see that face—ever—outside of a dream.”

Herb takes Dan behind the restaurant to confront his fears. As I approached the location where Lynch filmed this shocking scene, I felt disoriented. Wasn’t there supposed to be a wall behind Winkie’s? And an alley around the corner from that wall—where a dirty and disheveled bum lived? Visiting the spot, this is what I saw:

For some reason, I didn’t walk down those steps or explore the parking lot. (Was something holding me back?) Later that afternoon, I tweeted that “there’s no dumpster or even an alley behind the place.”

Chicago filmmaker and author—and fellow David Lynch fan—Michael Smith replied: “The alley is definitely still there, Robert!” He’d visited the same place a month before I was there, and he ventured farther back behind the restaurant than I did, with photos on Instagram to prove it.

Where had I gone wrong? Maybe if I’d studied those Mulholland Drive scenes more closely before visiting, I would have known where to look. If only I’d brought along some videos and photos to study when I was on location!

Rewatching the movie, I can see how the area behind the restaurant has changed. In the movie, the wall behind the restaurant extends farther west. And there’s another section of wall running toward the restaurant.

An image from Mulholland Drive

The satellite image of the restaurant currently posted in Google Maps shows how these portions of the wall were demolished at some point in recent years.

Later in Mulholland Drive, the movie shows the “Bum” (Bonnie Aarons) sitting in the alley behind that wall. In this dimly lit scene, bathed in a red glow, a stepped pattern is visible on the alley wall behind the Bum and a shopping cart.

An image from Mulholland Drive

That pattern is still visible on the wall today, although the wall has been painted dark gray. Although I failed in my mission to stand on the spot where Mulholland Drive‘s mysterious Bum lived, I think I was looking right at it. If you consider where that wall used to stand before it was demolished, the Bum was probably in that space just beyond the stripes for parking spaces.

THE DINER THAT INSPIRED WINKIE’S

Taking a tangent from my travelogue…

The restaurant that inspired Winkie’s diner actually is on Sunset Boulevard. It’s the Denny’s at 6100 Sunset Boulevard, at the corner with Gower Street. (I wish I’d known this when I was in L.A.—I did not visit the Denny’s.)

Google Streetview

“Denny’s restaurant on Sunset used to be a place called the Copper Penny,” Lynch told interview Chris Rodley1—getting the old name wrong. It was actually called the Copper Skillet.

Advertisement in the Los Angeles Times, December 23, 1956

Before that, a 1953 classified ad called it California Kitchen.

Advertisement in the Los Angeles Times, November 4, 1953

“I think that’s where Frank Capra worked,” Lynch said, “and in the old days that was the corner where all the movie extras would line up in the morning for work.”

The intersection of Sunset and Gower was known as Gower Gulch. That nickname alluded to the cowboys who congregated at the corner looking for work in the movies back in the era from the 1930s through the 1950s, when many Westerns were filmed nearby at Columbia and Republic Studios. There was even a deadly shootout between a couple of cowboys at the corner in 1940.

Behind the Denny’s restaurant, there’s a strip mall Gower Gulch with a Old West theme, which opened in 1976.

Google Streetview

The Gower Gulch name has also appeared in several movies.

Lynch mentioned hearing about a connection with Frank Capra. Capra worked nearby at Columbia Pictures. And later, he reportedly named Mr. Gower, a character in 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life, after Gower Street.

The restaurant became Alphy’s in 1977 and Denny’s in 1982.

Advertisements from the Los Angeles Times, November 8, 1977, and October 20, 1982.

In 1998, the Los Angeles Times reported that this restaurant was known as the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Denny’s” because of its proximity to a Guitar Center and Ralphs grocery, which was nicknamed “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ralphs.”2 According to the Urban Dictionary, that store was “notorious for being packed around 2 to 3 AM after the clubs close, with drunken people trying to buy liquor for after-hours parties.”

In 1998, the Times also remarked that this Denny’s restaurant “has got to be the best people-watching place on the planet.”3

David Lynch told Rodley:

“And the Denny’s there was a pretty strange Denny’s. I’m not positive, but I think there was a satanic booth in the parking lot there for a while.”

Rodley: “What’s that?”

Lynch: “I don’t know! But I used to go there and have breakfast—a Grand Slam. Anyway, I was in a booth, and I think i was alone, and behind me there were three people, and they were talking about God. It sounded like quite a pleasant Sunday morning conversation.

“And I got up to pay the check, and I glanced over at the people in the booth, and there was the head of the satanic church in the booth. They were talking quite friendly and nice. I thought it was like a church group! And so it was kind of strange. Anyway, there was some kind of heavy feelings at that Denny’s, and that fed into this thing in Mulholland Dr.—this bum.”

Anton Szandor LaVey

Perhaps those people Lynch noticed were members of the the Church of Satan—”the first organized church in modern times promulgating a religious philosophy championing Satan as the symbol of personal freedom and individualism.”

Anton Szandor LaVey—who was the church’s high priest from its 1966 founding in San Francisco until his death in 1997—even mentions Denny’s restaurants in The Secret Life of a Satanist: The Authorized Biography of Anton LaVey by Blanche Barton:

“Many of our grass-roots people didn’t know much about subtlety then, or decorum,” he said. “I was trying to present a cultured, mannered image and their idea of protest or shock was to wear their ‘lodge regalia’ into the nearest Denny’s.”

“EAT AT JUDY’S” (RUDY’S)

Returning to my travelogue of South L.A. …

Driving south from the shuttered Caesar’s Restaurant in Gardena, I stopped for lunch at a diner called Eat at Rudy’s.

Lynch fans will recognize it as Eat at Judy’s, the place in Texas where Kyle MacLachlan’s character Dale Cooper (or is it a mysterious alter-ego named Richard?) visits in the final episode of Twin Peaks‘ third season.

In reality, Eat at Rudy’s is located at 558 East Anaheim Street, in a Los Angeles neighborhood Wilmington, which is part of the city’s Harbor region.

The restaurant’s interior was recognizable from those haunting scenes in Twin Peaks, including the open kitchen area where Cooper/Richard drops some handguns into the deep fryer.

“Is there another waitress that works here?”
“Yeah. It’s her day off. Actually, it’s her third day off.”

On his Twin Peaks Blog, Steven Miller describes his own visit to Eat at Rudy’s in detail, analyzing how Lynch used the space.

I must say this seemed to be an outstanding diner and a friendly spot to go for lunch. I asked the waitress for the best or most popular dish, and she recommended the California turkey melt, which turned out to be just as delicious as she’d promised.

THE LOT WHERE TYLER DURDEN’S HOUSE WAS

While I was eating at Eat at Rudy’s, I noticed that several locations from David Fincher’s 1999 movie Fight Club are within a few blocks of the restaurant. I stopped by one of these locations—the lot where Tyler Durden’s house stood during the filming.

An image from Fight Club

In the movie, it’s supposedly on road called Paper Street, but according to the Movie District website, it was filmed at 240 North Neptune Avenue. It’s a vacant lot with a fence topped by razor wire.

I took a peek through the fence…

A team led by the movie’s production designer, Alex McDowell, built the ramshackle house at this spot, mimicking the look of burned-out houses McDowell has seen in Detroit. Introducing the film at Design Manchester in 2016, he said:

“The port of Los Angeles at this time decided they needed more room for containers, so they bought up 10 city blocks north of the ocean and destroyed all the houses in preparation for a new container port. We moved in there and built a house—the Paper Street House, sitting on its own on a city block, inspired by that Detroit desolation.”

The other nearby locations from Fight Club are: Asian man’s drugstore, 1109 West Harry Bridges Boulevard; Lou’s Tavern, 1331 B Street; and Goodyear, 505 North Avalon Boulevard.

POINT FERMIN PARK

By this point in travels, I was near the Port of Los Angeles and the San Pedro neighborhood in L.A.’s Harbor region. There’s another connection here with the Doheny family.

As I mentioned in Part 1, oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny Sr. was a key figure in the Teapot Dome Scandal. San Pedro is where Doheny’s Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company built a refinery as part of a corrupt deal with the administration of President Warren G. Harding.

I continued south to Point Fermin Park, the southernmost point in Los Angeles. The 37-acre park is atop rugged bluffs with lovely views of the Pacific and a Stick Style Victorian lighthouse built in 1874.

In Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1998 film The Big Lebowski, Point Fermin is where Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) and Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) scatter their friend Donny’s ashes. This scene takes place in an area of San Pedro’s shoreline called the “Sunken City,” where a neighborhood of houses tumbled into the ocean during a landslide in 1929.

The Big Lebowski

“And so, Theodore Donald Karabatsos, in accordance with what we think your dying wishes might well have been, we commit your final mortal remains to the bosom of the Pacific Ocean, which you loved so well. Good night, sweet prince.”

As Atlas Obscura notes: “Do not attempt to enter the Sunken City. Not only is trespassing not tolerated, but accessing the ruins is dangerous and therefore should not be attempted. Due to the danger of the ruins, the site is strictly off-limits to the public.” So, I had to settle for looking through the fence at those bluffs.

Point Fermin Park is prominently featured in another iconic movie about Los Angeles. In 1974’s Chinatown, it’s where detective Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) follows the city water department engineer Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling). As Gittes watches, water mysteriously pours from pipes into the ocean, even though the city is in the midst of a drought.

Images from Chinatown

The parking spaces on Paseo Del Mar are where Gittes is shown placing a stopwatch next to one of the wheels of Mulwray’s car—his trick for determining what time Mulwray finally moves his car to leave.

In these scenes, a little bar and restaurant can be seen nearby.

Images from Chinatown

That joint, Walker’s Cafe, is still there, and it doesn’t look like it has changed a whole lot. Constructed around 1913 as a turnaround station at the end of the Red Car line down Pacific Avenue, it’s been Walker’s Cafe since 1946. I stopped in for a beer. Judging from the motorcycles parked outside and some of the conversations I overheard, it seems to be a hangout for bikers.

In 1990, waitress Reni Mauritsen defended the restaurant’s biker clientele, telling the Daily Breeze’s Lisa Plendl: “People have a tendency to think these guys are real rough, but I get more respect from them than anyone else.”

PELICAN COVE PARK

One more stop on my tour of L.A.’s southern reaches. I drove northwest on Palos Verdes Drive, a curving road with lovely views of the ocean—heading into Rancho Palos Verdes, a suburb in L.A.’s South Bay region.

In this area, Pelican Cove Park is a delightful place for a walk down to the ocean’s rocky shore. I spent half a hour sitting on the rocks and watching a large gathering of birds on some rocks out in the water.

As it happens, this oceanfront park appears in another movie by the Coen brothers: 2016’s Hail, Caesar! According to Los Angeles Magazine: “The dramatic South Bay topography stands in for Malibu, but the home of Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum) is only a matte painting.”

Images from Hail, Caesar!

Continued in Part 7.

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.

In this part: Doheny Mansion / “Winkie’s Diner” / The diner that inspired Winkie’s / “Eat at Judy’s” (Rudy’s) / The lot where Tyler Durden’s house was / Point Fermin Park / Pelican Cove Park

NOTES

1 David Lynch, ed. Chris Rodley, Lynch on Lynch (New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2005 edition), excerpted in Criterion Collection booklet for Mulholland Drive, 22.
2 Heidi Siegmund Cuda, “Club Hoppin’: Got Milk?”, Los Angeles Times, November 26, 1998.
3 Heidi Siegmund Cuda, “Club Hoppin’: Burgers, Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1998.
Follow links in the text for additional sources.

Photos by Robert Loerzel unless noted otherwise.

Looking for Hollywood history and David Lynch’s Los Angeles: Part 5

DOWNTOWN L.A.

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.

In this part: “Nite Owl Café” / Safety Last! / The door to Club Silencio / The Banks-Huntley Building / “Twin Peaks Savings & Loan” / The Tower Theatre / Hotel Barclay / Fire Station No. 23 / The Bradbury Building / The Million Dollar Theatre / The Second Street Tunnel / Union Station / Los Angeles City Hall / The Los Angeles Times Building / The John Ferraro Building / Los Angeles Central Library / Bunker Hill / Angels Flight / Double Indemnity’s opening shot / The final scene of Chinatown / The viaduct in Eraserhead / The Los Angeles River

“NITE OWL CAFÉ”

Just about every block of downtown L.A.—probably every block—has been filmed for a movie at some point.

I parked on a random block, with the first parking space I could find. Pulling out my iPhone, I checked the Google map I’d created with a list of movie locations.

By sheer coincidence, I’d parked right next to the restaurant where the Nite Owl Café scenes were filmed for L.A. Confidential. The café’s layout looked eerily similar.

“It happened to have, in the inside alley of the building right behind that restaurant, a bathroom that we could use for the murder scene,” L.A. Confidential production designer Jeannine Oppewall told Curbed Los Angeles.

SAFETY LAST!

Walking around downtown, I spotted a few of the buildings where Harold Lloyd filmed scenes for his classic 1923 silent comedy Safety Last!—famously featuring Lloyd dangling from a clock on the side of a high-rise.

Safety Last!

As John Bengtson documents on his Silent Locations website, the rooftop scenes in Safety Last! were filmed on several different buildings in downtown Los Angeles.

From the Silent Locations website: Three different Safety Last! rooftops for the closing scene, 548 South Spring Street, Third and Spring, and 908 South Broadway.

I saw three of the Safety Last! buildings:

THE DOOR TO CLUB SILENCIO

David Lynch has filmed at a number of places in downtown L.A., including three buildings on one block of Spring Street—within an area known as the Spring Street Financial District, a.k.a. “the Wall Street of the West.”

One of these locations is actually just the rear wall of the Palace Theatre—or as the faded paint on the wall calls it, the Palace Newsreel Theatre. Built in 1911, it was originally a vaudeville house called the Orpheum Theatre—not to be confused with another theater of that name built down the street in 1926.

The Palace Theatre faces Broadway, but Lynch used the wall facing a parking lot on Spring Street as the entrance to Club Silencio in his 2001 movie Mulholland Drive.

Images from Mulholland Drive

“Go with me somewhere.”
“It’s 2 o’clock—It’s 2 o’clock in the morning.”
“Go with me somewhere.”
“Sure. Now?”
“Right now!”

On the day when I visited, some trucks were parked in the lot, obscuring my view of that mysterious portal. And the alley next to the theater’s wall—where a taxi drives in Mulholland Drive, dropping off Betty (Naomi Watts) and Rita (Laura Elena Harring)—was closed off.

(For their 1998 film The Big Lebowski, Joel and Ethan Coen used the Palace Theatre’s fifth floor as the loft of Maude Lebowski, played by Julianne Moore.)

THE BANKS-HUNTLEY BUILDING

Directly across the street from that parking lot is the Banks Huntley Building, a 12-story art deco skyscraper completed in 1931. In Mulholland Drive, the director Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) is seen entering this building. In the film, it houses the offices of a company called Ryan Entertainment.

“This is the girl.”

After exiting an ominous and surreal meeting, Kesher uses his golf club to smash the windshield of a limo in the parking lot just south of the Banks-Huntley Building.

Here’s a curious thing about that scene: As Kesher (Theroux) walks in front of the Banks-Huntley Building, a parking lot is visible across the street. That’s the same lot that will appear later in Mulholland Drive as the entrance to Club Silencio.

A scene from Mulholland Drive

“TWIN PEAKS SAVINGS & LOAN”

South of the parking lot next to the Banks-Huntley Building—that lot where the limo’s windshield gets smashed—is the Majestic Downtown, a Beaux Art building that opened in 1924 as the Hellman Commercial Trust and Savings Bank.

David Lynch used the interior as the Twin Peaks Savings & Loan when he filmed the scenes in the last episode of Twin Peaks Season 2, showing Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) chaining herself to a vault (in what was supposed to be Washington state).

But the exterior won’t look familiar. Lynch apparently filmed the bank’s exterior on the Universal Studios Lot, according to Steven Miller’s Twin Peaks Blog.

In 2014, the former bank space inside the building became a nightclub called the Reserve, where you can see that vault from Twin Peaks. I did not get the chance to go inside.

Photo from the Reserve

THE TOWER THEATRE

After Betty and Rita are seen entering the neon-lit doorway for Club Sliencio in Mulholland Drive, the following scene shows them watching a dreamlike show inside that mysterious club.

Mulholland Drive

“No hay banda! There is no band! Il n’est pas de orquestra! This is all a tape recording. No hay banda! And yet we hear a band.”

Lynch did not film that interior scene in the Palace Theatre, however. He filmed inside the Tower Theatre, which is at the corner of Broadway and Eighth Street—just one block east and one block south of the spot where Lynch filmed the club’s doorway.

The Tower Theatre building is also where Lynch filmed the Mulholland Drive scenes where Theroux’s character is seen staying inside a run-down place called the Park Hotel.

Years later, Lynch returned to the Tower Theatre, using its interior as a location in the third season of Twin Peaks (or, as many people call it, Twin Peaks: The Return). This was the otherworldly space occupied by a character known as the Fireman (a.k.a. the Giant) and Señorita Dido. On his Twin Peaks Blog, Steven Miller analyzes where Lynch filmed these scenes within the building.

Twin Peaks publicity photo by Suzanne Tenner

The Tower Theatre opened in 1927, designed by S. Charles Lee with a blend of French Baroque, Moorish, and Spanish design elements. The theater originally had a Vitaphone horn behind its screen, protruding through the building’s rear wall into the alley.

On October 5, 1927, the Tower screened a sneak preview of The Jazz Singer, one night before its official premiere at New York City’s Warner Theatre. See the Los Angeles Theatres blog for a detailed history of the Tower Theatre, along with many examples of movies where the theater is visible.

Motion Picture News, December 28, 1929

The Tower stopped showing movies in 1988, and the building has not generally been open to the public in recent years. So I was stuck on the outside, unable to see those spaces inside where Lynch filmed those incredible scenes…

The Tower Theatre’s website includes some photos of the interior…

Tower Theatre website
Tower Theatre website

When I was standing outside the building, I didn’t know why it had construction walls and scaffolding around it. I’ve since learned that the Tower Theatre is under renovation. In August 2018, Apple announced its plans to convert it into a store and event space.

“Apple has the original blueprints for the Tower and will use them along with photographs and other records to restore original theater highlights such as murals, decorations and a leaded-glass window over the entrance,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Apple released an artist’s rendering of what the Tower Theatre space will look like after it reopens as an Apple store (at some date in the future, not yet announced). I hope some of the architectural details seen in Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks will be visible inside the store.

Artist’s rendering from Apple

HOTEL BARCLAY

Mulholland Drive includes a brief shot showing the Hotel Barclay—which is supposed to the building where a character named Ed (Vincent Castellanos) has an office.

“Look at my digs. Times are tough, bro.”

This is where a criminal named Joe Messing (Mark Pellegrino) kills Ed and steals his “famous black book” (“the history of the world in phone numbers”). After the killing-theft goes seriously awry, Joe makes his getaway via the fire escape.

The building, at 103 West Fourth Street, opened as the Van Nuys Hotel in 1897. A 2017 article at Curbed Los Angeles documents the hotel’s long history of “gruesome slayings and bloody accidents.”

“It is still a low-income residence and seems to be stubbornly resisting the gentrification that is going on all around,” Curbed noted.

A historical plaque on the opposite corner notes that Woody Guthrie often played his folk music on the streets here.

FIRE STATION NO. 23

Built in 1910, the fire station at 225 East Fifth Street was the Los Angeles Fire Department headquarters for a decade. The building’s decor was so ornate that critics called it the “Taj Mahal” of firehouses. The impoverished area surrounding Fire Station No. 23, which closed in 1960, is known as Skid Row.

David Lynch filmed the death row scenes for his 1997 movie Lost Highway inside this fire station.

“Shit. That wife killer’s looking pretty fucked up.”

The building also appears in Ghostbusters, Big Trouble in Little China, The Mask, Flatliners, National Security, and other movies.

In 2018, Curbed Los Angeles reported that the city of Los Angeles plans to turn the old fire station into an art center. “Each year this building has been subject to vandalism, rain damage, and other deterioration,” project manager Neil Drucker said. Some Skid Row activists spoke out against the proposal.

THE BRADBURY BUILDING

The Bradbury Building was near the top of my list of things I wanted to see in L.A. Watching the documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, I was fascinated to see how this building’s skylight-illuminated interior has appeared in many different movies over the years. The 99% Invisible podcast also devoted an episode to the Bradbury Building, calling it “arguably the biggest architectural movie star in all of Los Angeles.”

In Ridley Scott’s 1982 movie Blade Runner, the Bradbury feels spectral, with beams of light shining down from an advertising zeppelin through the skylight. It’s where the replicant designer J.F. Sebastian (played by William Sanderson) lives, along with a menagerie of his mechanical creatures.

Blade Runner

In the commentary on the Blu-ray of Blade Runner: The Final Cut, Scott recalls: “The Bradbury Building I was told was a cliché, and millions of TV series had been made in it. Eventually, I just stopped listening.”

The Bradbury Building’s exterior is nice, but nothing all that remarkable.

But, oh that interior!

Gold mining millionaire Lewis Bradbury had the building constructed in 1893, hiring a draftsman named George Wyman. According to 99% Invisible’s Avery Trufelman, Wyman was inspired by a passage in Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, an 1887 novel that predicted what the world would be like in the year 2000:

“It was the first interior of a twentieth-century public building that I had ever beheld, and the spectacle naturally impressed me deeply. I was in a vast hall full of light, received not alone from the windows on all sides, but from the dome, the point of which was a hundred feet above. … The walls and ceiling were frescoed in mellow tints, calculated to soften without absorbing the light which flooded the interior.

It’s hard to capture the Bradbury Building’s essence in a still photograph. Here’s a video I took as I entered the structure’s atrium:

In his Blade Runner commentary, Ridley Scott recalled making the Bradbury Building look desolate and spooky during a nighttime shoot: “The mucking up of this building to make it look deserted was very simple, because I only dressed where you see: little bits of water on the ground. Bits of rubbish that could be easily swept up afterwards. So you don’t need to do much, you don’t need to trash the whole goddamn building. … We were cleaning up rubbish as we went, so we could leave that night.”

Blade Runner

In Blade Runner, the Bradbury Building’s entrance is flanked by large columns. “I said, ‘I need something in the street to make it weird,'” Scott recalled. “… So we just stood it up in the front door, shot it that night, and took it away.”

THE MILLION DOLLAR THEATRE

The Million Dollar Theatre, which opened in 1917 and still stands across the street from the Bradbury Building, is visible in Blade Runner.

THE SECOND STREET TUNNEL

I took a walk through downtown’s Second Street Tunnel, where Ridley Scott filmed some scenes for Blade Runner.

“I had them go in and they just blasted it with water,” Scott recalls in his commentary track for Blade Runner: The Final Cut. “… We just hit it with water and let it dry out and just brought the car down the middle, and it kind of looked futuristic. And glittered like diamonds.”

This tunnel is also where the car repossessors led by Harry Dean Stanton’s character Bud confront their rivals, the Rodriguez Brothers, in director Alex Cox’s 1984 film Repo Man.

LOS ANGELES UNION STATION

In Los Angeles Plays Itself, Thom Andersen observes:

“As the major gateway to Los Angeles in the ’40s and ’50s, it has been a location for many movies and a favorite site for movie kidnappings. Through its corridors and grand lobby have passed gangsters, drug dealers, political protesters, Munchkins, even an alien in heat disguised as a railroad conductor. Yet Union Station hasn’t always played itself. It was a police station in Blade Runner.”

LOS ANGELES CITY HALL

Los Angeles City Hall was the city’s tallest building from its completion in 1928 until 1964, and it can be seen in numerous films and television shows, from the original Dragnet series and Mildred Pierce to L.A. Confidential. It’s destroyed by Martians in 1953’s War of the Worlds.

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BUILDING

An art deco building from 1935, it stands a block away from the spot where an earlier Los Angeles Times Building was destroyed in 1910—in a bombing that killed 21 newspaper employees. The newspaper moved out of this building in 2018. Some movies and TV shows have been filmed inside. It’s where David Lynch filmed the Twin Peaks Season 3 scenes set inside the office of Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler), which is supposedly in Las Vegas.

THE JOHN FERRARO BUILDING

This modernist 1965 high-rise houses the headquarters of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power—and appears prominently in Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film Inception.

LOS ANGELES CENTRAL LIBRARY

BUNKER HILL

Once again, I will quote from Los Angeles Plays Itself:

“The movies loved Bunker Hill. The lords of the city hated it. Rents were low, so it put the wrong kind of people too close to downtown. Bunker Hill became a target for slum clearance or urban renewal. They had to destroy it in order to save it.”

“The new Bunker Hill looks like a simulated city…”

ANGELS FLIGHT

The Angels Flight funicular railway has appeared in many movies over the years. The one currently in operation is at a different location from the original one, which ran from 1901 to 1969.

DOUBLE INDEMNITY‘S OPENING SHOT

The opening shot of Billy Wilder’s 1944 film Double Indemnity
South Olive Street and West Fifth Street

THE FINAL SCENE OF CHINATOWN

The climatic scene of 1974’s Chinatown was filmed on Spring Street south of Ord Street in the Chinatown neighborhood, which is just north of downtown L.A.

Chinatown

Comparing my photo of that block with the movie, I now realize that I was facing the wrong direction. There’s one building you can see in both photos: the one with several curved arches on its façade. It’s on the left side in the movie, but the right side in my photograph. I was facing north. Apparently, the camera in Chinatown was facing south.

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

THE VIADUCT FROM ERASERHEAD

An image from Eraserhead
510 South Santa Fe Avenue, Los Angeles

THE LOS ANGELES RIVER

After catastrophic floods in the 1930s, Los Angeles officials and the Army Corps of Engineers completely encased the Los Angeles River’s bed and banks in concrete.

It became an iconic location for movies. Scenes were filmed here for Point Blank, Repo Man, Grease, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Dark Knight Rises, To Live and Die in L.A., Drive, and All Quiet on the Western Front (which disguised it as a European battlefront during World War I).

I stopped to take a photo of the river from the bridge on Seventh Street, looking north. In the distance, you can see Sixth Street, where the old bridge is being dismantled and replaced with a new one featuring a wavy design.

Continued in Part 6.

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.

In this part: “Nite Owl Café” / Safety Last! / The door to Club Silencio / The Banks-Huntley Building / “Twin Peaks Savings & Loan” / The Tower Theatre / Hotel Barclay / Fire Station No. 23 / The Bradbury Building / The Million Dollar Theatre / The Second Street Tunnel / Union Station / Los Angeles City Hall / The Los Angeles Times Building / The John Ferraro Building / Los Angeles Central Library / Bunker Hill / Angels Flight / Double Indemnity’s opening shot / The final scene of Chinatown / The viaduct in Eraserhead / The Los Angeles River

Photos by Robert Loerzel unless noted otherwise.

Looking for Hollywood history and David Lynch’s Los Angeles: Part 4

HOLLYWOOD

Detail from the 1937 map Hollywood Starland : Official Moviegraph of the Land of Stars, Where They Live, Where They Work and Where They Play

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.

In this part: Paramount Studios / The Hollywood Walk of Fame / The death scene in Inland Empire / The Frolic Room / Cinerama Dome / Alto Nido Apartments / Hollywood Center Motel / Hollywood Athletic Club / Crossroads of the World / Capitol Records / Mural at Sunset and Vine / Philip Marlowe’s office / Amoeba Music

PARAMOUNT STUDIOS

During my trip to L.A., I took the Paramount Studio Tour—a fun time for movie fans. The $60, two-hour tour takes you through the backlots where film crews are at work.

I didn’t spot any movie stars, but I still got a thrill out of sensing the work of movies being made nearby. And I loved seeing those big beige buildings where filmmakers create their fictional worlds—including one where Alfred Hitchcock’s team surreptitiously excavated the floor to create more vertical height for the set of Rear Window. (That’s the story our tour guide told us, anyway.)

Bronson Gate

Bronson Gate used to be Paramount’s main entrance, but the studio complex expanded, taking over the street in front of it. It’s visible in many movies, including Billy Wilder’s 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard and David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. In Lynch’s film, the same car that was featured so prominently in Sunset Boulevard—the luxurious 1929 Isotta Fraschini 8A owned by silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson)—is seen parked just beyond Bronson Gate.

It’s said to be good luck to touch the metal of the Bronson Gate as you enter Paramount. But our tour guide warned us: When you’re walking out through the gates, it’s bad luck to touch them.

The former offices of Alfred Hitchcock at Paramount, where he blocked these windows with bookcases.
An area of the Paramount complex nicknamed Star Trek Alley, because Star Trek movies and shows have been filmed in the buildings along here.
Paramount films water scenes at this blue parking lot next to a fake sky (after adding water, of course). This is where Charlton Heston as Moses parted the Red Sea in 1956’s The Ten Commandments.
A props warehouse
Some of the fake New York City streets at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, which have been used in many films and TV shows.
These New York subway stairs lead down one flight, ending at a wall.

THE HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME

I didn’t realize that the Hollywood Walk of Fame sprawled across quite as many blocks as it does. When I arrived in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, two of the first stars I noticed in the sidewalks were those honoring Oliver Hardy and Orson Welles.

I couldn’t help noticing the shoddy condition of the stars in some areas of Hollywood. Most of the damaged stars I noticed were blank ones.

THE DEATH SCENE IN INLAND EMPIRE

Seeing those stars on Hollywood’s sidewalks got me thinking about one of the most memorable moments in David Lynch’s 2006 movie Inland Empire: the scene where Laura Dern’s character dies on a Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk, surrounded by street people who are either unfazed by her dire condition and oblivious to it.

“You dyin’, lady.”

As Dern recalled in an interview with Los Angeles Magazine: “My character dies on a star near Hollywood and Vine. Right on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Not that far from Grauman’s.”

In the film, Dern’s character (or her characters?) wanders back and forth on these streets. At times, the geography may be deliberately jumbled, like the movie itself.

Dern is near a pay phone at 6330 Hollywood Boulevard when she sees her doppelgänger across the street. At another point, she’s near a pay phone at 6331 Hollywood Boulevard, over on that side of the street.

6330 Hollywood Boulevard, as seen in Inland Empire
Google Streetview of 6330 Hollywood Boulevard (April 2019)

Dern enters a nightclub somewhere in the vicinity. Later, when she is back on the streets, she is stabbed—right next to the sidewalk star for actress Dorothy Lamour, at 6332 Hollywood Boulevard.

But after the stabbing, Dern is seen walking north on Vine Street, going through the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, and heading west on Hollywood Boulevard.

Images from Inland Empire

A Starbucks currently occupies the corner space in a building seen behind Dern as she walks through the intersection.

On the block of Hollywood Boulevard west of Vine Street, there’s a club called Dejà Vu Showgirls …

Along with the star for Gloria Swanson, among others …

And there’s a lot where a promotional display for the movie It Chapter Two was being dismantled at the time of my visit…

And the Church of Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition was open late at night, with a bust of Hubbard visible through the open doors, sitting in front of a shimmering screen. This place is visible in the background of the scenes in Inland Empire.

But soon after Dern is seen walking west on the street, another shot shows her walking east on the same block, with some of the buildings on Ivar Avenue behind her.

Images from Inland Empire

At nighttime, some of the storefronts on this block were covered by metal shutters, just like the ones seen behind Dern as she dies in Inland Empire.

This is what the south side of the street looks like:

Google Streetview (January 2017)

The grainy, digital look of Lynch’s Inland Empire makes it difficult to decipher details such as the names on the stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. So I wasn’t able to pinpoint exactly where Dern is shown vomiting up blood and dying. But I do know I was somewhere on the same block. (Or were the final moments of that scene filmed inside a studio, as the movie itself suggests?)

THE FROLIC ROOM

A block east from this scene, the Frolic Room is one of Hollywood’s most famous bars—an old-school joint that opened to the public in 1934 (after operating as a private speakeasy lounge called Freddy’s).

Charles Bukowski was said to be a regular, and the Frolic Room was reportedly the last place that Elizabeth Short, the murder victim known as the Black Dahlia, was seen alive. Brian DePalma’s 2006 movie of The Black Dahlia used the bar as a location, as did L.A. Confidential. And Howard Hughes owned both this place, along with the adjacent Theatre, from 1949 to 1954.

I stopped in for a beer, eavesdropping on a young guy down the bar who was talking about Quentin Tarantino.

CINERAMA DOME

I saw a movie on the curved screen at the Pacific Theatre’s Cinerama Dome—a new digital restoration of the 1956 travelogue documentary Seven Wonders of the World. Like other movies in the Cinerama format, it was filmed with three side-by-side cameras. That triptych is projected onto the curved screen inside this geodesic dome.

I watched half of the movie from a seat close to the screen, which created an odd effect: The images off on the far left and far right sides were in my peripheral vision if I looked straight ahead. If I glanced over to one of the sides, the images there were remarkably sharp and focused.

Rick Schuler, location manager for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood told Fandango: “DiCaprio and Pitt drive by the theater where the premiere of Krakatoa, East of Java is taking place…”
“Designed by Welton Becket and Associates and completed in 1963, the Cinerama Dome was originally designed as a prototype to be used throughout the country to showcase the new Cinerama process, but only a few other Cinerama theatres were ever built…”

ALTO NIDO APARTMENTS

1851 North Ivar Street, the apartment building where Joe Gillis (William Holden) lives in Sunset Boulevard.

HOLLYWOOD CENTER MOTEL

A location seen in L.A. Confidential … The vacant motel was looking pretty desolate when I visited.

HOLLYWOOD ATHLETIC CLUB

In director Robert Aldrich’s great 1955 film-noir Kiss Me Deadly, this is where detective Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) finds the “great whatsit”—a briefcase containing a mysteriously hot and glowing substance—inside a locker.

CROSSROADS OF THE WORLD

In L.A. Confidential, “Designer Robert Vincent Derrah’s ‘pedestrian village’ in Hollywood is the site of Sid Hudgens’ (Danny DeVito) cluttered Hush-Hush office,” the Curbed Los Angeles website notes.

CAPITOL RECORDS

MURAL AT SUNSET AND VINE

PHILIP MARLOWE’S OFFICE

Author Raymond Chandler’s detective character Philip Marlowe “famously worked on the seventh floor of the ‘Cahuenga Building’—actually the former Security Bank Building at the corner of Hollywood and Cahuenga,” the ScoutingLA.com website says. “Opened in 1922, it served as a branch for the bank, as well as rental office space.”

AMOEBA MUSIC

Continued in Part 5.

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.
In this part: Paramount Studios / The Hollywood Walk of Fame / The death scene in Inland Empire / The Frolic Room / Cinerama Dome / Alto Nido Apartments / Hollywood Center Motel / Hollywood Athletic Club / Crossroads of the World / Capitol Records / Mural at Sunset and Vine / Philip Marlowe’s office / Amoeba Music

Photos by Robert Loerzel unless noted otherwise.

Looking for Hollywood history and David Lynch’s Los Angeles: Part 3

GRIFFITH PARK, ETC.

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.

In this part: The Snow White Cottages, a.k.a. Sierra Bonita / Snow White Café / Griffith Observatory / Bronson Caves / The Hollywood Sign and Sunset Ranch / The tailgating scene from Lost Highway?

THE SNOW WHITE COTTAGES, A.K.A. SIERRA BONITA

“It’s right about here on Sierra Bonita. That’s not too far away.”

In David Lynch’s movie Mulholland Drive, the Diane Selwyn character lives in the Sierra Bonita Apartments—supposedly at 2590 Sierra Bonita Avenue.

A scene from Mulholland Drive

We see Betty Elms (Naomi Watts’s character in the movie’s first part) looking for the apartments on a map of Los Angeles. She points to a spot near the corner of De Longpre Avenue and Hobart Boulevard in East Hollywood, not far from the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue. All of this geography may be purposely fictional.

In reality, Lynch filmed the Sierra Bonita scenes at a complex nicknamed the Snow White Cottages, at 2900 Griffith Park Boulevard in Central L.A.’s Los Feliz neighborhood.

These eight cottages were constructed in 1931, a block away from where Walt Disney had opened his studio two years earlier (at 2719 Hyperion Avenue, where a Gelson’s Market grocery store is today). Disney animators lived in these 700-square-foot, one-bedroom homes, including Claude Coats and his wife, Evelyn Henry, walking to work down the street. Henry later described the cottages:

“They’re real cute. Thatched roofs and looked just like a Snow White cottage. They were all separate cottages. They were not adjoined. Everyone living there worked at the studio.”

It’s sometimes said that Walt Disney built these houses. But in reality, they were built and designed by Ben Sherwood.

According to the Finding Los Angeles website: “The Snow White cottages feature crooked roofs, timber-frame facades, picture-perfect windowboxes and landscaping, intentionally-worn chimneys, and a tower at the far end of the bungalow courtyard. For Disney’s animators who lived in and walked by these storybook cottages everyday, there’s no doubt that art imitated life through their renderings of the fairytale cottage now immortalized in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

“Oh, it’s adorable! Just like a doll’s house. I like it here. Ooh, it’s dark inside.” — Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

The cottage from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

I wonder: Is the connection between this filming location and Disney’s classic 1937 movie based on the Snow White fairy tale mere happenstance? Or does it have some deeper resonance for Lynch?

On another note, singer-songwriter Elliott Smith lived in two different cottages in the complex in the 1990s, but he’d moved out by the time of his death in 2003.

The Snow White Cottages are private property, of course, with a locked gate. I walked along the front of the complex and looked down the alley (where the characters in Mulholland Drive go, seeking to hide from seemingly ominous men sitting in a nearby car).

SNOW WHITE CAFÉ

During my visit to L.A. I happened upon another place with connections to Disney’s classic 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs—the Snow White Café, a cozy little bar and restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard, where the walls are adorned with paintings of Snow White’s characters.

I asked the bartender: “What’s the deal with the Snow White theme?” He told me Disney’s animators used to hang out at the café, which opened in 1946, and that Walt Disney himself donated the artwork. This story seems to be more or less true, according to an article on the Only in Hollywood website.

The bartender also told me that the joint had been a speakeasy during the Prohibition Era, owned by Charlie Chaplin. (I’d want to see solid evidence before I buy that story.)

GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY

As I noted above, those Snow White Cottages where Lynch filmed scenes for Mulholland Drive are on Griffith Park Boulevard. If you follow that winding street north for a mile, you’ll arrive at Griffith Park itself. With 4,310 acres of mountainous terrain, it’s one of the nation’s largest urban parks, nearly five times the size of New York City’s Central Park. (An article at KCET’s website outlines the history of Griffith Park.)

Not surprisingly, this park has a starring or cameo role in many Hollywood movies. One of its most famous features is the Griffith Observatory, which opened in 1935. This beautiful structure, including a planetarium and a telescope that’s open for free viewing in the evenings, is a signature location in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause—a role that’s commemorated with a bust of James Dean. (Are those racing cars in Mulholland Drive—the ones that crash into the limo in the opening scene—a nod to the “chickie run” scene in Rebel Without a Cause?)

Griffith Observatory is also where the time-traveling cyborg played by Arnold Schwarzenegger arrives in 1984’s The Terminator. More recently, it appears in La La Land and Under the Silver Lake, in which Andrew Garfield’s character Sam decodes a secret message in a song:

“Rub Dean’s head and wait under Newton.”

In those films, the characters seem to have Griffith Observatory’s grounds to themselves. But when I visited, it was crowded with tourists. It’s a delightful place to look out at L.A.’s landscape, especially as the sun goes down and the city’s lights turn on.

BRONSON CAVES

The Bronson Caves are in another area of Griffith Park. This is where the Owl Cave scenes were filmed for Season 2 of Twin Peaks—and, more famously, the mouth of the caves appears as the Bat Cave entrance in the 1960s Batman TV series.

This man-made tunnel is a remnant of a rock quarry opened by Union Rock Company in 1903. It takes only about a minute to walk through the main corridor, as you can see in this video I made:

Wikipedia observes: “Scenes of the main cave entrance are normally filmed in a manner that shows the entrance at an angle because the cave is actually a very short tunnel through the hill, with the rear opening easily visible in a direct shot.”

As the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks website notes, this is “not a spectacular cavern like Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico or Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.”

And yet, thanks to its proximity to Hollywood, the Bronson Caves have appeared in hundred of movies and television shows—including two classics from 1956: In the finale of John Ford’s The Searchers, John Wayne pursues Natalie Wood to the cave’s entrance. And it’s also where Kevin McCarthy’s character hides out in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, only to make a horrifying discovery about his companion, Becky (Dana Wynter).

“I went to sleep, Miles, and it happened.”
“Oh, Becky.”
“They were right.”

Robert Altman filmed a disturbing scene for the climatic moments of 1993’s Short Cuts nearby. More recently, Bronson Caves appear in Hail, Caesar! and Under the Silver Lake.

THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN AND SUNSET RANCH

Next to Bronson Caves and Bronson Canyon, a walking trail leads up to a couple of places with scenic views of the Hollywood Sign. I walked up 1.9 miles to the end of the Hollyridge Trail on Mount Lee, where you can see that iconic sign as well as a location from Lynch’s Mulholland Drive: Sunset Ranch.

This is where Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) goes at night for a meeting with the enigmatic figure called the Cowboy (Lafayette “Monty” Montgomery).

“Where do I meet this Cowboy? I mean, do I have to ride out to the range?”
“Sort of, funny boy. If I tell him the meeting’s on, you have to go to the top of Beachwood Canyon. There’s a corral up there where he’ll be.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

It’s striking how close Sunset Ranch is to the Hollywood Sign. That proximity isn’t apparent in the movie, although Lynch cuts from the nighttime scene directly to a daytime image of the sign. During my visit, I heard horses neighing below me in the private ranch, which offers horse rides on the nearby mountain trails.

Hope Anderson, the director of a documentary called Under the Hollywood Sign, writes: “While the Ranch is not as scary in daylight as it was in Mulholland Dr., it is believed to be haunted. I had already heard stories of a “weird, dark energy” from someone who spent a lot of time there as a child. …

“I interviewed a former Sunset Ranch riding instructor who told me of spending the night in one of the rooms over the barn and hearing a man being hanged, along with choking sounds and the vibration of the rope. …

“Then there’s the strange, wafting scent of gardenias each autumn. Riders and ranch employees report smelling gardenias on the trails in mid-September, near the anniversary of Peg Entwistle’s suicide off the Hollywoodland Sign. No gardenias grow in the area, but Peg wore gardenia perfume.”

Entwistle, a New York stage actress who came to Hollywood and failed to land any of the movie roles she’d dreamed of, climbed 50 feet up a workman’s ladder to the top of the “H” and jumped to her death in 1932.

Los Angeles Times, September 20, 1932
The Californian, September 19, 1932

Eleven years earlier, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce had published an advertisement discouraging people from flocking to Hollywood in the hope of becoming movie stars.

When Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler had the sign built in 1923, it originally said “HOLLYWOODLAND”—the name of a real estate development he was advertising.

The sign makes me think of Eden Ahbez (or “eden ahbez,” as he usually styled his name), the songwriter and proto-hippy who wrote the song “Nature Boy.” Legend has it that Ahbez was living under the first “L” of the “HOLLYWOODLAND” sign in 1947, when he managed to get his song into the hands of Nat King Cole, who turned it into a No. 1 hit.

On his blog about Ahbez, Brian Chidester reports: “According to old-time California nature boy Bob Wallace, Ahbez used to camp out next to a shack up there in his sleeping bag, where he’d also sit and hold his hand-carved bamboo flutes up to the wind to let nature play its own song!”

Promotional photo of Eden Ahbez

As I walked down the trails in Griffith Park after seeing the Hollywood Sign, I encountered a coyote crossing the roadway:

THE TAILGATING SCENE FROM LOST HIGHWAY?

In David Lynch’s 1997 film Lost Highway, tough guy Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia) beats up a motorist who was tailgating him.

“Don’t you ever fucking tailgate! Ever! Ever! Do you know how many fucking car lengths it takes to stop a car at 35 miles an hour?! Six fucking car lengths! That’s 106 fucking feet, mister! If I had to stop suddenly, you would’ve hit me!”

A scene from Lost Highway

I haven’t found information about exactly where this scene was filmed. It takes place on a two-lane road curving through the mountains, much like Mulholland Drive. The Hollywood Sign is visible in the background during the violent assault along the road’s shoulder.

Judging from where the sign is in the background, I’m guessing the scene was filmed in Griffith Park—maybe on Mount Lee Road?

Google satellite

Incidentally, you may notice a spot labeled as The Last House on Mulholland on the Google satellite image above. As of now, it’s actually a vacant lot, but this design won first place in a 2017 architectural contest for the site:

Ambivalent House by Hirsuta (Jason Payne, Michael Zimmerman, Joseph Giampietro, Ryosuke Imaeda). Image: arch out loud

Continued in Part 4.

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.

Photos by Robert Loerzel unless noted otherwise.

Looking for Hollywood history and David Lynch’s Los Angeles: Part 2

MULHOLLAND DRIVE

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.

In this part: Mulholland Drive / Fred and Renee’s house from Lost Highway / The walk down from Mulholland Drive / Aunt Ruth’s apartment / Pink’s Hot Dogs

“I want to know if there was an accident on Mulholland Drive.”

David Lynch named his 2001 movie Mulholland Drive after one of the most famous roads in Los Angeles.

“I live near it, and I drive it quite often,” he told Filmmaker magazine in 2001. “… So it’s a mysterious road. It’s rural in many places. It’s curvy, it’s two lanes, it feels old. It was built long ago, and it hasn’t changed too much. And at night, you ride on top of the world. In the daytime you ride on top of the world too, but it’s mysterious, and there’s a hair of fear because it goes into remote areas. You feel the history of Hollywood in that road.”

When the Hollywood Hills Improvement Association, “a body composed of a large number of prominent property owners,” proposed the plan for Mulholland Drive in 1922,1 the Los Angeles Times remarked: “The idea has enormous possibilities as a scenic road, since it would command views of ocean, city, mountains and desert without peer in the world.”2

And when the road opened to cars on December 26, 1924,3 it created the possibility of building houses high up in the Hollywood Hills, transforming a wild and mountainous landscape into pricey real estate.

Photo: Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority

The road is named after the man who’d envisioned it: William Mulholland, an Irish immigrant who started working as a ditch digger before rising to become the Los Angeles city engineer and Water Bureau chief. Mulholland (who inspired the Hollis Mulwray character in the 1974 film Chinatown) had overseen the construction of the highly controversial aqueduct carrying water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles.

William Mulholland
(Wikipedia photo)

“Years ago, in his walks over these hills, Mr. Mulholland saw the possibilities of such a road, and advocated it among his friends,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Remarkably, Mulholland Drive was named after him while he was still serving in office. He’d reportedly suggested naming it after some famous historical figure, but Mulholland’s associates insisted on honoring him.

The Times agreed, saying that the road should be named after “the man whose engineering skill brought to Los Angeles the water supply which has made the Los Angeles of today possible.”2

Mulholland’s career ended in calamity and disgrace, when the St. Francis Dam burst open on March 12, 1928—just over 12 hours after Mulholland and an assistant had inspected the dam and declared it was safe. The resulting flood killed more than 400 people.

I didn’t take many photographs of Mulholland Drive during my visit—because I was too busy driving on it. The scenery is breathtaking all along this winding road. It feels like it’s high above the City of Angels, and yet, it is actually a part of it.

“I think because of the views, Mulholland gives you a semi-religious feeling of being up there and in control,” David Thomson wrote in the 1990s. “It is where Satan would take you if he were to offer you the city.”4

Sweeping around all of those curves, I gripped the steering wheel of my rental car and kept my foot poised to break at any second. Mulholland Drive demands that you stay alert at all times, even as the mountains and mansions tug at your attention, pulling your eyes away from the pavement. It’s no surprise that at least one spot on Mulholland Drive is known as a “dead man’s curve.”

Photographer Jason Knight has documented a car crash graveyard below Mulholland Drive near Laurel Canyon.

“What are you doing? We don’t stop here.”

David Lynch told interviewer Chris Rodley that his movie sprang out of a simple suggestion: “My former agent Tony Krantz said, ‘Why don’t you do a new television show called Mulholland Dr.*?’ If he hadn’t said that, I would never have done anything with it, so that was a good thing. … It was just those words. ‘Mulholland Drive.’ When you say some words, pictures form, and in this case, what formed was what you see at the beginning of the film—a sign at night, headlights on the sign, and a trip up a road. This makes me dream, and these images are like magnets, and they pull other ideas to them.”5

* The film’s title is often styled as Mulholland Dr.

In the movie’s opening minutes, two cars come screaming down the two-lane highway at nighttime—racing side by side, with young people standing up through the sunroofs of the vehicles, yelling and waving their arms. That would be reckless anywhere, of course, but now that I’ve actually driven on Mulholland Drive, it’s almost unimaginable that anyone would attempt such a stunt on this road.

Those cars crash into a limousine stopped along the road. The passenger in the limo (Laura Elena Harring), whom we’ll come to know as “Rita,” walks away from the crash, heading downhill through the brush along Mulholland Drive—drawn toward the lights of Los Angeles. It’s not clear precisely where on Mulholland Drive this collision is supposed to happen.

The movie returns to the same road in its final scenes, when the characters have changed personas. This time, Diane Selwyn (Naomi Watts) is riding in the limo. Her destination is the home of movie director Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux). We’ve heard the address:

6980 Mulholland Drive.

Once again, the limo makes an unexpected stop along Mulholland Drive—but this time, there’s no crash. Harring, now playing the character Camilla Rhodes, takes Diane up a hill to Kesher’s house.

In reality, there is no house at 6980 Mulholland Drive. Does the crash in the first part of the film happen at or near this address mentioned in the last part of the film? Geography suggests that it’s at least somewhere in that vicinity. As Rita walks downhill, she ends up on streets that are south-southwest of 6980 Mulholland Drive.

Google Streetview of 6980 Mulholland Drive

It’s worth noting that the nighttime vista Rita sees in the movie doesn’t seem to quite match what she would see at 6980 Mulholland Drive. (And this isn’t where Lynch filmed the scenes at Adam Kesher’s house isn’t here—that location is reportedly in the Studio City neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley.)

A scene from Mulholland Drive

If a house did exist at 6980 Mulholland Drive, it would be right next to the parking lot for the Jerome C. Daniel Overlook, where I stopped to take in views of the Hollywood Sign, the Hollywood Bowl, and the city of Los Angeles spread out below the Hollywood Hills.

I did not visit Mulholland Drive at nighttime; the closest approximation I have for the nighttime views in Lynch’s film are these photos looking out at Los Angeles from the part of Griffith Park near the Griffith Observatory.

FRED AND RENEE’S HOUSE IN LOST HIGHWAY

“Dick Laurent is dead.”

There’s something curious about the 6980 Mulholland Drive location.

If Rita walked a few hundred feet downhill from this spot, she’d end up in the backyard of a house from an earlier Lynch movie, 1997’s Lost Highway: the modernist home where jazz musician Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) lives with his wife, Renee (Patricia Arquette).

In the film, the house’s address is identified as “7035 Hollis, near the observatory.” There is, in fact, no such address in L.A. (Is Hollis an allusion to the Chinatown character Hollis Mulwray, a.k.a. William Mulholland?)

The house where Lynch filmed the exterior shots of the house and at least some interior scenes is actually on Senalda Road. According to Zillow, it was built in 1957. Here’s how it was described in a 1959 real estate ad in the Los Angeles Times:6

I drove past this private home a couple of times and snapped a few quick photos without lingering. Perhaps the house seemed spooky merely because of the way I’d seen it used in Lost Highway, but I sensed something forbidding about the building’s fortress-like façade facing that narrow, curving street in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood.

In Los Angeles Plays Itself, Thom Andersen observes:

“One of the glories of Los Angeles is its modernist residential architecture, but Hollywood movies have almost systematically denigrated this heritage by casting many of these houses as the residences of movie villains.”

THE WALK DOWN FROM MULHOLLAND DRIVE

Scenes from Mulholland Drive

In Mulholland Drive, Rita is next seen walking on the 7400 block of West Franklin Avenue in the Hollywood Hills West neighborhood—about a mile south of Mulholland Drive. (As it happens, this is near the former home of Joan Didion, 7406 Franklin Avenue.)

Scenes from Mulholland Drive

Rita continues walking, heading about half a mile southeast, to the 7200 West Sunset Boulevard in the Hollywood neighborhood. Finally, she falls asleep in some hedges outside an apartment building we later hear identified as 1612 Havenhurst. There’s actually no such address: Havenhurst Drive doesn’t extend north beyond Sunset Boulevard, or 1500 North.

That’s about a mile west of the previous spot where we’ve seen Rita walking, meaning that her entire trek down from Mulholland Drive was something like two and a half miles—a rather long walk for a dazed and injured woman wearing high heels.

Of course, Lynch may not have intended viewers to study the geography of Rita’s walk. And, depending on how you interpret the movie, all of this might be a dream anyway.

Google satellite photo

If, in fact, the spot where Rita falls asleep is supposed to be near Havenhurst and Sunset Boulevard, that would place it in the suburb of West Hollywood.

Looming northwest of the intersection is the seven-story Chateau Marmont hotel, built in 1929, where Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, and Lindsay Lohan stayed; John Belushi and Helmut Newton died; Robert Mitchum was arrested; Jim Morrison jumped from a fourth-floor window; and Dorothy Parker, Hunter S. Thompson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Jay McInerney wrote.

Half a block south on Havenhurst, a dotted line is painted across the street, marking the boundary between the cities of Los Angeles and West Hollywood.

On the same block, the Mi Casa apartments were filmed in Chinatown—appearing as the El Macondo Apartments, where detective Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) takes clandestine photos of Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling) in a romantic rendezvous.

AUNT RUTH’S APARTMENT

“Everybody in this building’s pretty much OK with me—or they wouldn’t be here.”

When she awakens, Rita hides in an apartment, as a tenant named Aunt Ruth (Maya Bond) departs on a trip. Later, Aunt Ruth’s niece Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) arrives. Lynch filmed these exterior scenes at the Il Borghese Apartments, a couple of miles to the southeast—at 450 North Sycamore Avenue in the Hancock Park neighborhood.

Built in 1929 and designed by Charles Gault, the Mediterranean-style building was on the cover of the book Courtyard Housing in Los Angeles, which called it “one of the most elegant of the courts.”

Curbed Los Angeles reported: “According to a tipster: ‘Shirley Temple lived here. Errol Flynn partied here, Ann-Margaret visited her publicist here, Lionel Richie found his current wife here.’ And we can’t confirm a damn bit of it…”

I photographed the exterior of the building, with its distinctive arched gates. I could hear the trickling of the fountain inside the courtyard, a sound that appears a few times in Mulholland Drive.

For photos of the courtyard, check out this blog post by Jonathan Myles-Lea, who notes: “Apparently a large olive tree existed on the lot where [Il] Borghese was to be built and instead of uprooting the tree, Gault centred the building’s courtyard around it. The 100 year old tree is still there today.” And for a look inside one of the units, see this story at the Apartment Therapy website.

PINK’S HOT DOGS

“Any new girls on the street lately? … A brunette? Maybe a little beat up? You’ll keep your eyes open for me won’t, you baby?”

Another Mulholland Drive location is just three blocks from the Il Borghese apartments: Pink’s Hot Dogs at 709 North La Brea Avenue. Billing itself as “A Hollywood Legend Since 1939,” the popular restaurant is where Lynch filmed the hitman Joe (Mark Pellegrino) talking with a couple of his associates along the building’s north wall.

Paul Pink and his wife, Betty, started selling 10-cent wieners from a cart at the same corner in 1939, before constructing the restaurant in 1946.7 It’s one of those oddly configured commercial buildings that seem cobbled together; the hot dog stand shares space with a lamp store. In Los Angeles Plays Itself, Thom Andersen describes Pink’s as one of those “a few Los Angeles landmarks that almost always play themselves.”

Pink’s serves a delicious and decadent item dubbed the Mulholland Drive Dog: a nine-inch “stretch dog,” grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, nacho cheese, and bacon. Inside, the many photos of celebrities and customers on the walls include an autographed picture of Lynch. Above his name, he wrote:

“GO PINKS”

Continued in Part 3.

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.

In this part: Mulholland Drive / Fred and Renee’s house from Lost Highway / The walk down from Mulholland Drive / Aunt Ruth’s apartment / Pink’s Hot Dogs

NOTES

1 “Scenic Boulevard From Hollywood to Sea Over Crest of Santa Monica Mountains,” Los Angeles Times, December 24, 1922.
2 “Fact and Comment,” Los Angeles Times, December 24, 1922.
3 “High Way Fete to Be Free,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 26, 1924.
4 David Thomson, Beneath Mulholland: Thoughts on Hollywood and Its Ghosts (New York: Knopf, 1998); quoted in Thomas Curwen, “‘If you ever want to fly…’,” Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2006.
David Lynch, ed. Chris Rodley, Lynch on Lynch (New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2005 edition), excerpted in Criterion Collection booklet for Mulholland Drive, 25-26.
6 Classified advertisement, Los Angeles Times, March 15, 1959.
7 Larry Gordon, “Chili Dog Champ Paul Pink Dies at Age 87,” Los Angeles Times, March 3, 1996.
Follow links in the text for additional sources.

Photos by Robert Loerzel except where noted otherwise.

Looking for Hollywood history and David Lynch’s Los Angeles: Part 1

I went to Los Angeles. I looked for locations where some of my favorite L.A. movies were made. Especially the films of David Lynch, but others, too. Here’s what I saw and learned…

BEVERLY HILLS AND VICINITY

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.

In this part: Greystone Mansion / Beverly Center / Franklin Canyon Park

 

GREYSTONE MANSION

“In heaven, everything is fine.”

Eraserhead

As a fan of David Lynch’s films, I wanted to see the place where Eraserhead was born. But that is hardly the only claim to fame for Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills.

This West Coast palace was built with oil money. Edward Doheny Sr., who’d discovered oil in Los Angeles in 1892, had this 55-room Tudor Revival-style home built in the late 1920s—as a gift for his son, Ned Doheny.

On February 16, 1929, five months after Ned and his family had moved in, he was found dead in the mansion alongside the body of his friend and aide Hugh Plunkett. Both had been shot in the head.

“After a quick investigation, authorities ruled that a deranged Plunkett shot his employer and then turned the gun on himself, but to this day the sensational crime is a source of rumor and speculation,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in 2003.

Los Angeles Times, February 18, 1929
Great Falls Tribune, February 18, 1929

As it happened, both men were due to testify in the trial of Ned Doheny’s father in the Teapot Dome case—perhaps the biggest political scandal in U.S. history before Watergate. And Ned was accused of serving as his father’s bribery bagman.

Edward Doheny Sr. was later found not guilty of bribing an official in President Warren G. Harding’s Cabinet, even though the official was found guilty of taking the bribe.

The story of the Dohenys inspired Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!—which Paul Thomas Anderson loosely adapted into his 2007 film There Will Be Blood, one of many, many movies filmed at Greystone Mansion.

And some scholars believe that Raymond Chandler had Greystone Mansion in mind when he described the home of General Sternwood, an aging oil tycoon, in his 1939 novel The Big Sleep (filmed in 1946 by Howard Hawks).

The Big Sleep

Greystone was later owned by Chicago industrialist Henry Crown, who leased it out for movie shoots. He planned to tear it down and subdivide the property, but Beverly Hills stopped demolition by buying the mansion in 1965.

The city leased it to the American Film Institute—and that’s where David Lynch enters the picture, arriving as an AFI student in 1970. Beginning in 1972, Lynch spent four years making Eraserhead, transforming the Greystone Mansion’s stables into a makeshift studio—creating a weird world inside its walls.

In his 2018 book Room to Dream, Lynch wrote:

“Nobody was using the stables at the AFI, so I set up there and had a pretty-good-size studio for four years. Some people from the school came down the first night of shooting and they never came down again. I was so lucky—it was like I’d died and gone to heaven.”1

For a time, Lynch even lived in the stables. “I moved into the stables when Peggy and I split up, and that was the greatest place. I’d lock myself in Henry’s room and I loved sleeping there, but eventually I had to leave …”2

The American Film Institute moved out of the mansion after 1981. Today, the grounds are a public park, Historic Doheny Greystone Estate (905 Loma Vista Drive, Beverly Hills) while the mansion itself is open only for special events.

It’s an astonishingly beautiful place. Strolling amid the buildings and gardens, I felt as if I’d somehow wandered onto the grounds of an English castle.

At first, it wasn’t clear to me where the stables were located, but I found a map on a placard, which showed the stables down at the southwest corner of the estate, along Doheny Road.

The gates to this section were locked, much as I’d expected. These utilitarian buildings are hardly the main attraction for most visitors, even if I think they deserve to be preserved—not only for their architectural beauty, but as a shrine to the creation of Eraserhead.

The Criterion Collection’s edition of Eraserhead includes a short film from 1997 documenting a visit by Lynch, Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, and Catherine Coulson to the stables. Even they weren’t allowed inside the buildings, apparently.

Until I visited this spot, I’d had trouble picturing the place where Lynch and his small team of collaborators created their surreal film, which seems so far removed from the milieu of Los Angeles. The contrast was even more striking as I stood outside the wall on Doheny Road, which is lined with tall palm trees. It’s hard to imagine how anything like Eraserhead had emerged from this sunny street lined with luxurious estates.

Greystone Mansion has a Zelig-like presence in Hollywood films and TV shows. Dozens of movies have been filmed in its rooms and gardens over the decades, including—to name just a few—Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte, The Disorderly Orderly, The Loved One, Stripes, Ghostbusters, The Witches of Eastwick, X-Men, Spider-Man, The Prestige, and The Social Network.

In The Big Lebowski, its interiors served as the mansion of the title character (the wealthy Lebowski, of course, not the Dude). It was also Kermit the Frog’s mansion in 2011’s The Muppets.

It would be fascinating to see the scenes showing Greystone in these various films edited together, to see how the same spaces have been used time and time again. Through its numerous film roles, Greystone has become the archetype of a classic West Coast mansion.

There Will Be Blood

In There Will Be Blood, it’s the mansion of oil tycoon Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), where he proclaims, “I drink your milkshake!” That was the first film made inside the mansion’s subterranean bowling alley, located near the old laundry room where Lynch had constructed the stage for Eraserhead‘s Lady in the Radiator in the 1970s.3

Raymond Chandler

In Chandler’s The Big Sleep, private detective Philip Marlowe describes departing Greystone—or a mansion similar to it, anyway:

Outside the bright gardens had a haunted look, as though small wild eyes were watching me from behind the bushes, as though the sunshine itself had a mysterious something in its light. I got into my car and drove off down the hill. What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that.4

Eraserhead

BEVERLY CENTER

Two miles southeast of Greystone, David Lynch filmed some outdoor scenes for Eraserhead on the land southeast of Beverly Boulevard and San Vicente Boulevard, in the Beverly Grove neighborhood of Los Angeles.

I didn’t visit this site—largely because I knew that nothing remains to be seen of the landscape Lynch filmed. Nevertheless, it’s fascinating to consider how much this place has changed.

Eraserhead

Lynch told interviewer Chris Rodley:

“… it was one of my favorite places in the whole world. You’d go over this doughnut of earth and down inside this place, and you’d be in a completely different world. There were these oil tanks and this working oil well just standing there. It was just incredible.”

Lynch said he liked this place because it seemed frozen in time since the 1930s. “… it hadn’t changed. It was like a set. This place just existed there.”5

Back in 1931, the Ripley’s Believe It or Not cartoon had told readers about an oil well near this site:6

Beverly Park, an amusement park with a dozen kiddie rides, opened here in 1946, leasing land from the Beverly Oil Company and disguising the neighboring oil well as a dragon with flapping wings. Walt Disney’s visits to the park reportedly inspired him to create Disneyland.

(KCET reports that Alfred Hitchcock filmed 1951’s Strangers on a Train here, but that seems to be incorrect. From the American Film Institute website: “According to a Nov 1950 HR news items, the amusement park set was constructed at director Rowland V. Lee’s Ranch, which was located in the San Fernando Valley…” The Carousel Corner website agrees, noting that Hitchcock’s movie, featuring “the greatest carousel movie scene ever,” used a rental Herschell carousel.)

Beverly Park closed in 1974—around the time when Lynch filmed Eraserhead—while the adjacent Ponyland stayed open a few more years.

“Beverly Ponyland consisted of a dusty, dirty row of old wooden stalls with a 3-track riding ring where one could hear the sounds of snorting ponies, jingling bits, creaking leather saddles and sporadic ‘Giddyups,’ while the pungent mixture of hay and fresh droppings filled the air,” KCET notes.

“… After Beverly Park closed, some of the rides remained on the lot. They stood forlornly behind a chained up gate, bearing a misleading sign which read, ‘closed for renovations.'”

Photos from the Water and Power Associates website

Lynch recalled: “There was a pony ride from the twenties or thirties. And there was this little key shop that was like four feet by four feet, with a roof. And then there was the Tail o’ the Pup hot dog stand, which has moved to another place now. And there was Hull Bros. Lumber, which was a working sawmill, I think, with a hundred-foot-tall mound of sawdust next to it. There was also a nursery. It was all, like, from the thirties—mostly dirt, with this stuff scattered around. The buildings were ancient, and guys wore those green-colored visors and armbands. They were old-timers who knew about wood and Hollywood and everything.”5

In 1979, two years after the release of Eraserhead, construction crews began building the eight-story Beverly Center shopping mall on this land. “Now it’s just like, a congestion of shops and parking and lights and signs. It’s just a huge change,” Lynch later remarked.5

In 1984, the Los Angeles Times reported that neighbors “said it was one of the ugliest buildings in the city and called it the Incredible Bulk.”7

In 1991, architecture critic Aaron Betsky wrote: “The Beverly Center is not a pretty building. It’s big, it’s brown, and it’s a blob.” He called the mall’s interior a “shining shopping nirvana” and “the Acropolis of shopping, dedicated to our national religion, consumption.”8

Since renovations were completed in 2018, the bulky shopping center is no longer brown. It “now boasts a new glimmering white skin made of a highly textured stucco surmounting a metal mesh which changes transparency through the day and according to the viewer’s vantage point.”

Google Streetview

It’s utterly unrecognizable as the place where Lynch filmed, but oil wells are still operating on the property, concealed by the tall walls along San Vicente Boulevard.

FRANKLIN CANYON PARK

Driving north three miles from Greystone Mansion—taking Loma Vista Drive and Coldwater Canyon Drive—you’ll arrive at Franklin Canyon Park, where several scenes were filmed for Twin Peaks, especially for the second season of the TV series. This California park serves as a stand-in for the forests of Washington state in these scenes, which were mostly filmed by directors other than David Lynch.

Scenes from Twin Peaks

Glastonberry Grove’s ring of sycamore trees—that portal into the Black Lodge—was reportedly filmed somewhere in these woods. So was Windom Earle’s cabin, and various forest outings by Twin Peaks characters. It’s where the show’s lawmen took a walk. And it’s where Hawk found Major Briggs. (For details about these and other places where Twin Peaks was filmed, visit location sleuth Steven Miller’s excellent Twin Peaks Blog.)

I took a short drive into Franklin Canyon Park, but alas, I didn’t have enough time to search for these locations—or the many other places where movies and TV shows were filmed. When I visited, it looked like a movie crew was filming something.

Franklin Canyon has appeared in It Happened One Night, The Blob, Minority Report, Platoon, Nightmare on Elm Street, Rambo, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, Purple Rain, and the original Star Trek TV series episode “The Paradise Syndrome.”

Perhaps most famously, a lake in the canyon serves as the backdrop for the opening credits of The Andy Griffith Show.

Franklin Canyon is also where two 1960s album covers were photographed: Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence and the Rolling Stones’ Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass).

This canyon is where Los Angeles Water Bureau chief William Mulholland built reservoirs and a “Mighty Siphon of Riveted Steel” from 1913 to 1916, completing a 230-mile aqueduct that carried water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles.

Without all of that water, it’s doubtful that L.A. could have continued growing into a massive city, and the Los Angeles Times hailed this “splendid achievement by Mulholland and his assistants.”9 But people in the Owens Valley accused L.A. of stealing their water.

Illustration of William Mulholland in the Los Angeles Times, March 20, 1915
Los Angeles Times, March 20, 1915

Mulholland was the inspiration for a character named Hollis Mulwray in Robert Towne’s screenplay for Roman Polanski’s 1974 film Chinatown. Don’t take that version of the story too literally, though.

In Los Angeles Plays Itself—a 2003 documentary that was one of the inspirations for my movie-location hunt in L.A.—director Thom Andersen observes:

“Robert Towne took an urban myth about the founding of Los Angeles on water stolen from the Owens River Valley and made it resonate,. Chinatown isn’t a docudrama; it’s a fiction. … These echoes have led many viewers to regard Chinatown not only as docudrama, but as truth, the real secret history of how Los Angeles got its water, and it has become a ruling metaphor for nonfictional critiques of Los Angeles development.”

Darrell Zwerling as Hollis Mulwray in Chinatown

Author David Thomson wrote that William Mulholland “is regarded now as a robber baron and ecological rapist.” But as he noted, “No one is sending the water back to the desolate Owens Valley.”10

As Mulholland was building Franklin Canyon’s reservoirs, the Dohenys—the same family that built Greystone Mansion—bought land in the lower part of the canyon for watering and grazing cattle. In 1935, the Dohenys added a Spanish adobe home in the canyon, using it as a summer retreat.

The canyon’s old reservoirs were removed from use—and one was completely drained—by the early 1980s, after officials decided they were vulnerable to earthquakes. And the land was opened to the public as Franklin Canyon Park.

Photo: Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority

The park’s north end connects with a curvy mountain highway with a famous name: Mulholland Drive.

Continued in Part 2.

See an INDEX for this series of blog posts.

NOTES

1 David Lynch and Kristine McKenna, Room to Dream (New York: Random House, 2018), Room to Dream, 124.
2 Room to Dream, 131.
3 Room to Dream, 122.
4 Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1939; New York: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 1992), 230.
5 David Lynch, ed. Chris Rodley, Lynch on Lynch (New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2005 edition), excerpted in Criterion Collection booklet for Mulholland Drive, 24.
6 Johnson City (TN) Chronicle, April 2 and 3, 1931.
7 Frank Clifford, “The Beverly Center,” Los Angeles Times, March 4, 1984.
8 Aaron Betsky, “It’s Big, Chic and Famous, but Beverly Center’s Not a Pretty Site,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 14, 1991.
9 “Drive Great Pipe Line Through to Lower Dam,” Los Angeles Times, May 11, 1913.
10 David Thomson, “Uneasy Street,” in Sex, Death and God in L.A., ed. David Reid (New York: Pantheon, 1992), page 363 in the e-book.
Follow links in the text for additional sources.

Photos by Robert Loerzel except where noted otherwise.

Looking for Hollywood history and David Lynch’s Los Angeles: Index

Part 1: BEVERLY HILLS AND VICINITY:
Greystone Mansion / Beverly Center / Franklin Canyon Park

Part 2: MULHOLLAND DRIVE:
Mulholland Drive / Fred and Renee’s house from Lost Highway / The walk down from Mulholland Drive / Aunt Ruth’s apartment / Pink’s Hot Dogs

Part 3: GRIFFITH PARK, ETC.:
The Snow White Cottages, a.k.a. Sierra Bonita / Snow White Café / Griffith Observatory / Bronson Caves / The Hollywood Sign and Sunset Ranch

Part 4: HOLLWYOOD
Paramount Studios / The Hollywood Walk of Fame / The death scene in Inland Empire / The Frolic Room / Cinerama Dome / Alto Nido Apartments / Hollywood Center Motel / Hollywood Athletic Club / Crossroads of the World / Capitol Records / Mural at Sunset and Vine / Philip Marlowe’s office / Amoeba Music

Part 5: DOWNTOWN L.A.
“Nite Owl Café” / Safety Last! / The door to Club Silencio / The Banks-Huntley Building / “Twin Peaks Savings & Loan” / The Tower Theatre / Hotel Barclay / Fire Station No. 23 / The Bradbury Building / The Million Dollar Theatre / The Second Street Tunnel / Union Station / Los Angeles City Hall / The Los Angeles Times Building / The John Ferraro Building / Los Angeles Central Library / Bunker Hill / Angels Flight / Double Indemnity’s opening shot / The final scene of Chinatown / The viaduct in Eraserhead / The Los Angeles River

Part 6: SOUTH L.A. AND VICINITY
Doheny Mansion / “Winkie’s Diner” / The diner that inspired Winkie’s / “Eat at Judy’s” (Rudy’s) / The lot where Tyler Durden’s house was / Point Fermin Park / Pelican Cove Park

PART 7: MISCELLANEOUS MOVIE LOCATIONS
The Firestone from Lost Highway / Echo Lake Park / Chili John’s / Handy Market / Point Dume / Lankershim Arts Center / Burbank Water and Power / The Music Box Steps / Venice Beach and Santa Monica / The Dude’s apartment

Where Chicago’s 1919 race riot began

The landscape along Lake Michigan on Chicago’s South Side has utterly changed over the past century. If you’re looking for the beaches where Chicago’s race riot erupted on July 27, 1919, you won’t find them.

As I was researching a history of the riot for Chicago magazine, I searched for maps, documents, and details that would explain where these events took place—and what is there today.

It may never be possible to pinpoint precisely where a black 17-year-old named Eugene Williams drowned in the lake’s waters after a white man threw rocks at him, but maps do show where the shoreline was in 1919—farther west than where it is today.

When you walk along the lake today—south of McCormick Place and north of 31st Street’s Margaret T. Burroughs Beach—look over toward Lake Shore Drive. Imagine that the shoreline was over on the other side of the road. The spot where you’re walking was part of Lake Michigan back then.

Two beaches played a role in the events of 1919: one that was supposedly for white people only, and one that was used mostly by African Americans.

There was no law enforcing the racial segregation of these beaches, but black Chicagoans of that time said they knew they’d be attacked if they encroached the territory claimed by white racists.

The beach dominated by white people was usually called the 29th Street beach—located around the spot where 29th Street would hit the shoreline if the street extended that far east. The beach was just east of Michael Reese Hospital.

The beach used by black people was a few blocks north of the white area. It was usually—but not always—called the 26th Street beach.

In its verdict on the death of Eugene Williams, the Cook County coroner’s jury said that the blacks’ beach was at 22nd Street:

“We find that the beaches on the lake front in south division of the City of Chicago have heretofore been used by white and colored people, but by common consent, segregated, the colored people using a beach at the foot of 22nd street, the white people using the beach at the foot of 29th street and at points further south. While there may have been some friction in the use of the beaches nothing of moment occurred until the afternoon of July 27th, 1919.”

The reference to 22nd Street seems to be an error. That location isn’t corroborated by other historical references.

Cook County coroner’s jury verdict, obtained from Cook County via a Freedom of Information Act request

The Chicago Commission on Race Relations’ extensive report about the riot called it the 26th Street beach—but one passage in the book describes it as being near 27th Street. At another point, the book says that the beach was at 28th Street.

In the months leading up the riot, two weekly black newspapers, the Chicago Whip and the Chicago Defender, both called it the 26th Street beach.

Chicago Whip headline, July 19, 1919, microfilm at Chicago History Museum

One of the teenagers who was with Williams on that fateful day at the beach, John Turner Harris, described the beach when he spoke a half-century later with author William M. Tuttle Jr. Tuttle asked: “This is 26th Street?” Harris replied:

“This is actually the 25th Street beach. … Actually, there is a big sign naming this the 25th Street beach.”

These beaches were informally organized. The Chicago Commission on Race Relations reported that the beaches were not “publicly maintained and supervised for bathing,” and yet they were “much used.”

According to the Whip and the Defender, a man named Max Olmstein or Olenstein managed the 26th Street beach that was frequented by black Chicagoans. According to the 1920 census, this was apparently a 64-year-old immigrant from Germany who worked as a manager of a collection department. The Whip reported that he’d hired five lifeguards for the beach.

“Mr. Max Olenstein, we hope you keep up the good work for the second ward, as well all know you have a good crew of Life Guards,” the Whip commented. Addressing its black readers, the newspaper said:

“Come any time you want, there is always some one down there to protect you at the Beach from 5:30 A.M. to 9:30 P.M.”

Eight days later, Eugene Williams drowned at the beach and a riot broke out.

A map combining the 1911 Sanborn Fire Insurance map with the 1918 U.S. Army Corps of Engineer map, along with the 2019 shoreline from Google.

In his interview for Tuttle’s 1970 book Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919, John Turner Harris described the trip he took with Williams and three other friends to the beach on that day. Tuttle shared his interview transcript with me, including details that weren’t published in his book.

After riding north up Wabash Avenue on the back of a produce truck, Harris and his friends got off at 26th Street and walked east. At the end of the street, they headed north for one block, walking past a police station and a fire station. The teens then went east on 25th Street. Harris remembered walking near the Hydrox Ice Cream Company’s factory.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, vol. 3, 1911

The Hydrox factory is not on the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from 1911, but later documents show that it was north of 25th Street along Lake Park Avenue. On April 18, 1919, the Chicago Tribune reported that Hydrox was planning to construct one of the country’s largest ice-cream and soft-drink factories at the site.

Advertisement in 1923 Chicago city directory

As they continued east, Harris, Williams, and their friends reached the Illinois Central Railroad tracks. “We went over the bridge where the Illinois Central track is to the beach,” Harris recalled. The 1911 Sanborn map shows one bridge across the tracks, roughly a block south of 25th Street.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, vol. 3, 1911

According to the Chicago Commission on Race Relations’ book, The Negro in Chicago:

“The approach is over a rough road through a much-neglected neighborhood, and then up a long flight of stairs to a four-foot viaduct over the railroad tracks, and a roundhouse and switch yards are near by.”

That book also includes a photo showing a bridge over the tracks, with a caption identifying it as the 29th Street beach. Is it the same bridge Harris mentioned—the one that appears on the 1911 map? Or was there another bridge farther south?

Here’s how The Negro in Chicago describes the 26th Street area of the shore:

“The beach is a strip of sand about fifty feet wide and a short block in length; it narrows at one end to the tracks and at the other end is walled by a high embankment. While it offers a chance to get into the lake, the atmosphere of wholesome, recreative outdoor life is entirely lacking.”

The South Park Commission—which was later folded into the Chicago Park District—had surveyed the shoreline here in 1907.

Detail of 1907 survey. Chicago Park District Records: Drawings, Folder 44, Burnham Park Plats and Surveys, 0027-1099-1907, Chicago Public Library Special Collections

This section of the lakefront looks similar in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map from 1918:

And it was largely unchanged in an Army Corps map four years later:

Harris said that he and his friends went to a place on the lakefront a bit south of the beach used by blacks. He believed that it was near 26th Street. These maps suggest that he may have been talking about the area with a small inlet—about halfway between 26th and 27th Streets.

Harris and his pals had a nickname for this spot: “hot and cold.” This was where an ice factory and breweries poured a mix of hot and cold fluids into the lake.

April 27, 1919, advertisement in the Chicago Tribune

Harris remembered an ice factory run by the Consumers Company. The 1911 map shows the Hygienic Ice Company at 2553 South Park Avenue, but Consumers was operating an ice plant at the same location by 1923.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, vol. 3, 1911

Harris recalled the Keeley Brewing Company’s plant dumping its water into the lake. In fact, there were two breweries flanking 27th Street: Keeley and Conrad Seipp Brewing Company.

With the advent of Prohibition, the Seipp brewery had recently switched to making “near beer,” with a legally permissible alcoholic content of half a percent. The Chicago Tribune remarked:

“No longer will the smell of hops permeate the air in that district of Chicago adjacent to Lake Michigan from Twenty-fourth street south to Twenty-eighth.”

(According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, “Many speculated that Seipp also produced bootleg beer for the Torrio-Capone crime organization.”)

Keeley Brewing Company. Photo via the Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal.
Conrad Seipp Brewing Company. Illustration via Chicagology.

Harris said that he and his friends went to a “little island,” where they’d built a raft. No islands appear on the maps, but that may simply be because they aren’t detailed enough.

Harris described the route they took with their raft: “We were going in an angle from the 25th Street beach to a given point—there was a little pole out there with a milepost.” Then they approached a breakwater.

“This breakwater on 26th Street went all the way through in the rocks. … This breakwater was all the way out there and the shore is irregular.”

The Army Corps of Engineers map from 1918 shows a spot slightly north of 28th Street where the land juts out—roughly 88 feet, according to the map’s scale. This spot looks like the closest match to the breakwater described by Harris. Was this outcropping also the demarcation for that invisible line through the water, the boundary that blacks weren’t supposed to cross?

According to Tuttle’s book: “Passing by the breakwater near 26th Street, the youths noticed a white man.” Harris said that a white man who was “walking along the breakwater” threw rocks at them. Harris estimated that the man was 75 to 100 feet away from the teenagers and their raft.

It seems likely that Eugene Williams died somewhere in the water east of that spot where the land jutted out into the lake. “We were in about 15 feet of water at the time,” Harris recalled. The Army Corps of Engineers map shows depths of 9 feet and 10.25 feet in nearby water.

Measuring the endpoint of that breakwater on the 1918 Army Corps of Engineers map, I estimate that the latitude and longitude are 41.84378,-87.61168. Plugging those coordinates into Google maps, the point is shown in a parking lot just east of Lake Shore Drive. The area where Eugene Williams died in the water would have been roughly 75 to 100 feet from there—around where Moe Drive is today, or perhaps on the western edge of Lake Shore Drive.

Eugene Williams’s death certificate (in the records of the Cook County clerk’s office) lists the location of his death as “Lake Michigan at 29th St.” That might indicate that’s where his body was brought ashore. Or it could be just a general indication of the area where he died. Or is it intended to be a specific location—indicating that the spot of his death was at 2900 South?

The Cook County grand jury indictment of a white man accused of throwing rocks at Williams—George Stauber, who was later found not guilty—does not include a specific location for the death, other than “the waters of Lake Michigan.”

* * *

This area is not the only place where Chicago’s lakefront has evolved beyond recognition. All up and down the shoreline, landfill was added, moving the water’s edge toward the east. The Encyclopedia of Chicago features a map by Dennis McClendon showing how landfill changed the shoreline. (McClendon also runs the useful Chicago in Maps website.)

In the area near the old 26th and 29th Street beaches, the land was extended in the early 1930s—creating part of the fairgrounds for A Century of Progress International Exposition, the world’s fair that Chicago hosted in 1933 and 1934.

Chicago Park District Records: Drawings, CPD1205 , Chicago Public Library Special Collections

Above, a 1924 South Park Commission plan shows the old shoreline and a planned breakwater to the east. By 1929, that breakwater appears on a U.S. Geological Survey map:

Historical Topographic Map Collection, USGS 1:24000-scale Quadrangle for Jackson Park, IL 1929

That space between the shoreline and the breakwater was filled in by 1933. Below, a Conoco Travel Bureau map of the fairgrounds shows the Midway attractions on the newly created land just east of where the beaches used to be—including carnival rides, replicas of historic scenes—and some features that sound horrifying, including a “Negro Plantation Show.”

American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries

In the decades after 1919, Michael Reese Hospital expanded, taking over the land where the breweries had been.

Michael Reese Hospital. Photo: All Our Lives, via Forgotten Chicago
City of Chicago map, via the Urban Remains website

The hospital shut down in 2009, and the buildings were demolished, leaving the desolate vacant land of today. The site was touted as a possible location for the Olympics, when Chicago bid (unsuccessfully) for the 2016 Games. In 2019, Mayor Lori Lightfoot suggested it as one of several possible sites for Chicago’s first casino.

The land east of Lake Shore Drive—where the 1933-34 world’s fair Midway entertained visitors—is now part of Burnham Park, a 653.6-acre expanse of beaches, trails, green space, and natural areas along the South Side’s lakefront that is owned and maintained by the Chicago Park District.

Photo by Robert Loerzel

A boulder with a plaque commemorating the 1919 race riot sits along a trail just west of the lake, around where 29th Street would hit the lakefront if the street continued east of Lake Shore Drive.

Photo by Robert Loerzel

It appears to be around 500 feet southeast of the vicinity where Eugene Williams died—but given how much the surrounding scene has transformed over time, it may be as appropriate a place as any to place a marker for this tragic event.

Burnham Park is named, of course, after architect and urban planner Daniel H. Burnham, who cowrote the famous 1909 Plan of Chicago with Edward H. Bennett. Burnham and Bennett called for the creation of park space all along the lakefront, influencing the later decisions of city and park officials. Today’s lakefront is beautiful, though it doesn’t quite match the vision that Burnham and Bennett had. Their book includes this painting of their planned lakefront by Jules Guerin:

They envisioned a sequence of lagoons and harbors along the lakefront. Northerly Island is one piece of their plan to create a man-made series of “islands” along the shore. Here is a close-up of Burnham and Bennett’s plan for the shore around those old beaches at 26th and 29th Streets:

Burnham and Bennett waxed rhapsodic about the importance of Lake Michigan to the city of Chicago and its people—words worth meditating on as we remember the race riot that broke out on the lakefront in 1919:

“The opportunities for large parks in the immediate vicinity of Chicago are ample. First in importance is the shore of Lake Michigan, which should be treated as park space to the greatest possible extent.

“The Lake front by right belongs to the people. It affords their one great unobstructed view, stretching away to the horizon, where water and clouds seem to meet. No mountains or high hills enable us to look over broad expanses of the earth’s surface; and perforce we must come even to the margin of the Lake for such a survey of nature. These views of a broad expanse are helpful alike to mind and body. They beget calm thoughts and feelings, and afford escape from the petty things of life.

“Mere breadth of view, however, is not all. The Lake is living water, ever in motion, and ever changing in color and in the form of its waves. Across its surface comes the broad pathway of light made by the rising sun; it mirrors the ever-changing forms of the clouds, and it is illumined by the glow of the evening sky. Its colors vary with the shadows that play upon it. In its every aspect it is a living thing, delighting man’s eye and refreshing his spirit.

“Not a foot of its shores should be appropriated by individuals to the exclusion of the people. On the contrary, everything possible should be done to enhance its attractiveness and to develop its natural beauties, thus fitting it for the part it has to play in the life of the whole city. It should be made so alluring that it will become the fixed habit of the people to seek its restful presence at every opportunity. “