Friday, April 18, 2008

California: LA (2)

April 1-6, 2008. LA Sightseeing (cont):

4-The Getty Villa. The daughter of friends of ours from Amherst, the Pastides, works here as a museum educator so we were thrilled that George also wanted to take us there. Katharine was able to steel away from her desk for a few minutes to give us a short introduction. It was great to see her! J. Paul Getty, opened the Malibu villa in 1974 after first opening the Getty Museum in 1954. Now there's a new museum in downtown LA. The villa (modeled after a Roman country home) is an "educational center and museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria". It's really impressive. There are numerous tours, a movie, gardens, special exhibits, and lots to see. We only were there a few hours but could have spent 4-5. We'll be back! (There's no admission but you have to make reservations and pay for parking.)

5-Walking Tour of the Historic area of downtown LA. (This tour really helped us see LA from a historical perspective and not just as an entertainment capital.) Our excellent volunteer guide was an urban planner from the LA Conservancy which was formed in the mid 70's to help save the Library from being torn down. It now offers lots of tours (for a very reasonable $10). The tour started at Pershing Square, named after the General in WWI. LA was founded in 1781 by 44 people. First called the Town of the Queen of Angels, by the late 1840's was the largest town in California. There was a real boom in population in the late 1880's. Most of the historical buildings were built in the late 1890's and early 1900's. Most of them were low as there was a strict height limit until 1957. (Here are some of the modern buildings near Pershing Square.)

The Pacific Mutual Building (now the Pacific Center) was a Beaux Arts building, the first part built in 1908. It was so elegant with beautiful marble and detailed work.

The Art Deco Southern California Edison Building was also beautiful, especially the ornate elevator and the lobby ceiling.

The Los Angeles Central Library was an old building with a new wing opened in 1993 after 2 fires. I especially liked the hangings in the new section which goes a number of stories under ground. The escalators are at the bottom of the picture.

We had never heard of Angels Flight (Railway). It was built in 1901 to carry people up and down between downtown and the fashionable Bunker Hill district. It was a funicular, having two cars on the same cable. It was interesting to think about it being used for so many years. It was dismantled in 1969 but restored last year. Unfortunately there was an accident and it is now out of service (hopefully not permanently). Near that is the famous Grauman's Theater, nicknamed the "Million Dollar Theater", since that's about what it cost to build it for showman, Sidney Grauman. It has lavish terra cotta ornaments on the outside with apartments on the upper floors.

The Bradbury Building was the most impressive for me. It's one of the oldest commercial buildings in the downtown area. What I loved was the open cage elevators, marble stairs, and ornate iron railings. What a great place to work (if you have to work!). It was used in the movie, "Bladerunner". Julie and Sandy took a seat on either side of Charlie Chaplin. (I'm not sure why Mr. Chaplin was there.)

Also on the tour was the Pacific Finance Building, Biltmore Hotel, Mayflower Hotel, Subway Terminal Building, Broadway Department Store, and the Grand Central Market.

6-Huntington Library and Gardens. This is a pretty famous place in Pasadena. People come to do research in the library. It houses rare books which constitute one of the world's largest and most extensively used collections in the US outside of the Library of Congress. (No real need for that but it's nice to know.) There are art collections too but we took a tour of the huge botanical garden and Chinese Garden. There were so many beautiful plants. Here are just some we liked: agave, aeonium voodoo, arenarius, puya alpestris, unidentified (if you know this let me know), and a rare yellow camellia. The new Chinese Garden was very cool and beautiful and a place to go back to and really spend some time. (We were there on a Sunday when it had just been opened to the public so it was really crowded.)

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