Scientology’s most famous member, Tom Cruise, no longer owns a home in Los Angeles, but when he is in town he can always stay at the Scientology Celebrity Center and its Manor Hotel on Franklin St. in Hollywood..
Built by the widow of an early Hollywood movie mogul, the Celebrity Center was originally called the Chateau Elysee and was a combination of apartments and a hotel for the international elite.
In an early photo of the building it stands grand and glorious at the edge of the Hollywood Hills. Today it is surrounded by tall fences, except at the entrance to the hotel where a guy in a casual clothes reading a newspaper turned out to be a guard.
There is another gate with a sign that reads “Welcome” and offers free classes, but you have to ring the bell for admission to what looks like a very lovely garden terrace. And I have no doubt that if you ring the bell you will be greeted almost instantly by someone who is actually a Scientology recruiter.
The woman who owns this home told me that she decided to take up lawn replacement design on her own. She said she had no art training of any kind, so I have begun to think of her as a self-taught primitive landscape designer, a kind of “Grandma Moses of lawn replacement”.
The design of this front garden breaks almost every rule of conventional garden design.
The result is astonishing. Unlike anything else in the staid, quiet Madison Heights neighborhood of Pasadena. And I love the whimsy of it all!
The cornerstone for the church commonly called “La Placita” church in the historic district of the Pueblo of Los Angeles was laid by Franciscan Luis Gil y Taboada in 1814 on the ruins of an older church founded in 1784. It is the oldest church in Los Angeles.
And, much to my surprise, La Placita has recently been painted all white…well, except for one wall on the side by the cemetery so perhaps the painting is not complete. Quite frankly, I preferred the beige and red colors of the previous exterior paint. Because it is a parish church and Sunday services were being held I did not see if the interior has been repainted too.
This church faces onto the historic plaza at the end of Olvera Street near downtown Los Angeles.
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The Avila Adobe is the oldest remaining home in Los Angeles. (The nearby La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, more commonly known as La Placita church, is 4 years older and I’ll be writing about it in the next post.)
This home was built by Californio cattleman Francisco Avila in 1818 as an in-town residence for his family. He also had a home on his ranch near what is now the Mid-Wilshire area by the La Brea Tar Pits.
Members of the Avila family lived in this adobe until 1868 then turned it into a rental. By 1926 the building had fallen into disrepair before being restored as part of a revitalization of Olvera Street.
The building is now managed by the National Park Service and entry is free. It offers a good idea of how well-to-do people lived in Southern California back in 1818.
This cart, below, was built by Darryl Robertshaw in 2004 as a replica of the carts used originally to bring produce to Olvera Street, the main street of Los Angeles. There is a similar cart used for bringing in grapes on display at the San Gabriel Mission.
Kitchens back then were always separate from the main house– not only in California, but in homes around the world. Here in California, the Avila kitchen was outdoors on one side of the courtyard.
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From a block away I could hear the Mexican music from the bandstand in the enter of La Placita at the historic Pueblo de Los Angeles near Union Station. Hundreds of people had gathered in the area and it felt just like a central plaza in a small Mexican town. And the music was almost non-stop thanks to the Olvera Street Merchants Association which sponsors entertainment in the Plaza during summer months. Supposedly it is for tourists, but it is very obvious that locals love it, too!
And dozens of people were dancing to the sounds of a Mexican DJ up on the bandstand in the middle of the plaza.
After a while the DJ folded up his speakers and left. Before long one of the Native American/Mexican Indian dance troops started beating their drums and dancing. Their costumes look a lot more Mexican Indian than American Indian to me, but who am I to judge? They look cool!
And when I wandered away from the bandstand down a narrow lane on Olvera St. what did I find but two mariachis. The rest of the band and a singer were inside the restaurant. (More from Olvera Street in the next post)
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The Southwest Museum in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles was founded in 1907 by one of the wild and fun men of the early Twentieth Century: Charles Lummis. (See more aboutLummis, his home and his adventures in this post.)
For decades the Southwest Museum was home to an ever-growing collection of Native American art that, I’ve been told, was not treated with the care it deserved. Now owned by the Autry Museum of the American West it is open on Saturdays only and only a fraction of the collection remains in the building. The curators at the Autry moved most of the art works to safer conditions.
Entry and parking are free. If you go by Metro Gold Line you will disembark at a remarkable and controversial Metro Station just one block of the Museum.
Back in June I stopped in and here is some of what I saw:
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