6361-6365 Sunset: Hofbrau Gardens / RCA Building

This block, on the north side of Sunset between Cahuenga and Morningside Court was owned by Jacob Muller and later his sons Frank and Walter, who, starting in 1920, operated an automotive business across the street.

Before 1931, Ivar Street had terminated north of Hollywood Boulevard. After it was extended through to Sunset Boulevard, it cut through the Muller property between Cahuenga and Morningside Court.

The Muller block 1931. 3/14/1931. LA Evening Express.

6365 Sunset

As of April 1921, 6365 housed the Blue Bird Chop Suey Parlor on the second floor.

Ad for the Blue Bird Chop Suey Parlor, 6365 Sunset. 7/8/1921. It’s “just east of Cahuenga” because Ivar did not yet extend to Sunset Boulevard. Hollywood Citizen-News.

The Blue Bird was reportedly full of Hollywood film stars and “other patrons” when it was raided on October 26, 1921 on orders of Hollywood Division Chief of Detectives George K. Home. His detectives reportedly found booze being served in tea cups, just like in the movies, and charged the manager, T. Hadaka, with violation of the Gandier Ordinance- the Los Angeles city prohibition on alcoholic beverages that predated national prohibition.

10/26/1921. LA Evening Express.

10/26/1921 LA Record.

The Blue Bird kept a lower profile after that. In May 1927 it “reopened” under new management. It operated through 1931 at least.

5/5/1927 Hollywood Citizen-News.

5/5/1927. Hollywood Citizen-News.

10/31/1927. LAT.

11/20/1931. Hollywood Citizen News.

6363 Sunset

From Thanksgivng Day 1931 to early 1932, 6363 Sunset, on the ground floor of the 2-story structure, housed the Hollywood Puppet Theater, operated by artist Ruth Monro Augur. Augur had puppets resembling famous film stars such as Marie Dressler, Will Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks, William Powell, Joe E. Brown, and Greta Garbo. An Ann Harding puppet served as MC of the show. Starting in the Fall of 1932, Augur toured with the Marionettes and did not reopen the puppet theater here.

4/30/1933. Munro Marionettes on tour in El Paso. El Paso Times Sun.

6361 Sunset

6361 Sunset is another contender for Building No One Ever Took A Picture Of On Purpose.

In October 1926, it was announced that Mrs. Mae Cooley, who ran the Romaine Cafeteria on Western Avenue and was in need of larger quarters, had leased the ground at this location and that the Muller Brothers would construct a new building here for her use. Walter Muller confirmed the news in November 1926. Cooley’s Sunset Cafeteria opened at 6361 Sunset on January 23, 1927.

1/22/1927. Hollywood Citizen-News.

Muller Brothers congratulate their new tenant. It’s “Sunset at Cahuenga” because Ivar did not yet extend to Sunset. 1/22/1927. Hollywood Citizen News.

6361 Sunset Blvd. built as the Sunset Cafeteria. 2/7/1927. Hollywood Citizen News.

In February 1929, Cooley leased a new space on Western Avenue- 616 N. Western Avenue- and had it converted for use as a cafeteria. By July 1929 6361 Sunset had become Kalil’s Cafeteria. Said Abu “Sidney” Kalil had come to the US from Turkey according to his naturalization papers. He worked as a busboy for the Childs restaurant chain in New York, working his way up to exexutive management. When Childs bought the Los Angeles Boos Brothers cafeteria chain in February 1927, Kalil came West to supervise the transition before deciding to launch his own restaurant here. Kalil also took over Cooly’s space at 616 N. Western.

As Kalil’s Cafeteria. 7/11/1929

 

6365 Sunset (as Blue Bird Chop Suey Parlor) and 6361 as Kalil’s Cafeteria c. 1930. Detail of a larger photo. LAPL.

10/30/1930. Hollywood Citizen-News.

In September 1933, the Hollywood Citizen-News reported that “rotund Frieda and Charlie” were operating their charming Hofbrau Garden at this address. Though national prohibition was still in effect for hard liquor, President Roosevelt had legalized beer sales in March 1933. Hofbrau Garden (sometimes spelled Hofbrau Gardens or Hof-brau Garden) was advertising lunch and dinner by March 1934 with dancing and music. The singing waiters of the Haufbrau Quartette were popular on local radio.

9/20/1933. Hollywood Citizen-News.

As Hofbrau Gardens. Not an ORDINARY beer garden. 3/2/1934. LAT.

As Haufbrau Garden 5/3/1934. LAT.

Postcard view of Hofbrau Gardens.

The restaurant added its Alpine Banquet Room addition in January 1937. The Continental-Swiss-Old World-themed space opened on September 30, 1937.

Hofbrau Garden 9/30/1937. LAT.

With Europe at war with German, Hof-brau Garden was “A Swiss Establishment.” 11/23/1938. Hollywood Citizen-News.

Haubrau Garden, photobombing a Life Magazine photo of Muller Brothers across the street c. 1937.

Having survived the Depression and World War II, Haufbrau Gardens closed in October 1945. THe fixtures were sold at auction December 18, 1945.

Hofbrau Gardens auction. 12/16/1945. LAT

Another restaurant briefly took over this space, The Rotisserire, opening in July 1946.  The signage shown in the ad for 6361 was actually at its second Wilshire Boulevard location. It was gone by April 1947, with 9 years to go on its lease.

As The Rotisserie. 10/26/1946. Hollywood Citizen-News.

Auction of the Rotisserie 4/7/1947.

In the Fall of 1947, Mullers leased the spaces here from 6361 to 6365 to ABC radio, whose main studio was nearby on Vine Street.

9/28/1947. LAT.

 

8/28/1962. Hollywood Citizen-News.

Walter Muller died in January 196q. In August 1962, surviving Muller brother Frank and RCA announced that RCA planned to build a high rise building on the parcel, to be addressed as 6363 Sunset. Demolition of the existing strucres was already underway. Ground-breaking for the new RCA building, designed by Albert C. Martin and Associates, was held on January 3, 1963, The completed building opened in April 1964.

4/22/1964. Hollywood Citizen-News.

 

The RCA Building, 6363 Sunset Blvd. LAPL- Mildred Harris collection.

6301 Sunset: Western Auto Supply / Wallichs Music City

Located on the northwest corner of Sunset and Vine and alternately addressed as 1501 Vine Street, this property belonged to retired toy air rifle manufacturer William F. Markham and his second wife Carrie. The Markham home was located near the southwest corner of the same intersection; Marham had built the Markham Building at 6372 Hollywood Boulevard at Cosmo Street in 1918 and also had numerous rental properties. In June 1925, it was announced that a local syndicate, the Hollywood Holding Company, had made a deal with Markham for a 99 year lease for the northwest corner extending West to Morningside Court and would build a 900-seat movie theater and a 20,000 square foot ice rink on the site. The LA Times published a sketch of the building, which was designed by architect John M. Cooper. The project never went forward.

6/6/1925. LA Record.

A sketch of the never-built theater and ice rink designed by John M. Cooper. 6/7/1925 LAT.

In April 1926, local papers again reported that the northwest corner had been leased, as had- seperately the southwest corner (which became the Hood Building), for 99 years to investors who were to construct a building on the site.

8/22/1926. LAT.

This is how real estate worked in Los Angeles. Early residents lucky enough or rich enough to aquire land holdings rarely parted with it. When newspapers report a building being sold, most of the time, what that really meant was that the lease had been sold. The leaseholder would agree to improve the property with a building and put up all the money for the investment. Likewise, if the leasee defaulted on the lease or breached its terms, the entire property (including the improvements) reverted to the owner of the land. Relatives of these pioneers never had to do anything. They just held on to that land and collected the checks. (That is, unless the relative was stupid enough to sell off the properties to gamble with the cash, and then lose that too. Thanks, great-grandpa).

The leaseholders, Vine and Sunset Realty Company, also had to agree to move dwellings located on the parcel, which was accomplished. In September 1927, the investors announced plans to immediately build a two-story commerical building on the site that would contain 14 stores on the ground floor and 30 studios or offices on the second floor. Architect Charles F. Plummer designed the structure in a fanciful Spanish Baroque/Churrigueresque style, back when Sunset Boulevard still thought it was doing Spanish Baroque/Churrigueresque.

9/25/1927. LAT.

The building was completed in January 1928 and its anchor tenant, Western Auto Supply opened up shop, moving from its existing Hollywood location since February 1926 at 6327 Hollywood Boulevard in the Guaranty Building.

Western Auto erected a huge animated electric (not neon) roof sign consisting of over 750 light bulbs. A series of rockets would appear, burst, and center on an arrow pointing to the front entrance of the business.

1/31/1928. Hollywood Citizen-News.

The 1500 block of Vine Street in 1928, showing Western Auto on the northwest corner. LAPL.

Detail from the above photo.

Western Auto remained here into January 1937. Then they and their roof sign were gone.

Still there 1/14/1937. Hollywood Citizen-News.

Sunset and Vine 1937. Huntington Library digital.

Detail from the above photo. Western Auto and its roof sign are gone.

On January 30, 1937, the leasee having defaulted on the terms of the lease, ownership of the building reverted to the land owner. In this case, the widow of William F. Markham. Markham had passed away in April 1930. Carrie Markham, though nearly 30 years his junior, herself passed away in August 1937. The estate, worth more than $2,000,000, had been in litigation at the time, brought by Markham’s daughter from his first marriage. She’d lost the suit in 1936, but appealed. and lost again in 1937, appealed to a higher court and again lost in 1940.

The property meanwhile, sat largely vacant for most of 1937, 1938 and 1939. In October 1938, the Markham estate spent almost $13,000 to makeover the building with help from architect Kemper Nomland in the new streamline-moderne style, in keeping with the new look of this section of Sunset Boulevard- the style set by CBS’ Columbia Square, which had opened a few months earlier, the just-completed NBC’s Radio City across the street, and Earl Caroll’s nearly finished theater restaurant. The estate spent another $15,000 on upgrades to the main corner storefront for it’s supposed San Francisco tenant who never materialized.

10/16/1938. LAT.

The remodeled building c. 1939. LAPL.

It was in July 1940 that the building got a new anchor tenant: Wallichs. Father and son Oscar and Glenn Wallichs had operated a radio and home appliance store on Ivar Street for 10 years before moving to this high-profile location. They renamed the new business Music City (being across the street from NBC’s Radio City). The Sunset and Vine store would continue to sell home appliances, radios, phonographs, records, sheet music, and recording equipment. In addition, it would offer free rehersal studios, having joined forces with the Hollywood House of Music recording studio, formerly of 5205 Hollywood Boulevard. The 3-day opening celebration began July 10. 1940.

7/10/1940. Hollywood Citizen-News.

7/5/1940. Hollywood Citizen-News.

7/10/1940.

12/4/1940. Hollywood Citizen-News.

 

With neighbor NBC broadcasting television to LA over KNBH as of Janaury 1949, Wallichs highlighted its television department at the “television corner.”

10/2/1949. LAT.

Wallichs c. 1949. At left is the Hood Building. Temporary signage on the top curve of the NBC building. LAPL

 

In 1960, the building was given another face-lift for a more space-age appearance.

12/10/1960. Hollywood Citizen-News.

The 1960 facade. Detail from a larger postcard view.

Wallichs remained here for 37 years. The building that currently occupies this site is modern.

6300 Sunset: The Hood Building

Meet the Hood Building, aka The Building No One Ever Took A Picture Of On Purpose.

This modest little workhorse of Spanish Colonial design occupied the busy southeast corner of Sunset and Vine for almost 40 years. Photographers turned their backs to it in order to snap the more interesting NBC studios/Carpenter’s drive-in at the northwest corner of the same intersection, or Wallichs Music City on the northeast corner, or the Pig Stand drive-in/Carpenter’s second home at the southwest corner. Muller Brothers’ ever-expanding auto service complex was just to the west. 

In April 1926, Richard Haden Hood took a 99 year lease on the corner parcel from William F. Markam and his second wife Carrie. Markham, a wealthy retired toy air rifle manufacturer, had come to Hollywood from Michigan in 1911. The couple subsequently built a home with expansive gardens near the southwest corner of Sunset and Vine (addressed as 1453 Vine Street). Markham had built the Markham Building at 6372 Hollywood Boulevard at Cosmo Street in 1918 and also owned numerous rental properties. The Markhams moved to a new rural estate in Glendale in 1926, thus opening the Sunset and Vine property to development. Hood announced plans to build a brick building containing 12 storefronts on the corner site. 

4/25/1926. LAT

It was a pretty big deal when its anchor tenant, Bee Drug Co., opened it’s second location here, in the primo corner space in December 1926. Otto K. Olsen had his klieg lights out for it and everything. A drugstore occupied the corner here, alternately addressed as 1499 N. Vine, for most of the building’s 40 years. There was not much going on at this intersection in December 1926. The Famous Players-Lasky lot was being cleared. The building that later housed Walichs was not yet built. Even 11 years later, in 1937 there wasn’t much to see here. But, still, no one could be bothered to photograph the Hood Building? C’mon.

12/3/1926. Hollywood Daily Citizen.

Bee Drug lasted inoto 1933. In 1936 it became Boorey’s Drugs. See detail of the larger photo below at the top of this post.

Sunset and Vine 1937. Carpenter’s, a Pig Stand, the pre-remodeled Wallichs building, and the Hood Building. Huntington Library digital.

By 1936, Boorey Drug had taken over in the Hood Building.

The Hood Building. Bilboards cover the tile roof. The drugstore is now Radio City Drugs. LAPL.

The Hood Building, its red tile roof now hidden by bilboards, accidently seen in this 1950s shot of Sunset & Vine. LAPL.

The Hood Building outlasted its more photogenic neighbors: Muller Brothers (demolished 1963), NBC studios (Demolished 1964) and Carpenter’s (by then Stan’s, demolished 1961). It was demolished in February 1965. In September 1965, the Bank of America, designed by Welton Beckett, rose on this spot. The bank opened in October 1966. The corner remained under-photographed, appearing accidentally in photos of the Cinerama Dome theater.

10/11/1966. Hollywood Citizen-News.

6290 Sunset: Pig Stand / Carpenter’s Drive-In

The Pig Stand drive-in was built on the southeast corner of Sunset and Vine in 1931 opposite the already-established Carpenter’s drive-in at 6285 on the northeast corner. Owners “California Pig Stands Inc. Ltd.” applied for a permit in August 1931. J.W. Stromberg was the architect. The permit for a roof sign was issued in September 1931.

Looking North on Vine c. 1932. The Pig Stand on the SE corner of Sunset & Vine and Carpenter’s on the NE corner. LAPL.

 

Pig Stand ad of 4/28/1933. Hollywood Citizen-News.

 

From Vine looking East. LAPL

This was the second Pig Stand on Sunset. The first was at 4700 Sunset at Vermont. A permit for that location had been approved in April 1930.

In August 1937, NBC was eyeing the northwest corner of Sunset and Vine for the site of its new broadcasting studio. The following month, the owner of the Pig Stand’s southeast corner site had the site cleared, hiring the Charles Wrecking Co. to demolish and remove 3 buildings: the barbecue stand, a garage and a house. In October, 1937, Carpenter’s took over the location and engaged structural engineer S.B. Barnes to construct a new building in a more modern, streamlined style. It was round, enclosed in glass and steel, with a wide overhang roof. In place of a mere sign was a tall pylon on top of the building and freestanding letters that spelled out CARPENTERS (later HARRY CARPENTERS). Everything was laced with neon. The Los Angeles Daily News reporting in November 1937 on major building projects planned for Hollywood (including the NBC studio and CBS down the street) noted that the drive-in was to cost $175,000.

11/13/1937. LA Daily News.

Carpenter’s c. 1938. Life.

Looking north on Vine St. from just south of Sunset. Carpenter’s is on the right. Its former location is now occupied by NBC.

As Harry Carpenters c. 1940. LAPL.

As of January 1948, this location had been taken over by Simon’s Drive-in, which also had a location at 6760 Sunset Boulevard between Highland and McCadden since 1938. It continued as Simon’s into 1950. By December 1951, it had become a Stan’s Drive-In. Stan’s also took over the 6760 Sunset Boulevard location at the same time.

The drive-in was demolished in August 1961 and the site was evavated for construction of a high-rise office building and apartment building for Los Angeles Federal Savings, to be named Sunset-Vine Tower, designed by Douglas Honnold of Honnold and Rex. Sunset-Vine Tower opened in July 1963.

Architect’s model of Sunset-Vine Tower. LAPL.

7/9/1963. LAT.

Room at the Top restaurant on top of Sunset-Vine Tower. 9/12/1965. LAT.

***

Notes

 

6285 Sunset Part 2: NBC Radio City West

Alternately addressed as 1500 N. Vine Street, NBC’s Radio City West was located at 6285 Sunset Builevart at the northeast coner of Vine Street.

Until the latter half of the 1930s, commercial radio was primarily based in New York and Chicago because the technology that made radio programming possible was oriented for east-to-west transmission, making it prohibitively more expensive to broadcast a show in the opposite direction. The regulations changed in 1935, sending radio rushing to Hollywood just as moving pictures had done in the 1910s. 

Of the two major national networks CBS and NBC, NBC was the first to invest hard cash in local real estate, leasing a property from the old Consolidated Film Lab at 5515 Melrose Avenue (near Paramount Studios), vacant since being damaged in a 1929 fire. On July 2, 1935, the LA Evening Post-Record reported that the studio was spending $500,000 to revamp the existing structures. It opened December 25, 1935.

12/26/1935. Monrovia News-Post.

The NBC studio at 5515 Melrose Avenue near the northeast corner of Gower. LAPL collection.

The paint at Melrose Avenue had barely dried when already there was talk of adding even more space. On February 10, 1937, expansion effort was abruptly halted, however, by network president Lenox N. Lohr when he realized there was a serious problem with this location: not enough parking places.

2/10/1937. LAT.

In August 1937 NBC announced plans for a bigger home at the northeast corner Sunset and Vine, and aquired the parcel, bounded by Sunset and Selma Avenue, Vine Street and Argyle, from Paramount Pictures. It had been home to the Famous-Players-Lasky movie studio and was currently occupied by a Carpenter’s drive-in hamburger stand. See Part 1 for more information on the previous use of this property.

8/5/1937. LAT.

Circa 1937. A used car lot occupied the Vine Street side of the former Famous Players-Lasky studio between Sunset and Selma. Carpenter’s drive-in sandwich stand is at the northeast corner of Sunset & Vine. Huntington Library digital.

In September 1937, the owner of a rival drive-in restaurant across the street on the southeast corner of Sunset and Vine (6290 Sunset) had the existing buildings demolished and removed. The following month, Carpenter’s applied for permits at 6290 Sunset. NBC was ready to start construction on its new home by the end of October 1937.

NBC studios under construction, c, 1937-1938. LAPL.

NBC’s new building opened quietly on October 17, 1938, without the fanfare that had marked the dedication of CBS’ Columbia Square down the street a few months earlier. In fact, several programs had already been broadcast from the new location.

10/14/1948. Hollywood Citizen-News

The sprawling, modernistic building was designed by John C. Austin. It was tinted a shade of greenish blue to reduce the glare of the California sun and blend in with the blue sky and green palm trees. The terraces leading to the entrances were painted a darker green, with red cement floors. The exterior was bare of ornamentation except for aluminum strips on the rounded corners, and the illuminated metal NBC signs, and magenta-lighted neon tubes parellelling the terrace on Sunset. The 3-story lobby, which linked the offices to the 8 broadcasting studios, was illuminated by  40-ft floor-to-ceiling glass brick panels and diffused with a warm orange light in the evenings.

The lobby. LAPL.

The famous Studio D. LAPL.

Across the intersection of Vine. LAPL

 

Looking east on Sunset fro the Vine Street corner. LAPL.

Looking west along Sunset from Argyle. LAPL.

 

 

Looking north on Vine from Sunset at night. Note the orange glow and the illuminated glass brick panels.

Unlike the film studios, which rarely admitted the general public and kept a tight rein on visitors during filming, the radio studios became a popular tourist destination in Hollywood both for tours and for fans attending broadcasts. The networks were quick to capitalize on this idea with quiz and audience participation programs like NBC’s “Can You Top This,” “It Pays to be Ignorant” and “Double or Nothing.” 

Crowd waiting on the Vine Street side to get in to NBC. LAPL.

Crowd waiting outside the Sunset side of NBC c. 1944. LAPL.

Anyone in the vicinity of sunset and Vine was potential fodder for a radio quiz program stunt.

By the late 1940s, like CBS down the street, NBC was struggling to find the room to expand its television operations. As it had in the early days of radio’s westward expansion, NBC leased theaters around town for extra space. In October 1948, the station was getting ready to house NBC’s western television headquarters and for KNBH, which was already showing an experimental test pattern on Channel 4, to be on the air soon. On January 16, 1949, KNBH Channel 4 began broadcasting in Los Angeles. Signage was added to the facade of NBC at Sunset and Vine.

1/12/1949. Hollywood Citizen-News.

 

Color view with KNBH Television Channel 4 signage addded.

Color view with KNBH Television Channel 4 signage at night.

By the fall of 1951, NBC was building its own television studio in Burbank, which opened in October 1952. An addition specifically for color television, called Color City, was dedicated in March 1955. NBC still had plenty of use for its Sunset and Vine studio. In 1961, however, the studio announced that by 1963 it would consolidate its operations in Burbank and began shopping the Sunset and Vine property to potential buyers. In March 1961, NBC reported that it was negotiating with developer Lionel Hayes Uhlmann to sell the parcel for $3.5 million. The developer was proposing to build a 3-skyscraper hotel-office complex on the site after NBC departed in 1963.

3/7/1961. LAT.

NBC did depart in 1963 as planned and begininning in May 1964, the 26 year-old radion/television studio was demolished. But the skyscraper development never materialized and the property’s new owner, Home Savings and Loan, had no plans for developing the vacant site.

5/5/1965. Hollywood Citizen-News.

The property sat vacant for almost 4 years. Home Savings & Loan ultimately built its own headquarters on the site. The 2-story structure, addressed as 1500 N. Vine, opened in June 1968. In recognition of the site’s importance in Hollywood history, it features a mosaic mural, “The Golden Role of Stars” by Millard Sheets, and a stained glass window by Susan Hertel depicting famous chase scenes. Out front is a fountain with a 1920s sculpture by Paul Manship, the Flight of Europa. The building is currently a Chase Bank.

6/16/1968. LAT.

Home Savings & Loan at Sunset & Vine. LAPL, Milldred Harris collection.

 

 

6285 Sunset Part 1: Carpenter’s Drive-In

The first Carpenter’s drive-in restaurant on Sunset Boulevard was located at the northeast corner of Sunset and Vine. This drive-in was demolished in 1937 so that NBC’s radio studio could be built on the site. NBC will be covered in Part II. A new Carpenters opened across the street to the southeast corner at 6290 Sunset and will have its own post.

As mentioned in the post about the Hollywood Palladium, this narrow parcel between Vine and Argyle and Sunset and Selma had once been home to the Famous Players-Lasky studios, whose films were released through the Paramount Pictures Corp. (Famous Players-Lasky also owned the parcel next door between Vine and Argyle where its main studio buildings and offices were located). In 1926 Paramount-Famous-Lasky moved to new quarters at 5451 Marathon Street near Melrose Avenue and in May 1926, the company applied for a permit to move a building from the corner here to the Marathon property. This was the Lasky-DeMille barn, which Jesse Lasky and Cecil B. DeMille had first rented in 1913.

A Famous Players-Lasky studio building c. 1918, Sunset and Vine. LAPL.

Detail frmo a larger photo: the Famous Players-Lasky lot at Sunset and Vine c. 1919. LAPL.

The relocated barn was refurbished and used as a meeting room. 4/1/1927 LAT

The Lasky-DeMille barn at its second home on the Paramount lot. Today it is located at 2100 N. Highland Avenue. LAPL.

Most of the other buildings were demolished and the materials sold for salvage.

12/16/1926. LA Illustrated Daily News

The parcel was largely vacant after that, housing a used car lot.

Northeast corner of Sunset & Vine. The Taft Building at Hollywood Blvd and Vine can be seen in the distance. LAPL.

On May 8, 1930, H.B. Carpenter applied to the city for a permit to construct “toilets and dressing rooms” at 6285 Sunset, at the northeast corner of Vine. On May 29, he got another permit to put up a roof sign on a sandwich stand here. There’s no permit on file for construction of the sandwich stand itself, but it may have been lost.

Harry Brewster Carpenter was born in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1888. He operated a cafe in Kansas City in the 1910s, but by 1917 he was in Los Angeles and operating a restaurant along with his older brother Charles E. Carpenter.

Photo of Carpenter’s at 6285 Sunset 1932. Note the reference to Ben-Hur coffee. LAPL

H.B. Carpenter and staff at 8265 Sunset 1932. LAPL.

 

Both of the above photos appeared in the Hollywood Citizen-News. In the inset, Martha Holland grabs a snack on a tray at Sunset & Vine. 5/19/1932.

 

Carpenter’s ad 7/11/1931 then had 3 locations: Sunset & Vine, Beverly & Poinsettia and Wilshire & Western. Note the depiction of a giant coffee pot on the top of the cafe at Beverly & Poinsettia and the reference to Ben Hur Coffee. Hollywood Citizen-News.

 

Carpenter’s ad 8/8/1931. Hollywood Citizen-News.

In 1930, at the same time the permits for start the Carpenter’s drive-in at Sunset & Vine were being sought, a stranger had arrived in town, set up headquarters in suite 427 of the Roosevelt Building at 727 W. Seventh Street, and was seeking busy corners on which to build “highly attractive, drive-in, stay-in-you-car-and-be-served units selling hot and cold drinks and sandwiches.”

In an ad that appeared on March 8, 1930 in the LA Evening Express, the man, E. George Sanders, general manager of a LARGE CHAIN RESTAURANT  ORGANIZATION, Saunders Chain Store, Ltd, asserted that small investment was all you needed to secure managing direction of these units and you would share in CERTAIN, SURE, SAFE PROFITS.

3/8/1930. LA Evening Express.

The Roosevelt Building in downtown Los Angeles c. 1934. LAPL.

On March 11, 1930. The LA Evening Express reported on E. George Sanders’ planned restaurants, noting he was said to be affiliated with the Twin Barrel Food stations and National Kanteen Company. A month later the paper reported that Sanders was seeking to lease large, busy corners.

On May 11, 1930 (3 days after H.B. Carpener’s first permit on file for 6285 Sunset) the LA Times added further details about the Sanders Chain Store System, Ltd.: “The company’s buildings take the shape of coffee pots. The cost of each building, with equipment, is approximately $15,000. The company plans to open in early June the first 5 units of 46 to be built in Southern California.” 

If it sounds like a flim-flam fly-by-night operation, it was. Had anyone checked up on Sanders, they’d have seen he had been travelling around for the past year selling investors on some sort of drive-in chain restaurants under different corporate names.

In January 1929, for example, he was manager of the National Kanteen Company, as the Express would later mentioned. He told the Oakland Tribune that Kanteens were rapidly being built in various parts of California including Oakland, at 35th and San Pablo Avenue. 

Oakland Tribune 1/27/1929.

In February 1929, using ads with the same wording he would later use in Los Angeles, Sanders was in Stockton seeking investors for Kanteens there. According to the Stockton Daily Independent, 5 units were under construction in the Bay area with many more planned statewide. 

Stockton Daily Independent 2/2/1929.

In April 1929, he showed up in Phoenix, Arizona as VP and general manager of the Autoteria Catering Corporation, planning to build 3 unique restaurants in the city and numerous others statewide. On April 19, the Arizona Republican ran a sketch of his proposed Autoteria Plaza, being built with a local investor, L. Harry Gibbs. Gibbs, in fact had put up the money to lease the large corner lot for the enterprise at Seventh and McDowell streets. A giant steaming coffee pot was the logo of the Autoteria.

E. George Sanders in the Arizona Republican 4/14/1929.

An Autoteria cafe opening at 7th St. and McDonnell Rd. Arizona Republican 5/11/1929.

The Autoteria drive-in at 7th and McDonnell Rd., Phoenix.

On May 11, 1929, the Republican described how Sanders operated: “Within 48 hours after E. George Sanders arrived [a stranger] in Phoenix from California, the Autoteria Catering Company was incorporated and a program for the foundation of a chain of sandwhich and soft drinks stations was launched.” If fortunate, a local investor could take over the operation and make a go of it, as was the case in Phoenix. Gibbs took on the Autoteria and built one or two more.

The promises of statewide chains- let alone nationwide- were as phoney as the steam blowing the spout of the giant coffee pot.

Sanders reused the giant coffee pot idea when he arrived in Los Angeles in March, 1930.

Sanders apparently had some responses to his ad for corners to lease. On May 3, the Express reported that he’d leased the corner of Vermont and Council streets, Washington and LaSalle streets on May 10, May 21 the northeast corner of Poinsettia Street and Beverly Boulevard, and on May 25 the Times reported he’d leased Wilshire Boulevard and Stanley Drive. 

Likewise, a permit for a “garage and proposed lunch stand” was granted to J.E. Martin, 427 Roosevelt Building, for 202 N. Vermont at the northeast corner of Council, on May 13, 1930.

A permit for a “SIGN STRUCTURE ONLY” was approved by the city on June 5, 1930 for 7275 Beverly at the northeast corner of Poinsettia. Sanders Lunch Stand is the owner of record, at 427 Roosevelt Building. A Godfrey Bailey is listed as architect. A permit for a “reviewing stand” at the same location was granted on July 1, 1930.

No permits were located for 1950 W. Washington or 8601 Wilshire, though photographic evidence indicates the latter was built, and advertising in July 1930 invites prospective investors to drive out to both of these address to see them. It could be, if the structures were prefabricated, they didn’t require a permit, or the permit has been lost over time.

An ad appeared in the Express on June 20, 1930, announcing that the grand opening of 4 Sanders System “sit-and-eat-in-your-car” drive-ins would be held July 4, 5, and 6, 1930. The addresses were listed as the previously-reported corners: 1950 W. Washington Blvd., 8601 Wilshire Blvd., 7275 Beverly Blvd., and 202 N. Vermont. 

LA Evening Express 6/20/1930.

On June 25, the Express wrote: “People who have been curious about the unique coffee-pot buildings under construction in various sections of the city will have their curiosity satisfied with the announcement the buildings are to house a new type of sandwich shops to be known as the Sanders System, These sandwich shops will have numerous innovations in service, the outstanding feature being explained by their slogan “stay in your car and be served.” The Express repeated the claim that there would be 46 such units built, which it said would happen “within the next 18 months.” The first of 4 (not 5 as previously stated) would open July 1. The buildings featured huge coffee pots illuminated with colored floodlights and topped with neon signs reading “We Feature Ben-Hur Drip Coffee.”

A July 3, 1930 ad in the LA Evening Express listed the opening night festivities, but only mentions 3 of the 4 drive-ins; 8601 Wilshire is not listed.

LA Evening Express, 7/3/1930

The Los Angeles Public Library says this giant coffee pot drive-in was at 8601 Wilshire Blvd.

7/13/1930 ad for Coffee Pot Drive-In Sandwich Shops at 1950 W. Washington and 7275 Beverly Blvd.

Sanders left Los Angeles, perhaps with some heat, and surfaced again in Atlanta as president of the Frosty Morning Shops, Inc., where he proposed a series of sandwich and soft drink stands in the shape of a giant orange. He left Atlanta for Tampa, where as of July 1931, as National Bottle Shops., Inc., he was seeking investors for a nationwide chain of bottle-shaped sandwich stands that would feature a local beverage called Celo.

Tampa Times 7/24/1931.

Tampa Tribune 8/6/1931.

On August 2, 1931, the Atlanta Constitution reported that Sanders had been indicted by a grand jury for embezzlement and authorities were seeking his arrest in Tampa. He had declared bankruptcy of Frosty Morning Shops Inc. and fled town. An audit of the books revealed over $3,000 of company funds missing. He had also taken money from employees, assurtedly as a show of faith that they would perform their duties, and had violated Georgia state law by selling speculative stock. It’s not clear whether Sanders, thought to be a native of Leavenworth, Kansas, was apprehended or tried.

None of the reporting on Sanders’ Los Angeles adventures refers to the corner of Sunset and Vine but the timing of the permit applications, the connection with Ben Hur Coffee and the use of the giant coffee pot imagery in Carpenters’ advertising is curious. The post at the top of the Sunset & Vine building also looks like it was designed to have something like a large coffee pot mounted on it.

An ad from September 1931 indicates it had been in business a year, during which the business had served over 100,000 pieces of apple pie, it says.

July and August 1931 ads for Carpenters list Poinsettia and Beverly as a location, which was one of the advertised locations of a Sanders System drive-in. While it could have been an opposite corner, the ad pictures a drive-in with a giant coffee pot on top. The September 1931 ads also lists a fourth location: Wilshire and Western Avenue.

 

9/12/1931. Hollywood Daily Citizen.

 

“It’s a modern thrill to be Served in Your Car.” 9/26/1931. Hollywood Citizen-News.

 

By July 1932, Carpenters’ ads only list 3 locations: Sunset and Vine, Wilshire and Western and Wilshire and La Cienega. On June 6, 1934, a 4th one opened at Vermont and Pico.

“Sandwiches under the Stars,” Carpenters’ slogan for the summer of 1932. Note the reference to Olympic Athletes and their love for Ben Hur coffee. Los Angeles was hosting the Summer Games. 7/23/1932. LAT.

While “film folk” reportedly liked all the Carpenter’s drive-ins, the Hollywood Citizen-News wrote on May 19, 1932 that it was the Sunset and Vine location “where the modest little Ford rubs shoulders with his more illusterous neighbor the Rolls Royce, owned by many famous movie stars who make a practice of eating at Carpenters.”

Vermont & Pico opens 6/6/1934. LAT.

Four locations, 7/14/1934. LAT.

Even if it started off with a fly-by-night-artist, the concept- sitting and eating in YOUR car while being served- took Los Angeles by storm. More drive-in restaurants would follow.

 

Sunset & Vine c. 1933. LAPL.

Another night view of the Sunset & Vine Carpenter’s. LAPL.

Carpenter’s c. 1936. LAPL.

6230 Sunset: Earl Carroll’s Theater

The Earl Carroll Theater and Restaurant opened at 6230 Sunset Boulevard, on the south side of Sunset between Vine St. and El Centro on December 26, 1938.

Hollywood was familiar with Earl Carroll. The Broadway showman, who for a time had a namesake theater on Broadway, had long staged annual shows featuring beautiful, scantily-clad (if not nude) women. Florence Zigfeld had his “Follies,” George Whaite had “Scandals,” and so Earl Carroll had his “Vanities” or “Sketchbooks.” June Brewster, the 3rd wife of LA underworld boss Guy McAfee, had appeared in an Earl Carroll show on Broadway. In 1934, Carroll brought some of his showgirls to Hollywood to film “Murder at the Vanities” for Paramount Pictures.

Earl Carroll and a chorus line of Beauties arrive at the SP station in LA to film Murder at the Vanities, 1934. L-R: Evelyn Kelly, Dorothy Dawes, Ernestine Anderson, Ruth Hilliard, Beryl Wallis, Marion Callahan, Laurie Shevlin, Wanda Perry. LAPL.

In May 1938, local papers announced the Carroll was to build a dinner theater restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. The building was designed by architect Gordon B. Kaufmann, who would later design the Hollywood Palladium at 6215 Sunset.

5/28/1938. LAT.

Sketch of the new Earl Carroll Theater, which appeared in the Hollywood Citizen-News 10/15/1938. LAPL

Fittingly, the opening show was “Broadway to Hollywood” 12/23/1938. Hollywood Citizen-News.

 

Watch Hollywood stars arriving at the opening (from Brithish Pathe):

 

The new theater had revolving stages, a patent leather ceiling and miles of neon lighting designed by Frank Don Riha (who like Kaufmann would also work on the Hollywood Palladium) and decor by W & J Sloane of Wilshire Boulevard. It was, as one contemporary critic put it, the public’s idea of what a Hollywood nightclub looks like.

The horseshoe-shaped “inner circle” Huntington Library digital.

The Goddess of (Neon) Light. Martin Deutsch is credited with her design. Huntington Library digital.

The box office. Huntington Library digital.

The cocktail bars. Huntington Library digital.

The entrance. Willy Pogany is credited with the design of the two statues flanking the staircase. Huntington Library digital.

One of several lounge areas. Huntington Library digital.

A show in progress. Huntington Library digital.

“Through These Portals Pass the Most Beautiful Girls in the World.” Motto of the Earl Carroll Theater, exemplified by Beryl Wallis, Carroll’s girlfriend and top showgirl.

The exterior c. 1939. LAPL.

A highlight of the he neon-covered exterior was the giant portrait of Beryl Wallis, rendered in neon along with the “Through These Portals…” motto.

In October 1940, Carroll added the “Wall of Fame” to the exterior, consisting of 150 cement blocks, some signed by various celebrities, others blank to allow for future autographs.

 

10/17/1940. Hollywood Citizen-News.

Carroll and showgirls with some of the “Wall of Fame” cement blocks signed by Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper, Clark Gble, Tyrone Power, and Ginger Rogers, October 1940. LAPL.

Based on the “Wall of Fame,” audience members could buy their own Hollywood Star Autographed Glasses to take home. They were available for purchase in the lobby.

 

In 1940, Carroll and company filmed “A Night at Earl Carroll’s” for Paramount Pictures, which as Famous Players-Lasky had once operated across the street from the theater. This required some adjustments of the revue costumes to please the Hayes Office censors. The film was added as a second feature to the A-picture, Christmas in July, released at Paramount’s downtown Los Angeles theater at Sixth & Hill streets on December 15, 1940. The film featured Ken Murray, who had worked with Carroll on Broadway and would later produce the long-running “Blackouts” show down the street on Vine. He also wrote a biography of Earl Carroll.

12/16/1940. LAT.

 

Beryl Wallace and Earl Carroll, 1943. During World War II, Wallis worked tirelessly on shows for service members. LAPL.

 

Life magazine featured Earl Carroll’s in its February 14, 1944 number. On the cover, a sailor contemplates the “Wall of Fame.”

 

Ticket for CBS radio’s Meet the Missus” broadcast from the Earl Carroll Theater 8/27/1946.

After the war, Carrolls’ near-neighbor CBS began leasing the theater for daytime radio broadcasts. In 1946 Carroll proposed building additional theaters, to rival NYC’s Radio City, at the rear part of the parcel along Vine but the project was rejected by the Civilian Production Administration (CPA) as postwar materials were in short supply and priority construction was being given to veteran’s housing.

On June 17, 1948, Earl Carroll and Beryl Wallis were killed in a plane crash in Pennsylvania.

The Earl Carroll Theater continued to operate for over a year as the estates of Wallis and Carroll were settled. It went dark on October 12, 1949.  Reports in late 1949 that the theater had sold proved premature. Carroll’s niece and executor of his estate sold the venue to Frank Hofues of Texas in August 1950 for a price of $1,025,000. The sale was approved by the Los Angeles Superior Court on September 14. Hofues intended to lease the property for radio and television broadcasts.

10/12/1949. LAT.

In February 1951, however, it was reported that Earl Carroll’s would reopen with a new show, Pleasure Bound, imported from Broadway’s Latin Quarter Theater. The grand re-opening was March 27, 1951 only to close again, apparently ordered by Hofues. The theater wasn’t done yet, however. Another grand-reopening was held September 18, 1951, with a new show, “Holiday for Love.” In December 1951, it was announced that Hofues had leased the venue to CBS for television broadcasts while CBS’ new Television City was being completed.

3/5/1951. The Valley Times.

3/27/1951. Hollywood Citizen-News.

9/16/1951. LAT

12/13/1951. LAT.

Earl Carroll’s Theater with CBS signage c. 1951.

In November 1952, CBS moved to its new Television City. In October 1953, it was announced that 1953, Frank Sennes, a Las Vegas talent-booking agent, would reopen the theater with a Left Bank French theme. It opened December 25, 1953 under a new name as well: The Moulin Rouge.

12/23/1953. Monrovia Daily News.

Earl Carroll’s as the Moulin Rouge c. 1954. LAPL.

Sennes operated the Moulin Rouge for ten years, until the summer of 1964, when he returned to Las Vegas. The Earl Carroll theater was again put up for sale.

881964. LAT.

On December 10, 1966, Dave Hull opened the theater as Hullabaloo, an all-ages rock music club. Though short-lived, it is notable because it was during this phase that the original cement blocks of the “Wall of Fame” were removed, and the old stars’ autographs replaced with those of current pop music “stars.” On March 30, 1966, it was revealed that 24 blocks had been removed, with plans to remove and replace others later.

As Hullaballoo. 12/11/1965.

4/1/1966. LAT.

The Turtles contemplate names on the old Earl Carroll “Wall of Fame” before they were replaced with new pop stars; names. 4/1/1966. LAT.

At least Beryl remained, outlined in neo. For a while. Hullabaloo went away in 1967. For a brief time in the Spring and Summer of 1968, the theater was operating as another rock venue, Kaleidoscope.

As Kaliedoscope. 6/2/1968.

In September 1968 it was announced the theater would be adapted for use as a live theater, to be the Los Angeles home of the Broadway musical Hair and would be renamed the Aquarius. Beryl came down as part of the renovation.

9/11/1968.

By 1972, the building was operating as a venue for other live theater. In 1983 it became a television studio. In 2016, it was named a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural landmark.

 

 

6215 Sunset: Hollywood Palladium

Located at the northwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and El Centro Avenue, the Hollywood Palladium ballroom and restaurant opened on October 31, 1940.

The narrow parcel, bounded by Argyle Avenue, El Centro Avenue, Sunset Boulevard and Selma Avenue, had been the back lot for Famous Players-Lasky studios, whose films were released through the Paramount Pictures Corp. (Famous Players-Lasky also owned the parcel next door between Vine and Argyle where its main studio buildings and offices were located). In 1926 Paramount-Famous-Lasky moved to new quarters at 5451 Marathon St. Paramount still maintained a film storage building at the northwest corner of Selma and Argyle (1546 Argyle) but otherwise the Sunset property was more or less vacant.

Famous Players-Lasky c. 1919. LAPL

In 1937 Paramount transferred the lot, except for the northwest corner at Selma and Argyle, to the Times-Mirror Company, a subsidiary of the Los Angeles Times.

 

10/31/1937 LAT.

In 1938, Times-Mirror built a parking lot on the parcel from 6201-6235 Sunset, which was probably a great little money-maker considering it was between the new CBS radio studio and NBC’s new home, with Earl Carroll’s dinner theater across the street, all of which opened that year. But the owners, including LA Times’ general manager and president Norman Chandler, had bigger ideas for the property.

5/12/1940. LAT.

The Times announced on May 12, 1940 that Southern California Enterprises, Inc.  was planning a new ballroom/restaurant building on the site, to be designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann, who two years earlier had designed the Earl Carroll Theater at 6230 Sunset. It would have dining for 600 persons, a dance floor for 3000, 3 cocktail lounges, a non-alcoholic beverage bar, the Emerald Room. In addition, there would be 15 retail shops and parking behind the building for 1000 cars (So, assume half the couples coming to dance were bringing their mother-in-law or dateless friend). The interior features would be ultra-modernistic in design under the direction of Frank Don Riha, most notably a “stardust” ceiling “encircled by approximately 1000 lineal feet of plastic fabrication.” Riha had also done the extensive neon work for Earl Carroll’s theater two years earlier.

Sketch of the new Hollywood Palladium. 5.12.1940. LAT.

The ground-breaking, which included the usual laundry-list of celebrity guests, took place June 10, 1940 and the Palladium was ready for its grand opening on Halloween night, 1940. The opening act was the Tommy Dorsey orchestra.

Opening night of the Hollywood Palladium with Tommy Dorsey, 10/31/40. LAPL

10/31/1940. LAT

The ultra-modernistic interior. LAPL.

The ceremonial ribbon-cutting was performed by Tommy Dorsey and Dorothy Lamour. LAPL.

Tommy Dorsey and Dorothy Lamour perform the ceremonial ribbon-cutting.

Tommy Dorsey, with his vocalists Connie Haines, Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers, was in Hollywood broadcasting his new amateur songwriting contest radio show, Fame and Fortune, which had debuted on NBC October 17. He was also filming Las Vegas Nights at Paramount. After the opening night, he continued to perform several nights a week at the Palladium through December 11. The broadcasts could be heard locally over KFI or KECA.

Listen to Tommy Dorsey’s broadcast from the Hollywood Palladium, November 26, 1940:

 

Gene Krupa made his Hollywood Palladium debut in September 1941.

 

Gene Krupa opens at the Palladium 9/12/1941. LAT.

 

Tommy Dorsey, the Palladium’s first act, made a return engagement in December 1941. The USA was now at war.

Woody Herman appeared at the Palladium in May-June 1943. The venue was authorized to sell War Bonds. 6/16/1943. LAT

 

Looking east on Sunset Boulevard during an engagement of Jimmy Dorsey- little brother of Tommy- who appeared at the Hollywood Palladium at least three times: October 1941, August 1943, and June 1944. LAPL.

 

View of the Palladium from El Centro Avenue showing the large corner storefront. In January 1941 it became a flight terminal for TWA, addressed as 6201 Sunset. Passengers from Hollywood or Beverly Hills could obtain tickets and weigh their baggage here, eliminating the need to check in at the airport. Limousine service was also provided. LAPL.

Freddy Martin c. 1950.

Freddy Martin’s Orchestra appeared in a televised Hollywood Palladium show on January 18, 1950, broadcast over KTTV Channel 11. LAT.

In March 1961, bandleader Lawrence Welk announced that he would move his “Champagne Music Makers” from the Aragon Ballroom on Lick Pier in Ocean Park (the band’s home for the past 10 years) to the Hollywood Palladium for a “lifetime” engagement on Friday and Saturday nights, 52 weeks a years.

3/11/1961. Long Beach Independent.

In anticipation, the Palladium underwent a $400,000 remodeling, inside and out, by architects from Heath and Co.

The remodeled facade, ready for Lawrence Welk, 1961.

Welk began his new Palladium run on July 21, 1961. A giant cutout of Welk loomed over Sunset Boulevard. A bubble machine pumped bubbles out over boulevard traffic. His Saturday night show aired nationally on ABC (KABC-TV Channel 7) live from the Palladium (though the opening night show on July 22 was recorded in advance). Welk’s Friday and Saturday night performances could also be heard over radio station KFI.

7/21/1961. The Valley Times.

ABC cancelled Welk in 1971. The Hollywood Palladium was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

 

 

6134 Sunset: Fiedler’s Field

Martin “Marty” Fiedler, the “Zeigfeld of softball” operated Fielder’s Field ballpark, located at the southeast corner of Sunset Bouevard and El Centro Avenue (addressed as 6134 Sunset Boulevard) from 1935 to 1938.

Born in Baltmore in 1898, Fiedler was a former baseball player and manager. In late 1934, he leased an existing ramshackle ball park at Sunset and El Centro. The lot, from the southwest corner of Sunset and Gower, as 6100-6136 Sunset, had once been the studios of the Universal Film Manufacturing Company (later Universal Pictures) and several other subsidiaries and smaller studios thereafter. It was gutted by fire in August 1926.

Destruction of Century Film Corp.’s Sunset Boulevard studios. The lower image was taken at Sunset and El Centro where Fiedler’s Field would later rise. 8/16/1926. LAT

Before Fiedler came along, the lot remained largely vacant except for a cafe, built in 1927 at the southwest corner of Sunset and Gower, addressed as 6100 Sunset Boulevard. The unnamed baseball field at the opposite corner was active by 1934.

In January 1935, Joe Fiedler, brother of Marty, applied for permits to build baseball stand bleachers at 6134 Sunset. More were added in March.

On the evening of April 1, 19935, Klieg lights cut through the Hollywood night sky, marking the grand opening of Fiedler’s Field. It was a double header of mens’ softball teams Dave’s Delicatessen vs. Looney Tunes and the Clover Club team vs. Ben Hur Coffee. Only about 270 people showed up.

Ad for the opening night of Fiedler’s Field, 4/1/1935. Hollywood Citizen News.

Fiedler, with help from Ruby Sorber, a former player and promoter of womens’ softball, began to foccus on womens’ teams. In the summer of 1935 he had 8 womens’ teams in addition to a dozen mens’ teams. They were not the first womens’ softball teams in Los Angeles, but Fielder helped popularize the sport locally.

Between the players’ athletic prowess and Fiedler’s Sid Grauman-like promotional stunts and general ballyhoo, womens’ softball games at Fiedler’s Field became the latest Hollywood fad, their popularity compared to that of the miniature golf craze of 1930. All the major film studios had teams.

By June 1935, attendance at Fiedler’s Field was up to 1100 fans. Games were held nightly. Admission was 10 cents. Fielder added restrooms in July, and additional bleachers in August, when a record 2400 fans jammed in. In all, according to Fiedler, 150,000 people attended games at the venue in 1935. That number increased to over 200,000 in 1936. Fielder said that fans enjoyed the intimacy of the park, which was small enough that even fans in the last row of bleachers had a ringside seat.

A glimpse of the Sunset Boulevard side of Fiedler’s Field before CBS’ studio went up across the street.

View of Fiedler’s Field c. 1938 after the construction of CBS studio. The cafe on the southwest corner of Gower at 6100 Sunset was Jack White’s when Fiedler’s Field first opened. It became Chappell’s in 1936. After Chappell’s closed in 1940 it was vacant for a time. It later became The Copper Skillet restaurant and was demolished in 1976.

Chappell’s Cafe, formerly Jack Whites, at 6100 Sunset Blvd. 4/13/1935.

 

Marty Fiedler and Ruby Sorber, at right, with players, 8/23/1936 LAT.

 

Bernice Maxon, who played second base for the Coca-Cola womens’ softball team at Fiedler’s Field in 1936. Sponsor Mark C. Bloome’ tire store was a neighbor, on the other corner of El Centro at 6210 Sunset Blvd. UCLA digital.

In February 1937, Fiedler announced he was opening a second $15,000 softball park on Fairfax Avenue and Fourth Street. Modeled after the Sunset Boulevard park but with more seating (it could hold 5000), the gala opening was held on April 5 1937.

Thereafter, the original park was often referred to in newspapers as Fiedler’s Sunset Field (not to be confused with Sunset Fields golf links) to distinguish it from his Fairfax Field.

8/12/1938 Hollywood Citizen-News

 

Fiedler, congratulating new neighbor CBS, which opened across the street at 6121 Sunset Boulevard on April 30, 1938. 4/29/1938. Hollywood Citizen-News.

 

Lois Terry, the “Babe Ruth of girls’ softball,” pictured here in 1936, was often seen pitching at Fiedler’s Field in 1938. LAPL.

 

Dorothy “Snookie” Harrell at Fiedler’s Field, 1938. An LA native, she went on to play for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League’s (AAGPBL) Rockford Peaches. 4/10/1938 LAT.

 

9/23/1938. LAT.

After the 1938 season ended, in September 1938, Fiedler took some of the womens’ teams on a three month tour of Japan, the Phillippines and Hawaii. Fiedler never saw the promised cash promised for the tour. In the resulting financial fallout, Fiedler’s Sunset Field did not reopen for the 1939 season. The parcel between Gower and El Centro, excluding the restaurant space, was used for parking.

An August 1940 photo of the Sunset & El Centro intersection during construction of the Hollywood Palladium at 6215 Sunset shows a surface parking lot where Fiedler Field had been. 8/25/1940. LAT.

 

In 1976, the L-shaped, western-themed Gower Gulch shopping center, anchored by a Thrifty Drug store, was built on the site. A new restaurant was also built at the southwest corner of Gower and Sunset that housed an Alphie’s and later a Denny’s.

1/2/1977. LAT.

 

 

4/2/1941. LAT.

While the Sunset and El Centro location was no more, Marty Fieldler continued to operate his softball field at Fourth and Fairfax for the 1939 and 1940 seasons. As of September 1940, it was also referred to as Fiedler’s Fairfax Stadium.

On April 1, 1941, Fieldler announced that he was moving his field from the Fairfax location to a new spot at La Cienega and Beverly Blvd near Third Street. The new softball park, once again called Fiedler’s Field, held its first game of the season on April 20, 1941.

Fiedler Field, now at Beverly Blvd. and La Cienega. Admission was now 20 cents! 6/18/1941. LAT.

6/26/1941. LAT.

Partway through the season, on July 1, 1941, the new Fiedler Field La Cienega closed. Two weeks later, on July 13, 1941, remodeled, redecorated, and, as it turned out, renamed, it reopened as “Beverly Stadium” with Ruby Sorber as general manager.

7/11/1941. LAT.

Beverly Stadium 5/22/1942

Marty Fiedler joined the Navy after Pearl Harbor and in 1942 was directing sports activities at the US Naval Training Station in San Diego, helping organize the base’s baseball team, among other duties. After the war, in 1947, again teamed with Ruby Sorber as well as Griffith Park club concessioner Wilson Atkins, he announced that he was building a new softball park to be called Fiedler’s Field, in Burbank near Lockheed, addressed as 2235 N. Hollywood Way. It opened on June 11, 1948 as Fiedler’s Field. Later that summer, the name was changed to Atkins Park and, in 1952, to Burbank Stadium.

Marty Fiedler died in 1952 while working as a sports director in the Shouth Pacific on a federal defense project. Atkins offered the 5-acre property to the City of Burbank at cost for use as a recreation center, but the deal never went through. In January 1953, Lockheed purchased it and razed the facility.

A man outstanding in his field: Marty Fiedler c. 1948. LAPL

 

6/10/1948. The Valley Times.

 

As Atkins Park. 9/7/1948. Hollywood Citizen-News.

6121 Sunset: CBS Radio Square / Brittingham’s Radio Center Restaurant

Until the latter half of the 1930s, commercial radio was primarily based in New York and Chicago because the technology that made radio programming possible was oriented for east-to-west transmission making it prohibitively more expensive to broadcast a show in the opposite direction. The regulations changed in 1935, sending radio rushing to Hollywood just as moving pictures had done in the 1910s.

Ironically, therefore, the new structure erected to house the new Pacific Coast headquarters of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) would be built on the site of the first film studio in Hollywood.

By 1936, CBS was expanding it’s Hollywood presence, broadcasting from various leased theaters including the Figueroa Playhouse at 940 S. Figueroa St. (now the Variety Arts Theater) in downtown Los Angeles, the Wilshire Ebell Theater, The Music Box Theater at 6626 Hollywood Blvd., and the Vine Street Theater at 1615 Vine St., which it renamed CBS Radio Playhouse (now the Ricardo Montalban Theater). CBS continued to use the latter space until 1953.

The Vine Street Theater as CBS Radio Playhouse c. 1937. LAPL.

In April 1936, CBS purchased local KNX radio station, which operated out of a building at 5939 Sunset Boulevard. Beginning December 29, 1936, all CBS programs, previously heard locally over KHJ, would be broadcast by KNX. The new arrangement was celebrated with a 2-hour special on January 2, 1937, the first hour broadcast from New York, the second half from the Music Box theater in Hollywood.

12/29/1936 Hollywood Citizen-News.

 

1/2/1937. Wilmington Daily Press-Journal.

 

On October 16, 1936, local papers reported that CBS was planning a $1 million new home, revealed by Donald Thornburgh, CBS VP in charge of Pacific Coast operations. Having seen that the competition, NBC, was already outgrowing its new Hollywood home on Melrose Avenue, CBS was going big- huge even. The location was to be the north side of Sunset between El Centro and Gower streets. William Lescaze was to design the building; Earl T. Heitschmidt of Los Angeles would be in charge of the actual construction.

10/16/1936 Monrovia News-Post.

Drawing of the proposed new CBS complex, 2/3/1937. LAT.

 

Architect William Lezcase.

The site chosen for the radio home, addressed as 6121 Sunset Boulevard, had been the Nestor Film Company’s Hollywood studio, established here in a converted tavern on October 27, 1911, and the Christie studios. Demolition of the former studios began in February 1937.

Nestor Studios c. 1911. LAPL.

Nestor Film Co. want ad, 10/31/1911. LAT.

Demolition of the old Nestor-Christie studios at Sunset and Gower, c. February 1937. LAPL. Herman Schultheis collection.

The groundbreaking ceremony, held April 27, 1937, was broadcast nationally over CBS and KNX at 12:45pm.

Construction progress c. December 1937. LAPL. Herman Schultheis collection.

 

The CBS home, known as Columbia Square, officially opened April 30, 1938 with star-studded, all day national coverage.

4/29/1938. Hollywood Citizen-News.

The CBS Columbia Square grand opening lit up the Hollywood sky. LAPL.

The finished building had an office tower, 8 broadcasting studios and an auditorium that could hold over 1000 people.

 

4/29/1938. Hollywood Citizen-News.

LAPL

The eastern half of the complext housed a restaurant, retails shops and a bank.

Harry Brittingham Radio Center Restaurant, addressed as 6111 Sunset and later 6113 Sunset, served as both a commissary for station employees and open to the public. It held its grand opening at the same time as CBS: April 30, 1938.

A view of Brittingham’s Radio Center Restaurant at Columbia Square c. 1938. LAPL.

Ad for the grand opening of Brittingham’s Radio Center Restaurant. 4/29/1938. Hollywood Citizen-News.

4/29/1938. Hollywood Citizen-News.

The interior features a “radio in review” photo montage mural depicting radio personalities, designed by Martin Stern wnd executed by Ray DeBose and Harry Peters of the Hollywood Blueprint Co.

Brittingham’s Radio Center Restaurant New Year’s Part ad, 12/30/1939. Hollywood Citizen-News.

Ad for Brittingham’s Radio Center Restaurant 1/2/1941. LAT.

 

Also opening April 30, 1938 was an outlet of J. Sidneys Sidney’s, Ltd. menswear shop. “Sid’ had opened his first shop at Fox in 1929. In 1938 he operated shops at Paramount and at MGM. The Columbia Square shop, addressed as 6105 Sunset Boulevard, would be his third. The MGM shop would later close and one at Hollywood and Vine.

 

4/29/1938. Hollywood Citizen-News.

4/29/1938. Hollywood Citizen-News.

Looking West on Sunset from Gower St., approaching Sidney’s, Ltd. (with awning) c. 1939. The intersection had been officially renamed Columbia Square though the earlier nickname “Gower Gulch” persisted. LAPL, Herman Shultheis collection.

Columbia Square in the 1940s.

Columbia Square in the early 1950s.

By early 1951, CBS was expanding its television operations and running out of room at Columbia Square. It was forced to not renew the leases of the businesses operating within the complex so that the space could be used for CBS’ own broadcasting needs. As it had in the early days of radio’s westward expansion, CBS also leased theaters around town, including the Earl Carroll Theater at 6230 Sunset.

Earl Carroll’s Theater with CBS signage c. 1951.

Sydney’s, Ltd. announced in March 1951 that it was going out of business. Brittingham’s Radio Center restaurant lease was up in April 1951. The restaurant’s fixtures and equipment were sold at auction in May 1951.

3/4/1951 LAT.

5/20/1951. LAT.

CBS moved its television operations to its huge new CBS Television City in November 1952, KNX moved to new quarters in 2005. Columbia Square was recognized as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 2009.