Friday, December 30, 2011

Pico House Haunted?

Those fun-loving folks of the Los Angeles Paranormal Association will be investigating Pico House again this January (they did it last year too). What do they hope to find?

The event starts at 8 pm on Saturday, January 28 and goes to 2 am Sunday morning. Cost? $85, which if you divide by six hours is probably not too bad.

Participants will be divided into four teams and will be prowling in and under the Pico House (there are tunnels) and the Masonic Temple and Merced Theater nearby. Here is description and details.

Their blog is lots of fun--they've held investigations in Virginia City, Tonopah, and Goldfield, NV, Northern California and down here at Linda Vista Hospital in Boyle Heights and the Queen Mary.

And they've done the Pico House before, in January of 2011. Lots of pictures and the information is here, including a description of the Chinese Massacre of 1871, which happened just outside. But besides taking pictures, it doesn't sound like much happened.

Ghost Adventures also locked themselves into the Pico House for an investigation, and had enough for a TV show on the night--shadows, mysterious voices, cold spots, etc. Here's the show on YouTube.

This last picture shows the Pico House being built, in 1869. I found this at the SkyscraperPage--if you scroll about half-way down the page, there are several old pictures of the Plaza and Pico House and the Merced Theater, which opened on New Years Day, 1870.

The theater, LA's first indoor stage theater, was built by an undertaker and named for the man's wife, Mercedes.

Pio Pico, the last governor of Mexican California, built the Pico House Hotel in 1870, and lost it (financially speaking) ten year later. The place had indoor plumbing, gas lighting, and a French restaurant--quite elegant and state-of-the-art. I believe it was renovated about a dozen years ago.

Pico was an interesting guy, a mixed race man who seemed to love life and had a generous disposition. He was born at the Mission San Gabriel, so he was a true native Californian. Can't really imagine him haunting the place, but the ghost could be a disgruntled resident, I suppose. Or someone killed in that massacre.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pasadena Roses Mosaic

One week before the Rose Parade, this seems appropriate.

The rose mosaic at the Garfield Promenade of Paseo Colorado -- as well as the smaller pictures above the circular benches -- were installed ten years ago in 2001.Since there's a lot of traffic there, minor damage has been done, according to the City of Pasadena's website . Conservation is in progress.  The work is being repaired, pieces of the Venetian glass will be regrouted, andit will all be cleaned.

The artist is Margaret Nielsen and she is standing on the mosaic in the picture. Her work is titled Pasadena Panorama. Trizec Hahn development installed the piece, and the city's Public Arts program paid for it. Beyond the large rose mosiac, the pictures along the curved benches were also designed by Nielsen.

Margaret Nielsen is from Canada, but all of her training has been here in SoCal: Chouinard Arts School, Cal Arts in Valencia, and Loyola Marymount in Westchester.

One of her paintings, called LA Dialogs, is in the Metro Headquarters Building, and another is somewhere at the Union Station Gateway. A set of mosaics designed for the Motion Picture Association of America building on Ventura Blvd in Encino is in storage, sadly. The 21 Venetian glass mosaics show scenes from famous movies. Or so says LA Magazine's website, but I hope there are plans to restore them somewhere.

The Los Angeles Times reviewed her work recently.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Jaws House

If you think the name is creepy, wait'll you hear that one resident was a suspect in a gruesome murder...but let's start at the beginning.

The Jaws House on Franklin Ave. in the Los Feliz area is actually the John Sowden House. Sowden hired his friend Lloyd Wright (son of Frank) to design and build his home in 1926. Using patterned concrete blocks and a Mayan style as his father did in the Ennis House, Lloyd Wright created the showplace that Sowden wanted.

Today, it's still used as a showplace. Owner Xorin Balbes renovated it in 2001 and in 2009, and the house has been used for fundraisers for gay causes, according to the caption on this LA Library photo. Which probably has nothing to do with the gardener who got caught in the photograph.

Balbes put the unique house on the market earlier this year. The L.A. Times did a write-up in its Home of the Week column, pointing out all the features and changes over the years.

And Curbed LA (and probably a few other sites) ran incredible pictures of the place inside and out.

In between Sowden and Balbes, though, another owner just after World War II brought a more sinister cachet to the residence. A doctor named George Hodel lived there with his family, and his son believes the Black Dahlia--Elizabeth Short--was tortured, murdered, and dismembered there.

Son Steve Hodel wrote the book Black Dahlia Avenger
about his father and the years at the house.

Recent owner Balbes got flack for installing a pool when he renovated, according to this Wikipedia article.  Which is interesting, because a woman who used to visit the home as a child remembers a pool there originally.

Beverley Jackson remembers being sent to the house to visit a retired Shakesperian actor, Guy Bates Post, when she was a little kid. Why? Jackson's mother decided she mumbled, and wished to nip that in the bud.

Jackson blogs: "once inside there was a long narrow courtyard surrounded by the long narrow house. And there was a long narrow pool with water lilies just inside the courtyard. I remember it well because once I wasn’t paying attention and I fell into it."

So years later she visits the area, and comes up to the house just as a film shoot is winding up and talks to the property manager, who tells her about the Black Dahlia suspect and that there might be more bodies buried on the property. This had to be before the 2001 redo, because there was no pool. Jackson told the property manager about the pool she remembered, and said that must be where the bodies were.

Did anyone ever check?


Monday, December 12, 2011

Joseph Young Mosaic and Art

Today's mosaic by Joseph Young stands in  the lobby of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, on Burton Way.

Young's mosaic, along with other artwork for the temple, was commissioned by Sidney Eisenshtat, the original architect. It was Eisenshtat's first major design, but it was followed by many more, like the Friar's Club and Temple Sinai. Eisenshtat lived to be 90, and passed away in 2005. Here's a link to his obituary in the Los Angeles Times, which lists many of his works.

Temple Emanuel opened in 1953 without the mosaic (it came along in 1955) and was refurbished lately by Rios Clementi Hale Studios. Here's a great article in the Los Angeles Times Magazine about the renovation and its deeper meaning.

The Times online piece includes a pictorial of old and new pictures of the temple, showing the black and white 1950's and 1960's photos alongside shots of the renovated site. I borrowed this picture of the mosaic from them, but to see the whole enchilada, go here.

The photo below, showing the entire mosaic, came from the Joseph L. Young Facebook fan page. The temple has a Facebook page too.

The LA Is My Beat Blog posted a wonderful 1955 newspaper photo of Young working on the mosaic, here.

There's actually a reason that I feature more of Joseph Young's work today as opposed to, say, a month hence. I have blogged about him before--his UCLA History of Mathematics mosaic, for example. . . I'm too lazy to go searching for them. Just put "Joseph Young" into the search box if you're interested.


Today is the 36th anniversary of the installation of the Triforium in Los Angeles, in the Civic Center area at Temple and Main. I learned that by becoming a fan of the Joseph L. Young Facebook page.

So it seems appropriate to feature a mosaic by Young, the Triforium's creator. This picture of the Triforium in 2011 is from Wikipedia, as is the link.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Late Mosaic Monday in Hermosa Beach

This post is late because a Patch article had to come first.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Hermosa Beach has installed a new mosaic of the original, iconic, 480-year-old picture that hangs in Mexico City. Read all about it in my Patch piece.
The article gives the basic history of Our Lady of Guadalupe as well, which I won't repeat here. If you are interested, read about it on Wikipedia, which has a pretty comprehensive entry with lots of pictures and links.
The Hermosa Beach church started Phase 3 of a 3-phase building project, and each phase starts with the dedication of a piece of artwork depicting a patron saint. Phase 2, for example, was the rebuilding of the friary, which was falling apart. That began with the dedication of a lovely statue of St. Anthony of Padua (sorry, no picture--although I believe there's one on the church's website.)
So Phase 3--upgrading the school and adding a preschool--began with this dedication to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The mosaic faces Prospect in a residential neighborhood, just south of 5th St on a little road called Massey.

Because Patch chose not to run it, I'm gonna add this picture of the artist, Sergio Hernández-Madera. He flew up from Guadalajara to repair and install the mosaic (it arrived damaged).
Sergio's website is, where you can read about him in English or Spanish. There you can see his other work: resort swimming pools lined with a hibiscus flower mosaic in Playa del Carmen, or a bird of Paradise in Hawaii, for example, or retro-senoritas on a restaurant wall at Disney World. He did a seascape for the Discovery Channel in MD.
His mosaics can be portraits or recreate artwork from the PreRaphaelites to Picasso.
The artist learned to make mosaics from his grandmother, and still has some of her work.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish has been around for decades, of course, and has other representations of Mary, the Mother of God--like this statue. It also shows her as Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it even has mosaic work in it--in gold, no less.
A few things I learned researching this post and article:
First, the cloth that the 480-year-old picture is imprinted upon should have deteriorated 460 years ago.
Second, some claim that the picture's eyes--imprinted on that ancient cloth--reflect the scene 480 years ago, with images of people in them. Read more about that here.
Third, "Guadalupe" has nothing to do with the place where she appeared. The lady spoke to an indigenous man when she appeared, using Nahuatl--his language. She told him she was Coatlaxopeuh, meaning "the one who crushes serpents." Coatlaxopeuh sounded like Guadalupe to the Spanish.
It's all on Wiki, and the same story is on many other sites. There's even a link to the 16th-century narrative of the story.

Monday, December 5, 2011

21st Century Equestrians

Mosaic Monday will have to wait till Tuesday, but it is special. Really.

Meanwhile, I offer this picture taken at the San Pedro Christmas Parade over the weekend.

Let's be fair. Maybe she had a call from a family member telling her a donor had been found for her father's life-saving transplant surgery. Or maybe her Mom had called to tell her that the bank refinanced and their home is saved! Or maybe it was her agent, and she just got tapped to star in a new Disney after-school series called Parade Princess...

But let's face it, we all know that what's really being said on the phone is probably, "I dunno....what do you wanna do later?"