Wednesday, August 26, 2015

BEVERLY HILLS PART II: ARCHITECTURE, CHEESE, AND CHURCH

After our over-the-top chocolate indulgence experience, we decided to walk around Beverly Hills to see what additional damage we could do to our diets get some exercise and walk off a few calories.

Beverly Hills is kind of a surreal place. It was originally a lima bean ranch (I did NOT make that up), but was subdivided into building lots in 1906. It was one of several planned communities in the area that were specifically all-white and non-Jew. We Californians like to think we never had the discrimination issues so prevalent in the South, but BH is evidence that this is false, although lawsuits were settled in 1948 that allowed blacks and Jews to move into the city, years before major Civil Rights legislation. These days, African Americans still only make up 2.2% of the population, but Beverly Hills has the largest Jewish population per capita of any city in the United States. Iranian Jews are especially dominant and make up over 25% of the city's population of 35,000. Some sources say that overall, Beverly Hills is 60% Jewish, and Wikipedia says Beverly Hills High School is "predominantly Jewish."

Anyway, back to how BH became BH.  It helps to have good roots. A group of wealthy investors incorporated the city in 1914. Then it really got rolling when Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford built a home in Beverly Hills in 1921, starting the mass migration of The Beautiful (and rich and famous) People to the area.

Oh, and it doesn't hurt that Beverly Hills is built on top of an active, continuously producing oil field discovered in 1900. Perhaps even more productive than the Beverly Hills Oil Field, however, is one of the most famous shopping streets in the world, Rodeo Drive, and the surrounding shopping area, the Golden Triangle.
The northern terminus of Rodeo Drive where it intersects with Sunset Boulevard.
I was willing to contribute to the local economy, but Bob wanted to press onward.
After bypassing the above entrance to Rodeo Drive, we came upon Jack Colker's 76 Station, a gas station straight out of the Jetsons. This unique futurist style of the 1950s and 1960s, known as "Googie" architecture, originated in Los Angeles and reflected America's obsession with cars, jets, space travel, and the Atomic Age.
The most famous example of Googie architecture is the Theme Building at LAX:
Photo from here
The term comes from "Googie's," the name of an LA coffee shop with this distinct architectural style. "Googie" was the nickname of the owner's wife.


Across the street from the gas station is the Wallis Annenburg Center for the Performing Arts, and in front of that building is a 30-foot-tall sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein entitled Coups de Pinceau (or Brush Strokes in English):
Yeah, Lichtenstein died in 1997 and this was created in 2011 from the artist's 1988 conception, but it's still a big deal.

Across the street from the sculpture and kitty-corner from the 76 station is the iconic Beverly Hills City Hall. Finished in 1932 during the heart of the Great Depression, it was the "largest and most expensive City Hall of any municipality its size in the country," according to the LA Times. Ummm, way to get your priorities straight, Beverly Hills.
It is built in the Spanish Revival architectural style with more than a touch of Baroque, especially on the cupola:
Unfortunately, we were there on a Saturday, so the building was locked. We peered through the door windows and could just make out the Rodin sculpture in the center of the main floor.

We were quite impressed by the lovely drought-cognizant gardens, and by the city's very own logo for water conservation:
 
Even the art deco City Hall parking garage is special. It was built during the renovation of City Hall in the 1980s:
A large courtyard behind City Hall would be a great place for people watching, and it's a pretty good place for a post-Chocolate-Tour collapse as well:

Across the street is the Beverly Hills Police Department and the Beverly Hills Public Library:
I think they share this parking structure:

I walked into the library and could not stifle a *GASP!*
The Beverly Hills Library has had various homes since its creation in 1929. This one was built in 1990. It's stunning.
I library that incorporates a FUDGE FACTORY?  Where do I get my card?
It was very hot and we were getting pretty tired by this point, so we started making our way back to the car. We had noticed The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills on 419 North Beverly Drive during our Chocolate Tour, and when we saw it again, we had to go inside to cool off. A few pictures are worth a thousand words:


Any good cheese shop also sells artisan chocolate. Everyone knows cheese and chocolate go together, and since we had purchased five different kinds of cheese, well, what choice did I have?

We continued on our way, passing this sweet brass couple, Gordon and Lily, created by Spanish sculptor Victor Salmones:
They face the busy street, seemingly afraid to cross.

Our last stop was the Good Shepherd Catholic Church on 504 North Roxbury Drive. The front door was wide open, inviting us in:

The muted simplicity of the interior was almost a shock after the lavish excesses of Beverly Hills:
The oldest church in Beverly Hills, over the years it has hosted the weddings of many famous people, including Elizabeth Taylor, Loretta Young, Rod Stewart, Mark Wahlberg, and Carmen Miranda. Funerals have included those of Rudolph Valentino, Gary Cooper, Alfred Hitchcock, Rita Hayworth, Eva Gabor, Frank Sinatra, and Merv Griffin.

A beautiful organ stands in the loft at the back of the church and over the entry:
The most stunning feature has to be the stained glass windows, which were made in France, Germany, and England.

L to R: St. Anthony of Padua, St. Michael, and St. Peter:

L to R: Jesus, Madonna and Child, and Jesus the Good Shepherd:

L to R: St. Joseph, St. Patrick, and St. John the Evangelist:

I am always on the lookout for representations of Joseph and the boy Jesus. I love this woodcarving standing in a niche behind the baptismal font:

Many references are made to the Good Shepherd, including these doortop carvings:


We finally made it back to our car, which we had left in the Rite Aid parking structure on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Bedford (a great place to park). All that walking, believe it or not, had made us hungry, so we headed down Santa Monica Boulevard to Thai Town to get a bite to eat before starting the long drive home.

One day I'm going to get around to doing a post on LA's murals. We saw three really terrific ones on our drive:
Elvis, Arnold, and Marilyn, all in one picture, and competing with La China Oaxaquena for attention.
Why is Paul McCartney looking so paranoid as he hides behind Ringo?
I'm not sure what Univision Mobile has to do with this faux Lichtenstein
painting, but it certainly caught my attention.
Spicy Barbecue Thai serves Northern Thai food and is listed as one of the best Thai restaurants in LA's Thai Town by many internet sites.
It was tasty and unique, but not the best we've had. Still, it was good enough that we might come back someday and try some of the other dishes.


You know you're in an authentic Thai restaurant when the check looks like this:
We had one last stop before merging onto the dreaded 101 Freeway.
Unfortunately, we were destined for the crowded side.
This little conglomeration of shops was really close to the freeway entrance:
An Eastern Europe grocery store and a French bakery side-by-side? STOP THE CAR, BOB!
We parked by this sign, which reminded us of Africa, the only other place we've seen speed "humps." 
I didn't get any photos inside the stores, but we did come home with a bottle of Ajvar spread, a Romanian condiment introduced to us by Julie and Alex. I also couldn't resist the wrapper of this chocolate bar. It's so beautiful that I may never open it. (I don't usually like milk chocolate anyway.)
 
The French bakery had the best baklava we've had since we ate some in Turkey five years ago, much better than anything we had in Israel, Egypt, or Jordan. It's a must-return-for-more find and was a great way to end our Los Angeles adventure.

And that's it. Not bad for a day trip. Not bad at all.

4 comments:

  1. Fun, lively, cute post. Glad I was along for the ride.

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  2. Such an interesting history of Beverly Hills. I had no idea!
    That wooden statue of Joseph and Christ is sweet.
    What a fun day!

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  3. And all this time I thought it was just about a High School drama ;)

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  4. I can see you've been having all the fun. I need to sign up with the Judy Tour Guide Agency and take a spin myself!

    ReplyDelete

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