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ARCHITECTURE CORNER

Baldwin Hills Architecture Then and Now

Whether you’re familiar with Baldwin Hills or haven’t yet discovered this neighborhood in Southern Los Angeles, this thriving community has a rich history of innovative architecture that is both noteworthy and incredibly pleasing to the eye.

 

Named after the 19th century horse racing and land development pioneer Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, Baldwin Hills is home to Kenneth Hahn State Regional Park and The Village Green, a “progressive experiment in multiple-family housing” (it’s also a National Historic Landmark).

 

In our previous blog post and neighborhood spotlight of Baldwin Hills we shared the top five reasons why we love working and living in this area. In addition to the spectacular views, value, tight-knit community and location, the architecture of Baldwin Hills offers a variety of styles unlike anyplace else in Los Angeles.

 

Most notably, this area is a hub of mid-century modern and Post & Beam style homes and there are many beautiful Spanish Colonial and Tudor homes that boast the artistry of a bygone era.

 

Below are some architectural gems from past and present that we thought were significant to the architectural evolution of Baldwin Hills.

Baldwin Hills Theatre, Los Angeles, 1949

The Baldwin Theatre opened on August 10, 1949, and was constructed out of laminated wood and had an 1,800 seat capacity. It was operated by Fanchon Simon and Marco Wolff also known as “the most famous brother and sister producing team.”

Fanchon Simon was the first female producer! Producing musical and dance numbers for feature films for Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and Republic Pictures as well as the Ice Follies and the Hollywood Bowl. This brother and sister duo were also former owners of the Roxy and Paramount Theaters.

The architect of the theater was Lewis Eugene Wilson who designed the innovative structure supported by laminated wood arches. Even though the theatre closed in 1994 and the front of the building was demolished, the auditorium remains, converted to office space.

Source: LA Movie Palaces.

The Broadway/Crenshaw Center, 1947

Yes, the mall!

The Broadway/Crenshaw Center, which opened its doors in November 1947, was the first post-war retail complex in the state of California. The shopping center was truly a retail innovation in the mid 1940s. The complex was home to The Broadway department store, May Company (Macy’s) Department Store, Woolworth variety store, and Von’s supermarket.

The historic Broadway and May Company buildings are characteristic of the Streamline Moderne style. This style, sometimes referred to as Art Moderne, is “a late type of the Art Deco architecture and design that emerged in the 1930s. Its architectural style emphasized curving forms, long horizontal lines, and sometimes nautical elements.” These two buildings are eligible for Historic Landmark designation on the state and local level.

Source: kcet.org

The Village Green, 1941

The residential community of The Village Green (formerly called Baldwin Hills Village) was built in 1941 and was a “celebrated example of urban housing”. It consists of 85 two story buildings and nine one story cottages, “linked with pedestrian-friendly, lushly landscaped communal open spaces separated from all automobile traffic.”

It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2001. When the first residents moved into Baldwin Hills Village in 1941, they were eager to participate in a revolutionary idea in multi-family housing. Advertising promised “a new and finer way of living” with “the atmosphere and activities of a country club and the services of a hotel”.

It is the only garden apartment complex in California designated as a National Historic Landmark, the highest level of recognition bestowed by the National Park Service.

“The buildings were designed to be modern, yet simple; the emphasis was on the innovative layout of the buildings within the landscape. Fred Barlow, Jr. designed the landscape, which was a modern interpretation of ‘Old California’ style.’” (Source: Apartment Therapy)

The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overview offers expansive wide views that stretch from West LA all the way to downtown and beyond to include the San Gabriel Mountains and Mount Baldy.

The Visitor Center was a recent addition (2009) and was executed masterfully by Safdie Rabines Architects. The buildings, characterized by their modified butterfly roofs, are buried partially into the hillside. “They are meant to guide visitors briefly inside, then send them onto a trail that winds through a couple of re-engineered hillocks that carefully hide, and then frame, a view of downtown.”

An LA Times Review of the Visitor Center mentions the progressiveness of the execution…

“The design strives to update the popular notion of what a state park can achieve architecturally, trading the ranger station tucked away in the shade of a pine tree for a crisp ensemble of buildings squeezed almost entirely dry of romanticism.”

Mid-Century Modern Home, 1959

We couldn’t resist including one of our recent listings! This gorgeous mid-century modern home was originally built in 1959. Remodeled in 2017 by Gaia Construction, this home was upgraded while keeping the integrity of its mid-century style with sleek lines and geometric forms, a true gem! This was a record breaking sale in Baldwin Hills.

Lastly, did we mention that Baldwin Hills long list of notable residents includes Ray Charles, Michael J. Fox, Bubba Smith, and (our favorite) Tina Turner?! To quote Tina, Baldwin Hills is “Simply the best.”

VIDEO: Tina Turner:

Thanks to Joe Basile, founder of GoHumphrey for this guest blog post.