Wednesday, December 30, 2009
In the Portland of my memories and dreams, buildings like this giant jug—once a liquor store, presumably, now a strip club—are everywhere, criss-crossed by overpasses. It's a city of shabby buildings, and exceptionally modest ambition. And above all, it's funky and weird, far from the glossy city that today recalls its former self only in random blocks on the far east side. 25 years ago, Portland was still borderline squalid, with a lethargy that made escaping it an act of utter and complete necessity.
Ironicall, one no longer itches to get away from Portland, Oregon…because while you're actually there you could be anywhere at all. Fortunately, nature endures: If it weren't for Mount Hood and the river spanned by those marvelous and quite ancient steel bridges, there'd be no distinguishing this place from, say, Columbus, Ohio…
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Drive down El Camino Real (aka U.S. 101) south of King City and you'll see the bell tower of the Mission San Miguel Arcangel, established by the Franciscans in 1797. Secularized by the Mexican government in 1840, the buildings were used as a market and a saloon before they were returned to the Church in 1878, by which time California had become part of the United States; the Franciscan monks returned in 1928. The church (and its incredible frescoes—see below) were seriously damaged by an earthquake in 2003, but an admirable restoration project has allowed it to reopen to the public after being closed for six years.
Apologies for the graininess of these photos; they were taken in very low light, and the camera pushes to 1600 ASA under those conditions. Nonetheless, I wanted to show the frescoes inside the Mission San Miguel, which just reopened after a restoration to repair earthquake damage. The mission was established in 1797; the church itself was completed in 1821, at around which time these frescoes were designed by Esteban Munras of Monterey and painted by the local Salinan people. The frescoes are unrestored and original, and although the building itself has been made safe for occupation there's still plenty of earthquake damage in evidence.
On the next block of Sixth Street is the companion building to the Chapman Market: the Chapman Park Studios. Although it's the smaller of the two Spanish Revival fantasies, it's also the more interesting, at least from the outside, with finer details and a fascinating frescoed entryway. Completed in 1929, it's another fine building by Morgan Walls + Clements, the firm that also designed the Citadel in Commerce and the Wiltern Theatre on Wilshire, as well as the Mayan and El Capitan theatres in downtown L.A.
Amidst the squalor and ugliness that is much of L.A., many fine architectural treasures remain. One is the Chapman Market, a 1928 Spanish Revival building by Morgan Walls + Clements on West Sixth at Alexandra in the mid-Wilshire district not far from MacArthur Park. The top image shows the central section, while the image above shows one of the two elevated sections that flank it at either end.