Observing Los Angeles

Martin Schall, here in L.A. (again)

Longtime readers know Martin Schall as the German creator of you-are-here.com, the great website of Los Angeles photographs. Although I've been posting since 2004 about the 42-year-old who runs the best reference site about L.A. architecture, we didn't meet for the first time until September, when he showed me and my video camera around his hometown of Stuttgart. On Saturday, I got to return the favor — but how do you satisfy a visitor who has already photographed more parts of L.A. than many locals have seen? He can recall obscure entries in Gebhard and Winter, and his Los Angeles book collection back in Stuttgart puts mine to shame.

Martin usually stays in Chinatown, so anything near Downtown was out. He asked to see my part of town, but some of the landmarks I thought might be fresh to him — the Venice canals, Mar Vista's Gregory Ain homes — are already chronicled on his site. So I had to dig deeper for spots he didn't know about or couldn't easily get to on his own. We only had the afternoon, but together Judy Graeme and I managed to add a few notches to Martin's L.A. gun belt. It was fun.

wilshirechapel.jpgFirst we drove up Sawtelle Avenue — he didn't know the Japanese district, or know of Sawtelle's past as a city of saloons and gambling halls. Good start. It got better when we took him into the VA reservation astride Wilshire Boulevard. Martin jumped out to take pictures of the National Register of Historic Places chapel, the oldest surviving building on Wilshire and occupied by separate Catholic and Protestant chapels, but sadly looking more decrepit than ever. He was delighted to grab shots of other VA buildings, since he hadn't known it was OK to just drive in and explore the federal grounds.

Same with the Los Angeles National Cemetery. He realized it was there, but was surprised 1) that we were allowed in for a respectful visit, and 2) to learn of its origins as a resting place for Civil War veterans. The Westwood Memorial Park, however, came as a total surprise to him. So did the man from Canada laying a vase full of flowers at Marilyn Monroe's crypt, and the tourists flocking around Farrah Fawcett's gravestone. ("She's dead?" asked Martin, whose celebrities tend to be architects.) He took a couple of shots of the Majestic Crest on Westwood Boulevard, but there was a movie running so we couldn't see the wonderful wall murals in the theatre.

As we drove, Martin remarked on recent alterations to the streetscape. "Oh, that's finished now," he observed as we passed the Ronald Reagan Medical Center at UCLA, opened last year. I scored some points by taking him to Richard Neutra's Landfair Apartments, which he knew were in Westwood's North Village but hadn't found on his forays into the winding streets. He enjoyed seeing the new high-rise condos on the corner of Wilshire and Comstock, known locally as "the pumpkin patch," and highly approved of our lunch stop in Beverly Hills at Nate n' Al's — after Philippe's and The Original Pantry, he said it rounded out his list of legendary eateries.

martinschallwithcamera.jpgBefore we left Beverly Hills, I scored another coup — a Greene and Greene Craftsman beauty on Bedford Drive that was moved in the 1920s from Wilshire and Berendo, where it had been built by car and neon sign pioneer Earle C. Anthony. Martin knew of Anthony, but not of the home — and he adores Greene and Greene's Gamble House in Pasadena. From there we shot across Sunset to show Martin the way up to the Hollywood Reservoir and dam, then just before dark we slipped him into the pool circle boxes at the Hollywood Bowl. On the way home we introduced him to Scoops ice cream, Getty House and a couple of residential gems in Hancock Park, then it was back to the Westside. The rest would have to wait for a longer day.

Martin's got a Thomas Brothers map crowded with intended targets on this trip, but he's already thinking of junking it and letting his eye — and the good light — guide him.

Photos: Judy Graeme / LA Observed

Previously on LA Observed:
Round of applause, please
Martin Schall on KPCC

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