How the Getty found architect Claud Beelman's papers

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Claud Beelman was one of those Los Angeles architects whose work spanned eras and dramatic changes in style. He encompassed noteworthy LA examples as different as the Eastern Columbia building downtown and, above, the office tower occupied by Occidental Petroleum and the Hammer Museum that ended Westwood's four decades as a low-rise village bounded by a landscaped greenbelt along Wilshire Boulevard. But when the Getty's curators went to include Beelman in the current show, Overdrive: LA Constructs the Future, 1940-1990, there were no drawings or papers to go on.

Enter George Credle, a security guard at the Getty Villa some years back. He also was completing his master’s in the USC School of Architecture’s historic conservation program. USC's Allison Engel tells the story:

Several years ago, Credle was on duty, chatting with guests, when he met Rosemary Silvey, who had worked on the design of the villa’s interiors. Credle mentioned that he was working on a thesis on Beelman, who used to be in partnership with the founders of the architectural firm that designed the Getty Villa. Silvey later introduced Credle to Judith “Pebble” Wilkins, who had worked for that architectural firm, Langdon Wilson International, which was founded by two School of Architecture grads, Robert Langdon Jr. ’44 and Ernest Wilson ’48.


Credle asked Wilkins if she knew what happened to Beelman’s architectural drawings. Wilkins told him that after Beelman’s death in 1963, his widow had planned to discard his drawings, but they were purchased and saved by Brandow & Johnston, the structural engineering firm that collaborated on many Beelman projects. Wilkins put Credle in touch with Gregg Brandow ’67, son of the company’s founder and a part-time professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Brandow confirmed that the firm did indeed have Beelman’s drawings.

Credle then contacted the Getty curators, who were thrilled to discover that the drawings existed. Credle and Overdrive co-curator Alexander went to Brandow & Johnston’s downtown offices, “and we had a wonderful time in a hot and musty storage area looking at drawings that hadn’t been disturbed for years,” Credle said.

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Beelman’s drawings included historic Los Angeles buildings from 1922 through 1962. In the city’s building boom of the 1920s, Beelman and his then partner William Curlett designed no fewer than 22 structures, including four on West 7th Street: the Foreman & Clark building at 404 W. 7th St., the Barker Bros. building at 818 W. 7th St., the Union Oil Building at 617 S. 7th St. and the Roosevelt building at 727 W. 7th St.

Another significant building constructed at the end of this era, following the dissolution of Beelman’s partnership with Curlett, was the 1930 Cedars of Lebanon Hospital — now a Scientology building — at 4833 Fountain Ave. During the rest of that decade, Beelman designed the Eastern Columbia building, an addition to the late, lamented Ambassador Hotel, the MGM executive offices in Culver City, the Hollywood Post Office (with another architecture firm), as well as smaller projects and major renovations of existing structures.

From the 1940s to the 1960s, Beelman’s style gradually evolved from Art Deco and Art Moderne to a reductive style devoid of ornamentation. Notable examples from the ’50s and ’60s include the 1955 Superior Oil building at 550 S. Flower St. (now The Standard Hotel), which is recorded on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1958 California Bank at 600 S. Spring St. (now converted into condos) and the 1962 Kirkeby/Occidental Building at 10889 Wilshire Blvd. in Westwood, which was acquired by business manager Armand Hammer as headquarters for Occidental Petroleum.

There's a lot more at the link.

Photo of Kirkeby Center/Occidental building: LA Observed


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