Three bowling alleys and a Marilyn Monroe house go away

friendly-hills-bowl.jpgLA Observed file photos

Chris Nichols of Los Angeles Magazine laments the closure this month of Mission Hills Bowl in the Valley, Friendly Hills Lanes in Whittier and Wagon Wheel Bowl way up in Oxnard. "Like drive-in theaters before them, the last of the larger-than-life classic 1950s bowling centers that once roamed Southern California are nearly extinct," he writes. The bar seems kind of low to declare these three places "historic," as Chris does, but he makes a bit of a case.

Crews quickly descended on the mid-century buildings to scavenge for valuables. At least the maple lanes from Mission Hills, originally designed by Vegas architect Martin Stern, Jr., will see more strikes at a bowling center in Vietnam. The Wagon Wheel was the last vestige of a once-thriving roadside amusement along the 101 that is now completely shuttered. Friendly Hills is a modern masterpiece from architects Powers, Daly, and DeRosa, who reinvented the bowling center after WWII. It featured a beauty parlor, coffee shop, and the Mayan Room lounge alongside the 32 lanes.

All three are important links to a lost world and they will be missed. Each municipality is considering a mild case of historic preservation for the buildings.

Meanwhile, the former Mar Vista Bowl on Venice Boulevard has reopened after renovations as the Bowlero.

In Valley Village, some residents are mighty upset that a home in which a teenaged Marilyn Monroe lived for a short time was razed this week — three days ahead of a possible landmarking hearing at the city cultural heritage board. The developer seems to have rushed the demolition, but the city doesn't seem too concerned. Monroe only lived there for about a year, if the reports are correct, after she got married the first time and before she became an iconic symbol and actress. The Van Nuys High School alum lived in several other houses around Los Angeles too, and I don't believe any — including the one where she died in 1962 — have been designated as historic. (There's that word again.) The city planning department is in the final stages of a citywide survey of potential historic-cultural monuments, and while hundreds of properties have been identified as possibly worthy of designating, the house on Hermitage Street wasn't one of them.

From the Daily News story:

It was there that 17-year-old housewife Norma Jean Dougherty moved in with her in-laws in April 1944 while her sailor husband James was far away at sea….

She moved out of the North Hollywood area house in the summer of 1945, would soon divorce Dougherty and went on to become the iconic Marilyn Monroe.

City officials said the house wasn’t significant enough to be named an official landmark. Not only did the house not have any distinguishing characteristics, according to city planners, but the actress didn’t become a movie star until long after she moved.

“Obviously, Marilyn Monroe is an iconic figure,” said Ken Bernstein, director of the Office of Historic Resources, who opposed the Monroe landmark. “But while she had been living in the house when discovered, the house … isn’t associated with a productive period in her career.

“There are hundreds, if not thousands, of houses associated with celebrities.”


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