L.A. the INDUSTRIAL CITY is vast and beautiful.
To drive from downtown to Port of Los Angeles on Alameda Corridor is a railroad state of mind and these are some of its stations.
An elusive lifeline of the city, the corridor never sheds its industrial overalls. Its working classiness is also its defense to any invasion. I hope you get to know it before developing lofty plans for its grandness and romance pedal its miles-long trails. I hope you learn some urban camping and ride your ride along its infrastructure. Its river keeps cascading down, mixing whatever the water drags to lowball salty dog they might serve at the Chowder Barge.
VERNON is strange... It is four square miles. It houses hundreds of factories and little over a hundred live-in residents with a daytime population of thousands of workers. I have been looking at this “Exclusively Industrial” city just a few miles south of downtown Los Angeles for a while now. I like going there with my out of town guests and students. On weekends, when nobody is around, you can drive around its large factory and warehouse buildings laced with delivery or pick-up railroads muted by the trucking industry.
It’s about scale change, edge, beauty in toxicity, crime and punishment, the river love, infrastructure, power, all in one for fact and fiction. Definitely a place to test urban design ideas and walking it on a day of industrial tourism and for the story telling jobs.
BAPTIST CHURCH by R. M. Schindler, at 49th and Compton Avenue is not to be missed out, and while you are there when its future is kind of muggy, you’d help to save the masterpiece wouldn’t you? Find a way to contribute a few dollars towards fixing the roof and care for the saggy beams. Among the beautiful wood and stucco details, pay attention to one of Schindler’s most illustrative ‘space architecture’ and rotated pulpit religiously articulated by the posts as well.
MAP SHEET: 090A215, FARRIS TRACT, WATTS TOWERS
CONSTELLATION NICK NAME: GRAZIE!
INFORMATION / OBSERVATIONS
Time: 15: 15
Weather: Sunny and clear, very pleasant.
The memories. Remembering the school years where no constellation was beyond the limits!
SAM (SIMON) Rodia was born on February 12th, 1879 in Ribottoli Italy.
Rodia's older brother immigrated to the United States in 1895 and settled in Pennsylvania where he worked in the coal mines. Rodia followed his brother a few years later. Little is known about his early life in the United States except that he moved to the west coast and found work in rock quarries and logging and railroad camps as a construction worker.
He lived in Pennsylvania, Washington (Seattle), California (Oakland, San Francisco and Martinez), Texas (El Paso) and again in California (Long Beach).
In 1921, after having lived in Long Beach since 1917, Rodia purchased the triangular-shaped lot at 1761-1765 107th Street in Los Angeles and began to construct his masterpiece, which he called "Nuestro Pueblo" (meaning "our town"). When he was asked why he made the towers, he answered "I wanted to do something big and I did it."When you’ll be back home depends on the poker luck, highway traffic and the amount of gambler food and drinks consumed.
There is so much story and documentation behind the 'GRAZIE,' but Simon Rodia's eventual moving forward from the towers and never looking back, trumps all the speculations and facts about this wonder of the World. I have one word for Mr. Rodia, a.k.a Sam, "grazie!"
SWAP MEETS of L.A. are working class shopping festivals and there are food and entertainment for the entire family. The Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian urbanisms are encountered and to be learned from. Learning from Swap Meets is a must for L.A.’s economy.
COMMERCE CASINO is where the world’s largest man cave of a poker room exists. A Casino in the City of Commerce, next to Vernon and Maywood. Once you park your car, enter from concave front Bellagio-inspired facade and pass the Egyptian themed lobby to try your luck and skills at the poker table. The building is a copy of a copy, a simulacrum, set on a vast asphalt parking lot. There are restaurants and bars and the jeweler. A byproduct of the spread, floating in defiance of imminent sea rise and serving.This is not Las Vegas but the City of Commerce. Outside is not that important for the poker players as they escape from it with a couple of aces. When you’ll be back home depends on the poker luck, highway traffic and the amount of gambler food and drinks consumed.
Not every guest is happy, though…
“My husband and I had planned to spend our 10 year anniversary at this hotel as we had received spa certificates as a gift. A reservation was made, confirmed by email, and my debit card was charged only to be told upon check in that they could not accommodate us and that the hotel was sold out! Are you kidding me? I asked to speak to the manager. He was unhelpful, unapologetic, unprofessional…”
PORT OF LA in Wilmington and periphery is where all the traces of stepchild urbanisms left behind and the industry prevails all of its colorful self. L.A. is a port city. Busiest and the biggest in the nation in cargo traffic and if that is not good enough, it also butt joints the second largest, Long Beach.
INDUSTRIAL CITY it is, Los Angeles is heavily invested in shipping, processing, hi-tech, and manufacturing. It is a la·bo·ri·ous labor town. Quantities of imports touch land here and transported to everywhere.
CHOWDER BARGE floats there in a low-end boat slip. An unofficial host to certain down and outness. A barge carrying a fully textured stucco embodiment of one-story Los Angeles. A byproduct of the spread, floating in defiance of imminent sea rise and serving.
* A special nod to my friend Mitchell De Jarnett here.
WRECKING YARDS specializing in fender benders made architectural with the sheer quantity of the merchandise. Reminding you never to give up your DIY ambitions and recycling lifestyle. Behind the stoplight wall and somewhere in the distance are the yellow mounds of sulfur that most likely you might not want to mess with.
Want more of Industrial LA? Hear more thoughts on caustic hot sauce plants and corrupt city officials on our podcast, Archinect Sessions.