SATURDAY JUNE 24 2017: BROADWAY TERRAZZO
for The Streets Have No Name For Us
A Series of Walks Led by Maryam Hosseinzadeh, Kristy Lovich, Betsy Melenbrink, and Erin Schneider.
Curated by Renée Reizman
Los Angeles Theatre (Handless Clock) 615 S. Broadway 90014.
Erin Schneider will be looking at the historic terrazzo sidewalks of Downtown Broadway's Entertainment & Retail Historical District. Landmarked as a National Register Historic District in 1979 for the early 20th century theatres and buildings, the terrazzo sidewalks remain a beautiful part of the street's complex and changing history. We will use the sidewalk as a critical lens to look at the opulence of historic Downtown, the contemporary past, who is there now and who is being pushed out. In observing and discussing the built environment, we will examine multiple narratives of the development of Downtown, and become more active in our engagement and understanding of place. This is not a traditional tour of downtown theatres or architecture, but an analysis of the neighborhood as a whole through research, walking, observing, and sharing.
Frank Romero Tiles. 7th & Broadway.
Terrazzo (Italian for Terrace) was invented by Venetian construction workers. Originally made of marble chips, clay
and goat’s milk, it uses leftover material as a cheap and durable way to surface patios. Today, it is made from a
composite of marble chips and cement or epoxy. Using colors and metal strips to make patterns, the terrazzo is then
layered, ground, polished, and sealed. It lasts for a very long time. Once you know what it looks like, you’ll see it
everywhere. I first discovered these sidewalks when I was living and working downtown; the more time I spent walking, I
would find new terrazzo, plaques and other remnants of local and diverse history on the sidewalks. Clifton’s Brookdale
Cafeteria terrazzo from 1935 illustrates city hall, orange groves, the desert, and other LA features. The intersection of 7th
& Broadway has brick mosaics designed in the 1980s by Chicano artist Frank Romero, and is named for Ezat Delijani,
who saved 4 nearby theatres from destruction. It is also the original terminus of Route 66 from 1926-1939. The more I
looked, the more I learned about the history of the street and the city, and saw how much it’s changing.
Broadway Street was part of the original 1849 plan for Los Angeles. Originally Fort Street, it was renamed when City
Hall was built on the street in 1888. It became the heart of downtown, and from 1903-1930, the street was bustling with
theatres, department stores, and markets. Architects designed fantastic palatial buildings as complete works of art for
film premieres, vaudeville, and musical performances; every detail right down to the sidewalk. It was the first time the
upper and lower classes came together in the same public space for entertainment. Today, it boasts the largest
concentration of pre-WWII movie palaces and historic theatres in the USA. The magic of motion pictures allowed for time
and space travel, and the invitation extends out the front door and onto the street.
As the city grew in the 1920s, businesses moved away from downtown, and like other major urban areas, downtown
Los Angeles became another example white flight and “urban blight”: a problematic urban planning term for an unhealthy
urban area, which often translates to empty buildings, low income housing or people of color. Since the 1950s, various
organizations have been working on preservation and restoration of historic Broadway to the thriving center it once was,
even though in some ways, it never stopped being a vibrant community.
What is happening on Broadway is very complicated and dynamic situation that has been happening for a long time;
its just becoming more visible. Right now, it’s a place in flux: undergoing a massive economic, material, and socio-
cultural shift. With new laws aimed at redevelopment, the Mill’s Act passed in 1972, gives a tax break if you pay for the
preservation of qualified historical buildings. The neighborhood’s status as a federally protected historic district protects it
from demolition, and provides guidelines and economic benefits to preserve them. In 2008, Councilmember José Huizar
launched Bringing Back Broadway, which aims to revitalize downtown by reactivating old underused commercial
buildings and theatres. As money is pouring into the “revitalization” of Broadway, our historic buildings are being given
the treatment they deserve. However, along with historic restoration comes gentrification, and inevitably immigrant
owned businesses and tenants of color are being pushed out. Ironically, Broadway was historically called the Great
White Way, after the marquee lights in NY. While today there are still small shops selling Quinceañera dresses and
pupusas, there are signs on every other building with realtor’s phone numbers, and whole blocks for sale that haven’t
been used above the first floor for decades. It begs the question, if real estate for the rich is being prioritized, how much
is being spent on housing the homeless, who are important citizens of downtown and deeply affected by the changing
neighborhood? How do we collectively promote certain versions of our city and forget others? Through restoration, we
are both preserving and erasing time. Historic buildings are restored to their original glory, while everything in between is
replaced with the city’s newest version of itself; a cleaner 2017 version of the past. It’s not black and white, and both
good and bad things are happening because of it.
Downtown, the sidewalks appear to belong to everyone, but they are public and private. In the day they are full of
business types, at night slept on by homeless people. For me, the terrazzo is public art that gives everyone access to the
history of place. Once you start looking, there are material remnants everywhere of days gone by that give you clues to
the stories of the street, which you can share with others. Everyone can enjoy history, and other than the architecture,
the best part of downtown is the people. In learning more about the processes behind the built and social changes in our
city, we can increase public consciousness of all the elements that go into the making and re-making of the living myth
that is Downtown Los Angeles.
Every Saturday in June - 10 am - 12pm
June 3 - Betsy Melenbrink - LA River
June 10 - Maryam Hosseinzadeh - Glassell Park
June 17 - Kristy Lovich - Chantry Flat*
June 24 - Erin Schneider - Eastern Columbia Building, Downtown Los Angeles.
Meet at Eastern Columbia Building at 10 am (849 S. Broadway)
End at Clifton’s Brookdale Cafeteria at 12 pm (648 S. Broadway)
Bring hats, water, sunscreen, and umbrellas or parasols for shade.
Women were not meant to wander. There is no feminized form of “flâneur,” a term that began to embody a specific trope of idler Walter Benjamin shaped in the late 19th century; but if one were to put her French language skills to use, as the writer Lauren Elkin did, she could define the female urbanist as a “flâneuse.” Even today, in the seemingly liberated world women inhabit, it’s still a surprise for some to see a woman travel alone, go out to dance alone, drink alone, or backpack the Appalachian Trail alone, as Betsy Melenbrink did in the summer of 2011.
The flâneuse operates in a different dimension as the flâneur. Because she is on high alert, she notices intimacies in the city a flâneur might overlook, like the breeze that flows through Maryam Hosseinzadeh’s neighborhood, Glassell Park, every afternoon, chasing the sinking sun on the horizon. She admires the craft and curvature of terrazzo tiles in the rapidly changing downtown Los Angeles, like Erin Schneider does when she steps across the chevroned sidewalks in front of the Eastern Columbia Building on 9th and Broadway. She catches the sight of fading history, remnants of a gold rusher’s wood cabin, the stone foundation unearthed by Kristy Lovich on a hike through Chantry Flat.
A city was not a welcoming place for wanderers until street lamps illuminated dark alleys and diffused the refuge miscreants and thieves took in the night. Light gave protection to men who strolled through their neighborhoods to observe the new phenomenon of night life, but it also served as a spotlight on those who wanted to remain unnoticed. While I ambled through the streets of London in 2013, drifting from boot sale to carts of fraying paperbacks with double-creased spines, I rarely could describe where I had been. In the old neighborhoods, oftentimes the street names were hidden from unobservant wanderers like myself. I looked for reflective green slates communicating in Highway Gothic, and past the square plaques embedded into building facades that read more as a historical marker than a wayfinder. But that’s part of the charm of London, that even a road sign in gentrifying New Cross can’t distance itself from generations of history.
It was while looking for one of these signs, poised on a street corner with my eyes darting wildly, that a boy, no older than 15, approached me and told me I was beautiful. Normally I ignore comments from male strangers, but his youth and charming accent got me to respond with a smile and a muttered “thank you.” Perhaps he saw it as an invitation, or that because I didn’t hustle across the street that I wanted to engage further, but for whatever the reason the boy quickly threw his arms around me in a tight embrace and kissed me. I squirmed and pushed back as much as one can when caught in a trap, and as soon as his arms relaxed I ran up the street--North, East, I don’t know--and only stopped when I felt a sharp cramp in my side. He never followed me.
It would not be possible for me to identify the street I was on, the nearest landmark, the type of stone in the pavement. My recollection of London is now tied to a physical sensation, the feeling of my elbows jammed into my ribs, and the reminder that, in cities, I and other femme-presenting people, remain highly visible. We are not privileged to get lost in a crowd and stroll through alleyways like Walter Benjamin’s flâneur on a derive.
It is when women stop moving that they become incompatible with the energy of the city. The world closes in and the elements grow restless, unsure what to do with our presence, and guide otherworldly dangers to our position so that we learn to stay away from that area, until the entire city is caught in landmarks of trauma that push women back inside.
We must walk, and keep walking, and demand the streets make a name for us.
Maryam Hosseinzadeh is interested in Los Angeles and the layered
sites, memories, places and histories encountered individually and
created collectively by all people, everyday. She is from Altadena but has a strong, lifelong connection to Glassell Park where she spent a formative chunk of her childhood and where she has also lived for the past seven years. She studied Historic Preservation at USC.
Kristy Lovich - I am an L.A. based cultural-worker currently making art from a studio in my kitchen, raising a small human being, and treading water as a wage earner in the non-profit industrial complex. I am concerned with the origins and activation of personal, social, and physical landscapes of Los Angeles and I hope that my work contributes to our collective survival by creating opportunities to know one another and our world deeply, sincerely, and with radical compassion. To learn more log onto: www.klovich.com
Betsy Melenbrink is an adventurer at heart, with a passion for nature and science. She took a gap year after graduating high school during which she hiked the Appalachian Trail and volunteered on an organic farm in Costa Rica. After college, she worked at the US EPA, and she is currently pursuing a PhD in chemistry, studying solar energy. Her favorite pastimes are dancing, hiking, and learning languages.
Erin Schneider is an artist from Los Angeles, who likes sharing alternative geographies, histories, and experiences of place. She will be attending the Goldsmith's Research Architecture Masters program in Fall 2017. www.erinschneiderprojects.com
Renée Reizman is a multidisciplinary artist at the crossroads of curation, writing, and research. She interrogates urbanization, law, and digital humanities through the narratives of erased histories. Renée is an MFA candidate in Critical & Curatorial Studies at the University of California, Irvine and the Curatorial Assistant at And/Or Gallery, a new media exhibition space in Pasadena, CA.