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Hollywood’s Bright Spot: LA Gas & Electric Corp.

Los Angeles Gas and Electric’s sales office on Ivar Avenue was introduced in 1937 as “another bright spot in the incandescent radiance of greater Hollywood.”

The Los Angeles Gas and Electric building on Ivar Avenue, 1937 (California State Library)

The Art Deco building—a showcase for the latest in modern gas appliances—combined beauty, utility, and craftsmanship.

Its striking facade was emphasized by contrasting black diamond granite and white metal. Similarly, the sidewalk was laid in two-toned terrazzo between metal strips.

The corner curve was to incorporate the adjoining lane into the architecture. Stretching west to Cosmo Street, the rear of the building housed a garage for a fleet of 17 service cars.

The building was designed by architects Edward Cray Taylor and Ellis Wing Taylor (California State Library)

Inside, the main floor displayed Wedgewood ranges and Electrolux refrigerators illuminated by custom light fixtures and panels set in the ceiling girders. Business transactions were completed at “smartly severe” hardwood counters trimmed in satin-finished aluminum.

Down a marble stairway, the basement quarters focused on education, with a model kitchen and auditorium.

Miss Cleo Kerley—LA Gas and Electric’s domestic science counselor—hosted regular demonstrations teaching local housewives how to use modern appliances and sharing her favorite recipes, such as Jellied Tomato Salad and Florentine Tuna. In 1943, the Red Cross rented out the auditorium to teach wartime cooking.

Not long after opening the Hollywood office, Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation was purchased by the city and split: “gas” was sold to the Southern California Gas Company; “electric” merged with the Bureau of Power and Light, which became the Bureau of Water and Power in 1939.

SoCal Gas occupied 1641 Ivar for decades, until 1973 when the USO bought the building for its Bob Hope Club recreation center—and completely remodeled it. Harvey C. Christen, president of LA’s USO, told the Los Angeles Times it had now “taken on a feeling of warmth, color, and animation.”

In recent years, a gut renovation by the current owner, American Musical and Dramatic College of the Performing Arts, erased any remaining traces of the building’s original charm—and historic importance.

Described only as “an existing office building from the early 1900s,” The Cosmo Center is now a black box theater that ironically required major electrical upgrades for theatrical lighting ... and LADWP service.


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