A Summer Afternoon at Farmers Market

FM 01 Persp

Last weekend I met a friend at Farmers Market. We had a couple beers, hung out and talked. It felt like summer, and I don’t just mean the weather. Lots of people were out and about. There was a relaxed, low-key vibe. Everybody seemed to be having a good time.

FM 10 Wide Patio

The crowd at Farmers Market on a Saturday afternoon

FM 15 Kid

Lots of families were out and about.

FM 20 Neon

It’s usually pretty crowded on weekends…

FM 25 Quiet

…but you can still find a few quiet spots.

I’ve been going to Farmers Market since I was a kid. I used to go there with my grandmother. When I got older it was a place to meet friends for breakfast or lunch. For years a friend and I made it a habit to catch Ranch Party on Saturday nights.

FM 30 Goat

I wasn’t the only one surprised to see this goat having his lunch.

FM 35 Signs

The weather was warm, but not really hot.

The property has been owned by the Gilmore family since the 19th century, but the Farmers Market didn’t get started until the 30s. It began informally as a place where farmers could sell their produce during the Depression. Gradually stalls and restaurants sprang up, and it became a fixture of life in LA. If you’d like to learn more, the Farmers Market web site has a number of articles about the site’s history, as well as a short video.

Farmers Market History

FM 40 Umb Security

Security was on the job.

FM 80 Dupars

Dupar’s has been there forever.

One of the things I love about Farmers Market is that there’s a sense of tradition. While there are some new restaurants and shops, many of them have been there for decades. You can find concerns that are family-owned, where two or three generations are still involved in running the business. In a town where chain stores are the norm, and pop-up shops are increasingly part of the landscape, it’s cool to see restaurants and shops that family members have invested their lives in.

FM 90 Bus Stop

Waiting for the bus on Fairfax.

We finished our beers, my friend left, and I wandered around for a while taking photos. Then I decided it was time to move on, so I walked out to Fairfax and caught the bus home.

FM 95 Hills

Remaking the May Co.

Construction of the new Academy Museum has begun.

Construction of the new Academy Museum has begun.

A while ago I was at LACMA, and as I walked down a flight of stairs on the west side of the campus I looked over at the May Co.. It had a big hole in it. Construction had started on the new museum for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

May Co. building with a section removed.

May Co. building with a section removed.

Looking through the May Co. to Fairfax.

Looking through the May Co. to Fairfax.

It’s taken a long time to get to this point. The project has been hampered by controversy, ranging from construction impacts on the community to issues with the design. Hopefully all that’s been resolved. At any rate, the May Co. is being taken apart so that it can be put back together again, this time with a massive annex that will contain a state of the art theatre.

A view of the site facing Fairfax.

A view of the site facing Fairfax.

The rear of the building.

The rear of the building.

The original May Co. building was designed by Albert C. Martin and Samuel Marx and it opened in 1939. For decades it was a major department store, but as malls began to draw more shoppers it went into decline. LACMA took it over 1994, but it seemed like they never used it much. In 2014 the Academy made a deal to lease the property with the goal of building a museum. After a long search, Renzo Piano was brought on as architect.

A view of the site facing Wilshire.

A view of the site facing Wilshire.

A view of the empty structure.

A view of the empty structure.

And a closer view of the interior.

And a closer view of the interior.

I’m glad things are moving forward. People have been talking for years about how LA should have a museum devoted to film, and it’s high time somebody made this happen. According to the Academy web site, “The Museum will provide interactive, immersive, and engaging exhibitions that will pull back the curtain on moviemaking and highlight the history and future of the arts and sciences of film.” Sounds good to me.

Heavy machinery and piles of debris.

Heavy machinery and piles of debris.

Check out the Academy’s web site to learn more.

Academy Museum

They’ve also got a cool timeline for the May Co., showing photos of the building through the years.

May Co. Building Timeline

I know it hasn’t been easy for the Academy to deal with all the challenges of creating a new museum, but it looks like they’re on their way. Let’s hope it’s smooth sailing from here on.

The corner of the building at Wilshire and Fairfax.

The corner of the building at Wilshire and Fairfax.

Midnight at Wilshire and Fairfax

W&F 1 Scaf

Last week I went to one of the screenings in UCLA’s preservation festival. I think I left around eleven, and then caught the bus on Wilshire. I got off at Fairfax, where I have to transfer. It took a while for the next bus to show up, so I took some photos while I was waiting. It seemed like there was a lot of stuff going on….

Night time is when the MTA crews show up to work on the Purple Line extension. You don’t see them during the day. Just metal plates lying all over the street. But at night these guys set up their barriers and their lights and go to work.

MTA crews work on the Purple Line at night.

MTA crews work on the Purple Line at night.

Just across the street, the old May Co. building is surrounded by scaffolding. It seems that the Academy is finally starting the process of transforming this dinosaur of a department store into a new museum devoted to film. I have no idea when it’ll be completed, but I’m glad to see that work has begun.

Scaffolding set up on the west side of the May Co. building.

Scaffolding set up on the west side of the May Co. building.

I was standing there on Fairfax snapping photos, when a few runners went speeding past. At first I thought it was just some people who lived in the neighborhood out for some exercise. But then another group ran by, and then another, and then it was a steady stream of people racing down Fairfax. My guess is that a couple hundred people went by, but it could have been more.

Runners stampeding down Fairfax toward Wilshire.

Runners stampeding down Fairfax toward Wilshire.

More runners heading down Fairfax.

More runners heading down Fairfax.

As usual, there was a homeless guy camped out in one of the recessed areas along the side of the May Co. building.

A homeless man taking shelter for the night.

A homeless man taking shelter for the night.

And of course there’s Johnie’s, blazing away in the darkness. The banks of lights that surround the building are slowly going out, but those that are left let you know that this classic coffee shop has not gone away. The place has been closed for years, but the flashing lights seem to be insisting that it’s still open for business. That it’s still alive.

Johnie's refuses to die.

Johnie’s refuses to die.

Out with the Old….

Frfx 01 Kid Corner

The Fairfax district is going through some changes. When I was growing up, Fairfax was a largely Jewish neighborhood with a bunch of delicatessens and kosher markets….

Schwartz Bakery

Schwartz Bakery

There was the newsstand at Oakwood….

Kosher News

Kosher News

There was the Silent Movie Theatre….

Silent Movie Theatre

Silent Movie Theatre

There are still kosher markets and delis on Fairfax. The newsstand is hanging on somehow. And the Silent Movie Theatre seems to be going strong, though they don’t show a lot of silent movies there any more.

But the neighborhood is undergoing a rapid transformation. In the last few years, many of the buildings have changed hands. The new owners have jacked up the rent, forcing out a lot of the older businesses, in some cases businesses that had been serving the community for decades.

Let me give you a few examples. Here’s old Fairfax….

Frfx 05 Hebrew

And here’s new Fairfax.

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Old Fairfax.

Frfx 07 Solomon

New Fairfax.

Frfx 08 Chic Rest

Old Fairfax.

Frfx 09 Two Women

New Fairfax.

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You can see the landscape is changing. Some of the older establishments are still around, like Canter’s, which is eternal.

Frfx 11 Cntrs Sign

I first started hanging out at Canter’s when I was in my teens. It was a place to go after seeing a movie or a band, because back then it was one of the few restaurants that was open twenty four hours. I didn’t know until recently that Canter’s was originally located in Boyle Heights, which was home to a large Jewish enclave in the first half of the twentieth century. After WWII, when the Jewish community started moving to the west side, the owners followed the exodus and moved the restaurant to Fairfax.

Here’s an article from the LA Times that gives more detail on the transformation that’s taking place.

Fairfax Area Losing Its Kosher Flavor

Things change. Over the years I’ve seen a few places disappear from the neighborhood. I was sorry to see Largo move to La Cienega. I’m sure the new venue is great, but I still remember seeing Weba Garretson, Two-Foot Yard and Jon Brion at the old location. And it broke my heart when Eat a Pita closed.

But it’s not just that the community is changing. I don’t have a problem with Fairfax being a hangout for skateboarders and kids who are into hiphop. They’re bringing life to the neighborhood.

Kids on skateboards are a common sight.

Kids on skateboards are a common sight.

Street artists have been busy on Fairfax.

Street artists have been busy on Fairfax.

Frfx 16 SignI do have a problem with Fairfax becoming a destination for the hip and trendy crowd who see it as just another place to shop and eat. At the rate things are going, it looks like this neighborhood, which used to have so much charm and character, will soon become as superficial and soulless as the worst parts of Melrose.

There’s nothing wrong with people doing business and making a profit, but there are different ways of going about it. There are some investors who move into a particular community not just to make money, but because they see value in being a part of the community. They’re willing to work with the residents. They’re willing to respect the history. My problem is with the people who only see profit and nothing else. They don’t see the community, they don’t see the tradition, they don’t see the culture.

All they see is money.

One of the newer storefronts on Fairfax.

One of the newer storefronts on Fairfax.