This past Saturday, May 7th, Richard Hilton led a group of people, on an English-speaking tour, around historic Van Nuys center.
Radiating from the intersection of Sylvan and Van Nuys Boulevard, within three blocks, is an outstanding collection of architecture and history.
These include: the Art Deco tower of the Valley Municipal Building (1933); the glass and marble, Reagan era, Superior Court (1985); the spindly Mid-Century modern Van Nuys Library (1964); the LAPD Van Nuys Division (1965) with its decorative concrete façade and curtain wall windows; the post-war First Methodist Church (1957); the magnificent Engine Co. #39 Fire Station (1939) with its carved moderne columns and still functioning fire company; the Depression era Van Nuys Post Office (1936); and the old Spanish styled Van Nuys Library (1927) which has now been lavishly and intricately renovated for use as a law office.
Van Nuys has all the building blocks of a civilized small town, accessible by walking, near to public transit.
Since 1945, it’s obliteration by a vast unintentional conspiracy of outside forces has rendered some of it almost uninhabitable.
Illegal immigration, the destruction of historic homes (700 were bulldozed for the civic center mall in the 1960s), the widening of streets which encourage speeding and violent driving; asphalt, junk food, utility pole and billboard-blighted boulevards—these are only some of the items on a long, long list of reasons why people drive through this historic place and hope to never come back to it.
Fortunately, there are now some small and barely funded voices of enthusiasm for Van Nuys, such as Mr. Hilton’s, who hope that people can see what excellence exists in this area’s history, buildings and civic idealism.
Luigi, a tailor, whose shop on Sylvan Street is celebrating its 50th year, said Van Nuys was a sunny, beautiful, prosperous place when he came here in 1960. The GM plant and other machine, electronic, and defense industry companies once provided a solid living for middle class families.