Builders Emporium, Van Nuys, CA, 1950s


1948: Builder’s Emporium

Item: Valley News, October 30, 1955

With $1,013,430,131 LA building permit valuations recorded for the first nine months of this year, all indications point to 1955 topping any previous year in the history of Los Angeles County construction, according to Ouentin W. Best, chairman of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Construction Industries Committee.

The January through September figure marks only the fourth time that construction activity in the county has gone over the billion dollar figure in any one year. The Chamber report pointed out that since three months still remain giving the 12-month total for 1955. There can be little doubt that the year will record an all-time high, Houses Gain 14%! Unprecedented construction during the same nine months of last year. A total of 51,067 residential permits have been issued to date in 1955, compared to 47,699 at the three- quarter mark in 1954, A total of 15,522 building permits were issued during the month of September with a valuation of $885,428.934.


[Permits were issued for the construction of 32,008 units in 2016, down 6 percent from 34,034 the year prior] (Source: KPCC)

Population of Los Angeles County in 1955: 5.1 million

Population of Los Angeles County in 2017: 10.2 million (State of CA)


And in Van Nuys, CA, at the corner of Oxnard and Sepulveda, Builders Emporium, established 1948, was doing a booming business.

Not only did it sell building supplies, tools, and machinery; it also seems to have had quite a golf and fishing, sporting goods department.

What follows are mid 1950s publicity photos connected to the store. They were published in the Valley Times Newspaper (LAPL). Their original, great captions cannot be improved upon by satire.

Here they are:

Photograph caption dated April 29, 1955 reads “Motion picture and TV Eyeful Norma Brooks gets close supervision on proper stance to be used when teeing off from attentive golf pro Jim Curtis, preparatory to free four-day clinic of Builders Emporium.” The store is located at 5960 Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys.

 

Builders Emporium, 5960 Sepulveda, Van Nuys, is launching a new sports department and this outdoor group is helping to announce the fact to the public. Left to right, back row, are Sherry Hall, Rea Regal (sic) (Miss Van Nuys) and Kathy Sellers. Merchandising Manager Pete Campbell is on the left while Doye O’Dell, popular TV cowboy star, is examining the rifle on the right.

 

Circa 1957.

October 13, 1955 : “First slice of spectacular 40-foot birthday cake is being served by Victor M. Carter, store president, at ninth anniversary celebration of Builders Emporium, Sepulveda Boulevard and Oxnard street, Van Nuys. Cake was served with ice cream to thousands of visitors who joined in festivities.”

May 29, 1956:  “Pete Campbell escorts Ree Regul, Miss Van Nuys, on tour of enlarged fishing section of sports goods department of Builders Emporium, Van Nuys. Recently expanded fishing section will carry complete line of equipment to satisfy needs of all fishing enthusiasts, according to Campbell.”

April 9, 1955: “‘This bunny is a honey’ say the ‘small-fry’ making their pre-holiday visit with the Builders Emporium Easter Bunny at Sepulveda and Oxnard in Van Nuys. The ‘B. E. Bunny’ passed out thousands of free chocolate rabbits to the youngsters at the giant hardware store.”

August 30, 1955 reads “Claire Weeks, Miss Van Nuys of 1955, learns workings of $239 De Walt Power Shop, which will be awarded Sept. 22 as grand prize in Builders Emporium toy building contest. One hundred additional prizes will be awarded. All toys will be donated to Childrens (sic) Hospital, City of Hope and St. John’s Children’s Hospital. Polk Riley, power tool department manager, demonstrates outfit. Entry blanks are available at Builders Emporium.”

 

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Day of the Bulldozer


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6500 N. Sepulveda

On N. Sepulveda Blvd., between Victory and Vanowen, three apartment projects are now underway.

At 6500 N. Sepulveda, the former site of the notorious Voyager Motel is completely cleared. It was a crack-y whorehouse of ill repute. But also a patriotically, quadrennially decorated neighborhood-voting place. It burned in a gratifyingly appropriate fire earlier this year.

The 53,382 square foot parcel is now void of anything natural or man-made. It is simply flat, vast and magnificently empty. It emulates Van Nuys, as it might have been in the late 1940s, when tracts of orange and walnut groves were bulldozed to make way for ticky-tacky houses and shopping centers.

An apartment is planned for this site. I don’t remember its design, but if it follows any of the other projects in Van Nuys it will come by way of big and boxy, designed by big and boxy men, near architects who also moonlight as junior builders, and amateur bankers. It will be three or four stories tall and cover every square inch of land. Parking will be provided in excess of what is needed because the most important feature of any project in Los Angeles is how many parking spaces are provided. We need more parking. And just a reminder: Please make sure there is parking. Everywhere.

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6500 N. Sepulveda

At 6536 N. Sepulveda, on 28,146 square feet, another apartment is going up. This is on that charming stretch of the street where new hookers walk and old couches come to die. Nightly helicopter patrols and pounding rap music enliven the air. A house was recently bulldozed here and gargantuan sized orange bulldozers now occupy the parcel.

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6536 N. Sepulveda

 

At 6725 N. Sepulveda Blvd, on 30,647 square feet, between Archwood and Lemay, another flat and modern multi-family is planned. This was the site of the low self-esteem Ridge Motel, whose police reports and trashy clientele attested to a level of service usually seen only in jails.

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6725 N. Sepulveda 4/28/16
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6725 N. Sepulveda 4/28/16

 

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6725 N. Sepulveda 10/24/16

The Ridge Motel, still a menace in its dying days, was kept behind security fencing, like King Kong in captivity. Its campy, catapulting roofline was somehow not in the sights of the LA Conservancy, whose members work tirelessly to preserve other historical buildings such as bowling alleys  in the San Gabriel Valley.

The rose-bushed, picket-fenced hood of working moms and worked-out fathers bordering these three Sepulveda Blvd. properties are relieved that some badness (and discarded condoms) has departed. Some see the Day of the Bulldozer as Saul saw Jesus. Sin cleansed by salvation.

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14827 Victory Blvd. 6/14/15 DEMOLISHED
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Vintage Auto Repair 6200 N. Kester Ave. 7/9/15 DEMOLISHED
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The oldest house in Van Nuys, once owned by the original developer, WIlliam Paul Whitsett, is cleared for condominiums. 6/7/07 DEMOLISHED

Bulldozers are like angels in Van Nuys. They are sent by the Good Lord to flatten and knock down anything standing in the way of new banality. Even when they are used to destroy history, they have a mission. They will bring, don’t you know, “jobs” and “opportunities” and “housing” to the San Fernando Valley.

We see the stuccofied greatness of our environment every day, along Vanowen, Sepulveda, and Van Nuys Boulevard. Someone, somewhere is surely looking out over all this destruction and construction, making sure that the architecture and the design enhances our landscape.

Or perhaps nobody is in charge. And we live in a kind of roulette table of a city, spinning a wheel and hoping that the building that lands next to us is a winner.

A Great Wall on Burbank.


“Building-to-street proportion is the relationship between the height of buildings on either side of a street and the width between those buildings. An ideal proportion between these two creates a pleasant and visually interesting public realm. The public realm, therefore, may be considered as an “outdoor room” that is shaped by 
the “walls” of the building heights and the “ floors” of the roadway.

Outdoor rooms with excessively wide roadways or short building heights tend to eliminate any sense of enclosure
 for the pedestrian.”
-Los Angeles Small Lot Subdivision Design Guide, 2014

Our city, with its sprawling boulevards and speeding cars, is often cursed with roads way too wide for pedestrians. Think of six-lane Van Nuys Boulevard, bordered by one-story high buildings, and worse, parking lots.

In some areas of the city, like on Pico Boulevard and in Studio City along Ventura Blvd. planted islands with trees now break-up the wide asphalt. New “outdoor rooms” with a sense of enclosure and protectiveness emerge. These are deliberate and designed for upgrading ugliness.

But sometimes even an ongoing construction project can enlighten and transform a bleak stretch of formerly wide street monotony.

In North Hollywood, on Burbank Blvd. just east of Vineland, DWP has been tunneling and installing a new water delivery system.

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And along part of the route where a deep, underground hole was dug, DWP erected 20-foot high, wood and metal-framed walls. It has temporarily transformed the commercial district of that area by slicing the four-lane road into a two-lane and creating, along the sidewalk, a European type shaded alley.

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Work Area #12, as it is officially known, requires a pit to launch a tunnel-boring machine that will travel south, along Lankershim Blvd. for more than a mile. A new water pipeline will replace the aging 1940s infrastructure.

While the construction is going on, some streets have been closed off, which no doubt contributes to aggravation and inconvenience for some area residents and businesses. But the rerouting and reconfiguration has some pleasant side effects.

On Burbank Blvd. cars now stop twice, before proceeding slowly, down a narrow road whose borders are shaded by high walls and low buildings.

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On the western edge of the excavation, two tanks tower above the road, as if heralding a ceremonial gateway into the neighborhood.

And on the south side of the street, the high walls come right up to the sidewalk, creating a shady and meandering path alongside area businesses.

The gift of this unwelcome intrusion allows us to experience a different LA with traffic calming elements. What emerges? Less cars, slower drivers, shaded walkways; walled off from the exhaust fumes and the aggression of speeding motorists. Industrial construction materials in steel, wood and concrete function as street sculpture.

For the time being, a stretch of Burbank Boulevard is a living experiment in rezoning by accident.

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The Nowhere City Goes Somewhere


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Yesterday, near downtown Santa Monica, on a strangely cloudy and drizzly summer morning, I drove west, unintentionally, into blocked roads, past barriers and bulldozers.

Men were tearing down buildings, punching holes in plate glass windows and digging trenches.

The long winding humanitarian project known as the Expo Line had made its way from central Los Angeles, sweeping through Culver City, catapulting by bridge and track into West Los Angeles and finding itself and its destination next to the Pacific.

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The empty shell of Midas, a beautiful Spanish Revival structure, lay in ruins, a stomach full of bricks and wood, its ornate ornament ready for obliteration.

50 years ago, the novelist Alison Lurie wrote a novel, “The Nowhere City” set in some places along the soon-to-be-demolished houses in the path of the Santa Monica Freeway.

Yesterday, near downtown Santa Monica, I saw the sequel to that book.

After half a century, the Nowhere City Goes Somewhere: on foot and bike and rail.

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Moving Along at MacLeod’s.


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DSC_3744Things are moving along at 14741 Calvert Street in Van Nuys.

MacLeod (pronounced “mac-cloud”) Ale Brewing Company “a seven barrel production brewery with a tasting room” is in the midst of construction, with floors ripped open for pipes; and dirt, lumber, shovels and a lot of labor working hard to get this industrial space transformed into a functional operation by April.

Me and Andreas Samson stopped by yesterday, armed with cameras and curiosity, (and some guilt), as we stood next to men covered in dust and mud, shoveling dirt into trenches in preparation for next week’s concrete pour.

The owners are Scots born Alastair Boase and his wife, American Jennifer Boase, and the brewer is Andy Black. Beers will be British style.