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BLOG: Great Hall and Long Hall - WPA Historical Reminders

The importance of Great Hall and Long Hall, our historic WPA Buildings in Plummer Park.

At this time in our financial history as a country, nothing is more appropriate than restoring and memorializing the two buildings in Plummer Park that represent our last vestige of the WPA – when the government, in an attempt to reduce the deleterious effects of the Great Depression, created what came to known as the Works Project Administration.

Long Hall and Great Hall still stand as example of how things were built in those times – built to last. Sadly these halls have been allowed to deteriorate through a simple lack of care. The last thing suggested was to knock 'em down and dig a parking structure. Now the state has put them up for the list of Historic Places in the state (due largely to the work and talent of volunteers who cherish Plummer Park. They know who they are).

Why do these two roomy and beautifully constructed halls sit empty? I have heard lack of interest, facile stories of how decrepit and dangerous they are and how their demolition will enable the city to steamroll through this lovely park hell bent on underground parking.

let's us know that despite the effort of the Plummer Park group and the nomination by the state to the register, they still have the right to destroy the only WPA buildings in West Hollywood – buildings that numerous residents and voters want to remain. What to do?

The State Rehab money is gone. I am not certain the status of the Bond issue money, but I suspect that rehabbing the two halls is affordable TODAY. These conjoined (with a tiled patio) “halls” still have their bones. Our historical architect Jen Dunbar vetted the buildings and declared them to be sound and redeemable. Age has touched them, as it has all of us.

They are over 70 years old, but in history and buildings that is really just a few minutes. They are functional, usable and valuable to us as part of our fairly recent history – when jobs were scarce and FDR put the country to work. These stand as an example of just how well that work was done.

Why do these small wooden buildings even matter? Well for one they evoke an era very similar to our own and stand as a reminder of what we can do in such times. They are built of top grade material and constructed with craftsmanship not often seen these days anywhere. They anchor our park. And the subject of historic buildings seemed to be very much on the lips of our council members earlier this summer as they spoke of the duty to preserve pieces of WeHo’s past.

As it so happens my godson went to Head Start in one of the halls in 1990 – 22 years ago! – it was a charming room and suited the preschoolers very nicely and it felt like a little school. Its replacement is downright ugly. They might have at least painted it red.

And to those who insist preserving these buildings impedes progress, more than ever these two little halls honor progress, determination and America’s commitment to its citizens. Created by unsung, unemployed men and women struggling for a living, there are years of service built into them. Let them serve us and let them remind us all of where we have been and where we are going.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sheila Lightfoot September 08, 2012 at 04:43 PM
What a beautifully written piece in honor of the beautiful Great - Hall Long Hall. As Chloe points out, they are more than beautiful architecture and high quality construction of a different time, they represent the spirit of a nation, Why has the City, always bragging about their concern for historic preservation, been so hell bent on destroying them? For a parking lot? What is that meant to do to our spirit?
michael September 08, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Can't imagine losing these beautiful buildings...... Plummer Park is a gem of a park.
Cathy September 09, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Thank you Chloe for as Sheila said, a beautifully written, heartfelt piece on Great Hall/Long Hall. Yes, this city, this Council that has spent years and years back and forth with the owner of the El Mirador on trying to make sure he preserves, protects and honors the history of his building is the same City Council who would demolish our historic WPA buildings in order to realize a mere 69 additional parking spaces. This Council, who has said at several council meetings, what a travesty it would be if the owner of the El Mirador were to demolish his building. WeHo City motto: "Do as we say, not as we do".
Rudolf Martin September 09, 2012 at 06:27 AM
demolishing these historic buildings would have been insanity. if it wasn't for the active residents, the entire park would be a giant pit today, surrounded by a 10-foot-fence. they are still trying to push this plan through but they have to sue the state of california for access to the money first. sad! thank you for this blog, chloe ross!
Chloe Ross September 09, 2012 at 08:12 AM
Thank you all for your kind words. This is something I feel strongly about - this period in American history - the WPA really did take lemons and make lemonade. Great art, literature and architecture; bridges, roads and hidden creativity came from this brilliant idea that rescued our nation and its people from despair and uncertainty. These smallbuildings stand by their small, lovely selves in our historic park to remind us of American tenacity in the face of adversity. This is not something to ignored or demolished, these two halls are to be used and enjoyed by us all.
MarkD September 09, 2012 at 03:46 PM
If there are people in this city willing to go to the mat to save mid-century apartment buildings designed by Edward H. Fickett, then saving these buildings should be a no-brainer. I just hope somebody is keeping a watch out at night for stealthy bulldozers, because when preservation stands in the way of the plans Heilman and Land have for our parks, nothing is safe. This article lays the blame at the door of city employees and the full council, but we all know who the driving force was behind this master project, the guy who hopes to see the building named in his honor someday: http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2011/09/west_hollywood_library_demolished.php
garby francis leon September 09, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Thanks for reminding us what most of Los Angeles has forgotten - the past has a great value for us and those who come after, and should be preserved, particularly against thoughtless 'development' and needless 'improvement' that benefits builders, developers, the RDA and political types who feed at the trough... Beautiful article - I'd like to see more of these in the Patch - glf
Lyndia Lowy September 09, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Long Hall/Great Hall remain threatened, but they are not the only buildings in West Hollywood that are endangered. Crescent Heights Methodist Church and the Sunset Lanai apartments are also in danger. A group of us want to not only protect important buildings but identify structures before they are lost forever. Please join us on Sunday, September 30 at the next meeting of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance: Crescent Heights United Methodist Church 1296 N Fairfax Avenue West Hollywood, CA 90046 Time: 11:00am
Chloe Ross September 09, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Your members should look into the Historic Preservation process in Sacramento too.
joninla September 10, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Sorry to have to bring the hammer down on your emotional driven blog about saving the Halls at Plummer Park. Don't get me wrong, it is ALL VERY TRUE, but just one of what is now a countless list of reasons to stop the unbelievably overpriced and even more unbelievably destructive "renovation" of Plummer Park. I thought you were a bit more savvy about WeHo's financing of normal projects/restorations/maintenance ... The Plummer Park $41 Million dollar plan was about money, but it was driven by the emotions (along with profit) and the need for Heilman to feel and prove his absolute omnipotence of power over weho. If the Park Funding falls through, the buildings and trees not destroyed, the City will be literally unable to finance one single retrofit, repair or even a new paint job for Plummer Park. The available city funds are restricted to only 2 items. Projects the City Council wants, and NOT for mega projects that the city spent huge resources, time, money ..... THAT WAS STOPPED DESPITE HEILMAN'S EFFORTS. If his scheme failed due to purely State Financial Decisions, the fate of the park is bleak just to spite all the protestors who may have succeeded to stop Heilman had the State not done so first. And IF the protestors had anything to do with Heilman's $41 plans for plummer park, heaven help the Park which will be punished exactly like "Tara". City loses, suddenly City is too poor to fix it up. REVENGE by "THE ONE" is consistent history, sadly.
joninla September 10, 2012 at 08:18 PM
I'll go one step further and be more specific. The driving force for Plummer Park (and the Robo-Garage) is about using the state redevelopment millions (which is a debt to repay and not a free gift of money to the city) to build specific projects designed to include every possible 'building incentives' (eg. making 'new' parking spaces, adding trees (with no consideration of how many were cut down), LEED green building, Low water Landscaping etc..) Those Incentives are stacked, and collected and then USED BY THE PRIVATE DEVELOPERS WHO HAVE PAID OFF HEILMAN (and I don't know which others) TO GET THE MULTIPLE INCREASE IN THE EXISTING ZONING LIMITS FOR THE 2 MAJOR (huge) La Brea mixed use Developments. The process working properly is bad for the city and causes over development. When PERVERTED as weho has done, WE (the City) IS BOTH PAY FOR AND PROVIDING THE LAND FOR THE BONUSES THAT THE DEVELOPER AGREED TO MAKE PART OF THEIR NEW MIXED USED DEVELOPMENT IN EXCHANGE FOR HEIGHT INCREASES, SETBACK REDUCTIONS, INCREASED UNITS AND SQ. FOOTAGE, AND LESS ON-SITE PARKING. It has been couched as several differing versions of 'capital improvements', 'greening the city', 'absolute necessity for parking spots', 'all part of the 25 year plan which the residents were part of creating' etc.... A rose by any other name is still as sweet. A city scam by any other name STINKS even more than it already did.
Chloe Ross September 10, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Could be so - but the same people who fought Tara want to save the Park in its entirety and the palaver at the CC meeting - one in August had them all drooling the words Historic Preservation ad nauseum (only referring to the droolers). History - in truth does NOT repeat itself. Only the illusion of repetition exists - history always moves forward - and the idea that we do not learn from history - we certainly do. Tara was a lesson; El Mirador was a lesson - and those who don't pay attention are doomed to repetitive unsuccessful moves forward. They get left behind. I prefer to see it more as what some of the people can do some of the time opposing those who oppose everything all of the time. This is a city - not a realm or a fiefdom.
joninla September 10, 2012 at 11:58 PM
@chloe We all know weho is not a fiefdom ... Well everyone except the the one person who was elected, but that was so long ago, he act, decides and thinks weho is 'his fiefdom'. But that again is a very broad definition. I think a more medievil darker age fiefdom where power is not just absolute, but retribution to the land itself appears to be the mentality of Heir H. BTW - what about that $200,000+ for the fiesability study re moving city hall to a joint facility at the existing sheriff station parcel of county property?? That's a lot of money for a study that is per-se NOT feasibke, despite even my own initial reaction that the site was large enogh for both. IMPOSSIBLE. The sheriff station entire lot is at best only a hair bigger than the entire city hall and robo garage lots, but avery irregular shape. IMPOSSIBLE to build a BIGGER city hall AND an expansion of the SHERIFF Station. THAT COULD COVER MUCH OF PLUMER PARKS BUILDING RETROFITTING .... INSTAED OF BEING ILLEGALLY LAUNDERED AND GIVEN TO A CRONIE OF THE CITY. a lie is a lie. Stealing 200k by any 'cover name' is a FELONY even Heir H can't escape.

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