California Fool’s Gold — Exploring North Hollywood, The Gateway to the Valley

California Fool's Gold

INTRODUCTION 

 

After focusing on eight Eastside neighborhoods whilst house-sitting in El Sereno, I’ve returned to the polls to determine where to explore. I’ve heard the vox populi and therefore visited North Hollywood — only my fourth piece on a San Fernando Valley community thus far. It was a hot, somewhat hazy, and thankfully breezy January day when I decided to visit the cultural capital of the Valley.

*****

NORTH HOLLYWOOD

It’s important to note that, unlike East Hollywood, North Hollywood is not actually part of the Hollywood district. Neither, for that matter, is West Hollywood, but unlike that city it doesn’t even border Hollywood. North Hollywood is actually on the other side of the Hollywood Hills in the San Fernando Valley.

Pendersleigh & Son Cartography's Map of North Hollywood
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography‘s map of North Hollywood

North Hollywood is neighbored by Sun Valley to the north; Valley Glen and Valley Village to the west; Studio City and West Toluca Lake to the south; Toluca Terrace and Toluca Woods to the southeast; and Burbank to the east. It contains the well-known subdistrict of the NoHo Arts District and, although I haven’t heard it referred to as such, it’s also home to what might as well be known as the North Hollywood Auto District (although that area is notably also home to a significant number of printing facilities and party supply shops).

If you know anything about Hollywood (the film industry) then you no doubt are aware that most of the film manufacturing has occurred in the Valley for many decades so you might assume that North Hollywood is a sort of filmmaking outpost — but it’s not so much (at least not on the level of BurbankStudio City, or Universal City.

styrofoam rocks
All kinds of fake rocks for rent in North Hollywood

Film production does take place in North Hollywood although most of the facilities are production houses, prop rentals and the like. There are no major studios with back lots there. Smut fans will likely be disappointed that even given the Valley’s associations with that industry, North Hollywood also isn’t where most of that is being manufactured… although I did see a place called Adult Warehouse Outlet — that had something for sale called “sex shoes.” Though North Hollywood might not have much to do with film, it is theSan Fernando Valley‘s primary center for performing and visual arts.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of the NoHo Arts District
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography‘s map of the NoHo Arts District


NORTH HOLLYWOOD DEMOGRAPHICS 

Today North Hollywood is moderately diverse, home to a population that was, as of 2010, roughly 66% Latino of any race (primarily of Mexican and Salvadoran origin), 34% white Anglo (primarily Armenian), 6% Asian, and 3% black. Although at the time of writing North Hollywood has the fourth highest violent crime rate in the valley (after Panorama CityVan Nuys, and North Hills) it’s worth noting that its crime rate is consistently lower than those of HollywoodEast Hollywood or West Hollywood.

*****

ANCIENT HISTORY

The earliest known inhabitants of the area arrived at least as early as 13,000 years ago and were likely the ancestors of the modern Chumash people. Somewhere in the range of 3,500 years ago a Shoshone-speaking people arrived from the Sonoran Desert to the east, the Tongva, arrived. They established about twelve villages in the San Fernando Valley including the nearby Siutcanga and Cabuenga, to the west and east respectively.

EARLY HISTORY

Spaniard Gaspar de Portolà led an overland expedition in 1769 that set the stage for the subsequent Spanish Conquest. Mission San Fernando Rey de España was built in modern day municipality of San Fernando in 1797 – about fifteen miles north of modern North Hollywood. In 1781, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles was founded about twenty kilometers to the southeast of North Hollywood.

Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821. In 1834, the missions’ lands were secularized. Mexico’s reign proved short – ended in 1848 by the US‘ victory in the Mexican-American War. California became the US’ newest state in 1850 and the vast, San Fernando Valley came to be known as “Rancho Ex-Mission San Fernando.

Isaac Lankershim
THE LANKERSHIMS 

In 1871, the a group of investors lead by farmer Isaac Lankersham took control of the southern half of the San Fernando Valley. A ploughman dug a line across the valley to demarcate and differentiate the northern and southern halves. Lankershim grazed sheep on his vast holdings but a long drought soon destroyed his flock. In 1873, Lankershim’s son, James Boon Lankershim, and the elder’s future son-in-law, Isaac Newton Van Nuys, assumed control of the property and were much more successful with agriculture – turning the southern half of the Valley into wheat fields. In a short time, their wheat empire was the world’s largest.

Lankershim Ranch

THE TOWN OF TOLUCA 

Lankershim Ranch Land and Water Company founded an agricultural town on 12,000 subdivided acres centered aroundSan Fernando and Central Avenues (later renamed Lankershim andBurbank Boulevards) in 1887. They named their town Toluca, after the Mexican municipality of Toluca de Lerdo. Lots included pre-planted walnut and fruit trees – mostly apricots, peaches, and pears. In 1894 local farmers formed the Toluca Fruit Growers Association. Soon Toluca was promoted as “The Home of the Peach” — California is still the US’s dominant peach-producer.

TOLUCA BECOMES LANKERSHIM

Southern Pacific Railroad, who first arrived in the San Fernando Valley in 1874, opened a branch line connecting to Chatsworth in 1895. The Chatsworth Limited made one daily stop at a depot that bore theLankershim name. In 1896 Toluca was thus renamed Lankershim although that name wasn’t officially recognized until 1905. The train depot, featured in the 1927 Pathé film, The Country Doctor, still exists today and is presently undergoing restoration.

The depot in its current state
Peeking through an unlocked gate — The depot in its current state

One of the most prominent families in Lankershim was the Weddington clan. The Weddington Boysopened Weddington Bros. General Merchandise, also known as Pioneer Store. The store included a post office and later donated land for a free-standing one. In 1907 Guy Weddington bought Bonner Fruit Company and transformed it into Lankershim’s largest employer. The Weddington’s house, built by Wilson C. Weddington, still stands today although it’s been moved at least three times to different North Hollywood locations. In 2007 it was designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #883.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD PARK AND STATION 

Pacific Electric Railway’s red cars arrived at North Hollywood Park and Station in 1911 – although I’m not sure if that was actually the park and station’s name back then since the town as still known as Lankershim. Regardless, the park and station were by most accounts the center of Lankershim social life for years and it was there that many concerts and other cultural events took place.

FILM COMES TO THE VALLEY

The Universal Film Manufacturing Company was founded in New York City in 1912. The same year they opened facilities in Hollywood’s Gower Gulch area. In 1914, studio founder Carl Laemmle bough a large piece of land in Lankershim and in 1915 opened the world’s largest production facility in what became its own municipality — Universal City.

Clarence Y. “Fat” Jones Movie Ranch

Clarence Y. “Fat” Jones opened the Fat Jones Stables in 1912. The company rented horses and western gear to the studios until Fat Jones’s death in 1963. The location is now occupied by a FedEx Shipping Center.

ANNEXATION OF LANKERSHIM

Despite Universal and Fat Jones, in 1912 Lankershim was still dominated by fruit production and canning rather than filmmaking. After the Los Angeles Aqueduct opened in 1913, Valley farmers were eager to buy the newly available water; however, federal legislation prevented its being sold outside of Los Angeles. After droughts again hit the valley, West Lankershim was annexed by Los Angeles in 1919. Lankershim proper followed in 1923, in part lured by Los Angeles’s water. To put it bluntly, most of the farmers got screwed and the real estate developers won and immediately began undertaking a massive campaign to rebrand and sell the area to homebuyers.

VALHALLA MEMORIAL PARK CEMETERY 

Valhalla Memorial Park
Valhalla Memorial Park

Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery opened in 1923 and overlaps the city of Burbank and neighborhood ofNorth Hollywood. It was created by the Osborne-Fitzpatrick Finance Company, a company run by two scam artists, C.C. Fitzpatrick and John R. Osborne. The swindlers made millions of dollars each, selling lots to multiple parties (sometimes selling one lot to sixteen buyers) and lots located outside the cemetery, underwater, &c – largely to widows, first-time investors, and other easy marks. In 1925, the two were each sentenced to ten years in the pen. Osborne’s father shot himself to death not long after and is buried there.

Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery war memorial
Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery war memorial

The original gateway to the cemetery was redesigned to the the Portal of Folded Wings – a shrine to aviation, is located on the Burbank side and was meant to capitalize on Burbank’s importance in industry. In an example of irony (in the Alanis Morissette sense of the word), a small plane crashed into the shrine to aviation in 1969.

Valhalla Memorial Park Fountain
The fountain at Valhalla Memorial Park

The North Hollywood side of the cemetery has a rather nice fountain which is home to minnows, Mallard Ducks, and terrapins. Otherwise the graveyard is mostly characterized by invariably flat tombstones, big mausoleums, and a few monuments.

A few warnings to would-be visitors: Google maps depicts a nonexistent entrance on the cemetery’s western side where there is in fact a solid (if fairly low) wall. Also, unlike most cemeteries where there are few visitors besides goths, gravestone rubbers, and the like, at Valhalla there are regular burials and visitors to the graves of loved ones.

To read a much more detailed story about the cemetery on KCET‘s website, click here.

EL PORTAL THEATRE

El Portal Theatre and the Federal Bar
El Portal Theatre and the Federal Bar

The 1,346 seat, Spanish Renaissance Revival-style El Portal Theatre opened in 1926 with a film screening, live performance from Chinese actors, and a “Chinese jazz orchestra.” It may be the final theater designed by prolific theater, architect Lewis A. Smith, who died the same year. Much later it screened Spanish language theaters. It was purchased by the Actors Alley stage company in 1996 and re-opened it as El Portal Center for the Arts in 2000.

El Portal has been featured on such television programs, films, and many comedy specials includingBrothers & Sisters, Dov Davidoff: Filthy Operation (2010), Harland Williams: What a Treat (2005), Kevin Nealon: Now Hear Me Out! (2009), Kims of Comedy (2005), Last Comic Standing, Live Nude Comedy, Maz Jobrani: Brown & Friendly (2009), The Sarah Silverman Program,  Scrubs, Wendy Liebman: Taller on TV (2011) and quite a few others.

BIRTH OF NORTH HOLLYWOOD

North Hollywood High School 1927
Arial view of North Hollywood High School and surrounding groves in 1927

In an attempt to sell the newly-annexed community, Lankershim was renamed/re-branded North Hollywood in 1927. Even with a new name, the community was a farm town with both little involvement in the film industry and little connection to the Hollywood neighborhood. It’s biggest claim to fame, in fact, was that it was home to what was believed to be the world’s largest apricot tree. If that weren’t enough, advertisements  for the suburb promised “No saloons – no mud.”

THE NORTH HOLLYWOOD POST OFFICE 

The Post Office on Chandler Boulevard was constructed in 1936 by Brunzell & Jacobson Company. The contract was awarded to them in January and the building opened in October. Unfortunately, my picture of it didn’t come out and I couldn’t find any online (which is why I haven’t included a photo).

THE FLOOD OF ’38 & THE AFTERMATH

Tujunga Wash
Damage to the partially-channelized Tujunga Wash

Heavy rains fell on Los Angeles in February of 1938 and the floodgates were opened in order to save Big Tujunga Dam, an act which caused great damage to the communities below. In North Hollywood, the Lankershim Boulevard Bridge collapsed killing five people. One family, the Fujiharas, lost five members. After the damage was done, Hansen Dam was built in 1940 and the Sepulveda Dam in 1941.

Click here
to read a KCET piece about the flood.

The Tujunga Wash, a major tributary to the Los Angeles River that passes through North Hollywood, was completely entombed in concrete in the 1950s. In recent years, sections of the 21 kilometer waterway have begun to be rehabilitated, creating more green space and restoring the riparian environment a few meters at a time. As far as I could tell, however, none of that revitalization has yet come to North Hollywood’s central channel. As I explored it I did encounter an old man with a guitar on sitting near its banks and apparently doing his best to dream of the Delta.

THE SECESSION OF VALLEY VILLAGE

Although it may seem curious to modern Angelenos (or tourists who still associate the Hollywood brand name with glitz and glamor) but when North Hollywood was barely a decade old, a group of citizens decided to again change their community’s name and thus distance themselves from their neighbors — if not physically, associatively. As a result, they seceded from North Hollywood and renamed their neighborhood “Valley Village,” in 1939. Although this sort of maneuver is by no means unique to the Valley or even to Los Angeles it does seem like the spirit of secession and reorganization typifies the Valley more than other Los Angeles regions.

IDLE HOUR CAFE 

Idle Hour Cafe
The Idle Hour Café and better days

The barrel-shaped bit of programatic architecture at 4824 Vineland originally opened in 1941 as The idle Hour Café. It was owned and operated by Michael and Irene Connolly. It closed in 1984 after Irene’s passing and became a flamenco club called La Caña. After that closed it sat vacant for several years.

It was designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #977 in 2010. When I stopped by I found that it’s currently stripped down to the frame as part of its restoration process. The building was recently purchased by the 1933 Group — the bar mafia behind The Bigfoot Lodge, La Cuevita, Oldfield’s,Sassafras, the widely-loathed hipster concept bar Stinkers, and The Thirsty Crow — so don’t be surprised if when it re-opens it’s all mixological, Edison bulb-lit,  and patronized by the waxed handlebar mustache mob.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD IN THE POST WAR ERA

 

Los Angeles Time major bong

On 6 August 1945, the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. That same day, Richard Ira “Dick” Bong, the US’s highest “scoring” air ace (having shot down at least forty Japanese planes), crashed an early jet, the P-80 Shooting Star, into a field in North Hollywood, shortly after take off.

World War II
ended when Japan surrendered on 15 August, 1945 and the post-war era would see most of North Hollywood’s empty fields transformed into suburbs and many of the houses of which became home to returning veterans.

Although today the the complexion of most of the residents may have changed, most of North Hollywood outside the NoHo Arts District retains the feel of a sleepy, mid-century, residential suburb — albeit one whose quiet is regularly disturbed by the arrival and departure of huge jets at nearby Bob Hope Airport.

THE ACADEMY OF TELEVISION ARTS & SCIENCES 

Television Hall of Fame
Television Hall of Fame

1946 was the first network television season in the US with the launch of the NBC and DuMont networks. That same year, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences was founded. It only took until 1949 for theEmmys to be instituted, allowing the industry thereafter to celebrate itself annually. In its first year, Louis McManus was given an award for his design of the Emmy statuette, and Pantomime Quiz and Your Show of Shows were the big winners.

In all honesty, why the collection of sculptures (which includes Bea Arthur, Bob Newhart, Gene Roddenberry, and others) isn’t more of a tourist destination than the completely lame Walk of Fame is beyond me… nevertheless, I dutifully helped a couple of Chinese tourists get to the latter via the Red Line and kept my opinion to myself.

Mr. Rogers
Mr. Rogers memorialized

FIRE STATION No 60 

Fire Station No. 60
Fire Station No. 60

Engine Company 60 originally operated out of a firehouse at 11222 Weddington Street, constructed in 1924. In 1949 it moved into its current location on Tujunga Avenue.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD MASONIC TEMPLE

Masonic Temple Lodge 542
Masonic Temple Lodge 542

An even more impressive piece of North Hollywood architecture from 1949 is the North Hollywood Masonic Temple Lodge 542. It was designed (in collaboration with lodge member John Aleck Murrey) by British architect, Robert Stacy-Judd, who’d earlier designed the amazing Aztec Hotel in Monrovia. Famous members of the local chapter included Audie Murphy, Clark Gable, John Wayne, Laurel & Hardy, and the Warner Brothers.

THE PALOMINO CLUB 

The Palomino Club North Hollywood

The Palomino opened in 1949 at 6907 Lankershim and was, by some folks’ reckoning, the most important Country music venue on the west coast. Among the greats who performed there were Buck OwensDwight Yoakam, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Hoyt Axton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Lefty FrizzellLinda Ronstadt, The Long Ryders, Patsy Cline, Rosie Flores, and Willie Nelson.  Jerry Lee Lewis (who in my reckoning is seriously underrated as a County performer because he was so important as a Rock ‘n’ Roller) performed at the Palomino every year from 1957 until 1987.

In a 1974 episode of Adam-12 titled “Routine Patrol: The Drug Store Cowboys,” officers Reed and Malloy cruise by the Palomino in search of some felonious cowboys from Albuquerque. The Palomino Club was featured prominently (as Club Interiors) in the Clint Eastwood vehicles Every Which Way But Loose (1978) and Any Which Way You Can (1980). In the 1980s and ’90s the Palomino became more associated with the rock acts on SST — fIREHOSE recorded their Live Totem Pole EP there. The Palomino Club finally called it a day in 1995. Nowadays it’s operating as Le Monge Banquet Hall – a dining hall catering primarily to Armenians, Mexicans, Persians, and Russians.

CAHUENGA VILLAS

Cahunega Villas
The fuchsia-accented cottages of Cahuenga Villas

The northeast corner of North Hollywood, near Burbank and Sun Valley, feels more remote than the rest of the neighborhood — country even. Dusty pick-up trucks sit on crumbling curbs along sidewalk-less streets. Sandy yards are patrolled by barking dogs — and then there’s a cluster of whimsical cottages built in 1951, Cahuenga Villas. Their walls are molded into shapes meant to resemble logs and stones (although the fuschia paint job doesn’t help sell the illusion).

ST. PAUL’S LUTHERAN 

St. Paul's Lutheran Church
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church

The congregation of St. Paul’s First Lutheran Church was founded in the 1920s. In 1946, they opened a church. In 1954, a new church was built on the location and, while modest, is a fine-looking house of worship (judging solely on exterior appearances).

LAUREL PLAZA MACY’S

Macy's - Laurel Plaza
Lonely Macy’s

Laurel Plaza was built in 1955. At the time it was the regional headquarters for St. Louis, Missouri‘s May Company department store. The plaza damaged so severely by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake that most of the mall was demolished, leaving the free-standing department store alone and surrounded by acres of (mostly empty when I visited) parking lot. In 2005 it became a Macy’s. I popped in to use their facilities and found it eerily quiet. Maybe it was a mix of the old building smell and old lady perfume but there was something haunting about the place.

Then again it could be the area. Many of the businesses along that stretch of Laurel Canyon Boulevard either are abandoned or look abandoned and northwest NoHo seems further from the Arts District than it really is. Someone coated part of the median with astroturf and stuck some potted plants upon it — probably to spruce it up but in fact underscoring its bleakness. The 25 acre site, which also includes the North Hollywood campus of Kaplan College, sold about a week ago so we’ll hopefully see some sort of change come to the area.

CIRCUS LIQUOR 

Circus Liquor
Circus Liquor with its John Wayne Gacy-esque clown

One of North Hollywood’s most widely-recognized icons is the ten-meter neon-lit clown at Circus Liquor, which may have been the tallest human-made structure in the San Fernando Valley at the time.

It was famously featured in the Snoop Doggy Dogg short film Murder Was the Case (1994) and the film Clueless (1995) as the site where the character Cher was mugged. Maybe both films were drawn to the location on account of the clown’s undeniable creepiness. Maybe too they were both signs that the neo-noirification of the Valley was well underway by the time Paul Thomas Anderson made Boogie Nights (1997) and filmed Magnolia (1998) and Punch-Drunk Love (2002) in the neighborhood.

The liquor store was also featured in Blue Thunder (1983), Spun (2002), and Alpha Dog (2006) but I haven’t seen any of those.

VALLEY PLAZA TOWER & THE URBANIZATION OF NOHO

Valley Plaza Tower
Valley Plaza Tower (aka Los Angeles Federal Savings and Loan Tower)

In 1957, the 150 foot height limit on Los Angeles skyscrapers was repealed and the San Fernando Valley – still today usually characterized as a low-profile, sprawling, residential suburb – began to grow upward. Today there are mid-rise skyscrapers in BurbankCanoga ParkEncinoSherman Oaks, Studio CityUniversal City, and Warner Center, in addition to those in North Hollywood.

Valley Plaza Tower 
, at 12160 Victory Boulevard, was designed by prominent local architects Douglas Honnold and John Rex. The Corporate International-style building (also known as Los Angeles Federal Savings and Loan Tower) was completed in 1960. It was both part of Valley Plaza Shopping Center (which opened in 1951) and, at twelve stories and fifty meters tall, the tallest human-made structure in San Fernando Valley at the time. Another skyscraper, the Gerald Bense-designed Commonwealth Savings & Loan Building (formerly located at 5077 Lankershim Boulevard) was built in 1961 and torn down in 2013.

GANGS COME TO NORTH HOLLYWOOD

Clanton 14 gang placa
Clanton 14 gang placa

A less-welcome sign of North Hollywood’s urbanization arrived in the 1970s in the form of gangs. The first to form was part of Clanton 14, an old gang which originally formed on Clanton Street (later renamed 14th Place) in what’s now the Fashion District back in the 1920s.

In 1975, brothers Ernie “Big Cuate” and Ricky (no family names available) moved to North Hollywood and established the gang’s presence there, eventually growing and splintering into at least three distinct crews:Tiny Locos, Tiara Street Locos, and Crazy Alley Gangsters. They were followed by the establishment of more gangs: Alley Locos, Boyz from the Hood, 18th Street Northside, North Hollywood Boyz, North Hollywood Locos, Mara Salvatrucha Northside, Radford Street, and Vineland Boyz among them.

A shrine for José Jouvanny Mendoza, age 18
A shrine for José Mendoza, age 18 — recently killed in an officer involved shooting

DECLINE AND REVIVAL – THE NOHO ARTS DISTRICT 

NoHo Arts District entrance
NoHo Arts District entrance

The gangs were both contributors to and symptoms of North Hollywood’s decline. The Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) first adopted an area of North Hollywood in 1979 for targeted redevelopment. The target area corresponded closely with the area that ultimately became the NoHo Arts District in 1992  — although the driving force in that designation was also contributed to by theater (and other business) owners in the Universal City/North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce as well as the L.A. Department of Cultural Affairs. The NoHo Arts District today is undoubtedly the cultural capital of the San Fernando Valley – home to numerous theaters, art galleries, dance studios, cafés, &c.

Lindsay William-Ross wrote a great, detailed piece about the NoHo Arts District as part of LAist‘s much-missed Neighborhood Project back in 2007 (click here to read it).

THE  NORTH HOLLYWOOD SHOOTOUT

In one horrific reminder that even in good times there are bad times just around the corner, on 28 February, 1997 Larry Eugene Phillips, Jr. and Emil Dechebal Matasareanu attempted to rob the Bank of America on Laurel Canyon Boulevard. The two heavily-armed-and-armored men engaged in a shootout in which fourteen people were injured and the two would-be robbers died from their injuries. It was widely suggested that the criminals were inspired by Michael Mann‘s 1995 film, Heat, which seems believable. Their own escapade inspired 44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shoot-Out (2003).

THE ARRIVAL OF THE RED AND ORANGE LINES

North Hollywood Station
North Hollywood Station
North Hollywood Station
North Hollywood Station

As transformative as the establishment of the NoHo Arts District might have been to North Hollywood, the return of passenger rail after half a century of car dependency may have been equally if not more so (and affected the entire Valley). Metro‘s Red Line first opened in 1993 but until 1999 terminated atHollywood/Vine Station on the other side of the hills. In 2000 the Universal City/Studio City Station andNorth Hollywood Station opened, extending the subway to the San Fernando Valley.

Orange Line Busway
The Orange Line Busway

The Metro Orange Line was originally envisioned as a light rail line but a group of San Fernando Valley homeowners banded together to block its construction, hoping to drive it underground, like the Red Line. Instead Metro went with a bus Transitway – an articulated bus that runs on a dedicated right-of-way that in many ways feels like a train although, due to its popularity and comparatively small capacity, gets rather cramped (like a bus).

Ghost Bike for Jose Heredia, age 64,
Ghost Bike memorial for José Heredia, age 64, hit by a car

Running parallel to the Orange Line for most of its length is the Metro Orange Line Busway Bike Path which allows for an arguably more comfortable transit alternative. Unfortunately, its current eastern terminus is located some four kilometers west of the Orange Line Busway’s which means sharing Chandler with cars.

GETTING AROUND NORTH HOLLYWOOD

North Hollywood Station
Santa Clarita Transit and Metro at North Hollywood Station

Today North Hollywood is also well-served by other transit options. Metro‘s 52, 154, 156, 162, 163, 164, 165183, 224, 230 and 656 bus lines serve the area. So too do Burbank Bus‘s Noho Media District and Noho Airport Area routes, Greyhound (which operates a station in North Hollywood), LADOT Commuter Express‘s 549 line, and Santa Clarita Transit‘s 757 line.

Transit mural in North Hollywood
Transit mural in North Hollywood

Metrolink‘s Ventura County Line and Amtrak‘s Pacific Surfliner trains pass through North Hollywood although the nearest stop, at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, is less than a kilometer east of North Hollywood.

NoHo 14
Fourteen-story NoHo 14

As it grows denser and taller (the new NoHo 14 is the tallest residential structure in the San Fernando Valley, the 15-story NoHo Tower, under construction, will be the tallest structure in the neighborhood, and NoHo Art Wave is on the slow, troubled course to becoming the largest transit-oriented development in the city) and greener, walking through North Hollywood is bound to become more pleasant. As it is, North Hollywood is rather flat but there are some streets that offer little shade or beauty and make walking on hot day – of which there are many — more unpleasant than need be. Walkscore gives North Hollywood a walk score of 69 (tied with neighboring Toluca Lake for the highest score in the San Fernando Valley), a transit score of 49, and a bike score of 59.

STAYING IN NORTH HOLLYWOOD

There are several motels in North Hollywood: Colony Inn, Comfort Inn North Hollywood, Econo Inn & Suites, Pepper Tree Motel, Ritz Motel, and Silver Saddle Motel. Colony Inn’s sign says (in quotes) “Hotel by Universal Studios,” which although uncredited, means that someone actually uttered that phrase, right?

There’s also a hostel, Timen’s House. Airbnb lists a lot of places to stay in the area although their definition of North Hollywood includes parts of Sun Valley, Valley Glen, Valley Village, and West Toluca Lake.NORTH HOLLYWOOD THEATER SCENE

Lonny Chapman Theatre
Lonny Chapman Theatre – The Group Repertory Theatre

The area around North Hollywood is a hub of live theater, boasting (according to one source) 31 playhouses including the aforementioned El Portal Theatre as well as the following theaters and acting companies: Academy for New Musical Theatre, Actors Forum Theatre, Actors Workout Studio,Antaeus Company, Avery Schreiber Theatre, Cre8tive Differences, Crown City Theater, Deaf West Theatre, Elate’s Lincoln Stegman Theatre, The Group Repertory at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, Ha Ha’s Comedy Club & Café, The Magic Mirror Theater, NoHo London Music Hall, Puppet Studio, The Raven Playhouse, The Road Theatre Company, Secret Rose Theatre, The Sherry Theater, Smoke and Mirrors, 3 of a Kind Theatre Company, Whitmore Lindley Theatere Center, and Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre. That’s fewer than 31 (I’m sure that I’m both missing some and that the count includes theaters in other neighborhoods) but it’s still an impressive collection of theaters that even surpasses the number of theaters in the Hollywood Theater District.

MUSIC OF NORTH HOLLYWOOD

North Hollywood is supposedly home to the largest concentration of music studios west of the Mississippi River and because of that fact, I’m not going to bother trying to here name them all. I will mention that the neighborhood has been referenced in several album titles: Blues Traveler‘s North Hollywood Shootout,Slush‘s North Hollywood, and Revolutionary Side Effects’ album, also titled North Hollywood. Laurindo Almeida, Van Hunt, and Yokodeathray all have songs titled “North Hollywood.” Brady Harris has a song called “North Hollywood Skyline,Brandon Jenkins has a song called “Streets of North Hollywood,”and (my favorite), Brazil‘s Cansei de Ser Sexy have a song titled “Frankie Goest to North Hollywood.”

Two of my favorite music acts from North Hollywood are The Weirdos – one of the greatest punk bands from all of Los Angeles – and Shelby Flint, a pre-British Invasion performer who had a hit with “Angel on My Shoulder” in 1961.

Shelby Flint’s “Angel on my Shoulder”

NOHO ARTSCENE

Lankershim Arts Center
Lankershim Arts Center

The Lankershim Arts Center was designed by the great architect, S. Charles Lee and built in 1939 for theLos Angeles Department of Water & Power. Around 1991 it became home to the Road Theatre Company and 800 Gallery. Other art galleries, frame shops, supply stores, studios, &c include The Art Castle, Art Institute Califonia – Hollywood, Art Pic, Betty Collins Art Studios, Biija Fine Art, Cella Gallery, Doran Designs, The Industrial Gallery of Art, L’imagerie Gallery, Magnolia Arts HOA, NoHo Gallery LA,NoHo2 Studio, Satsuma Gallery, and Sunny Meyer Fine Art Restoration.

As far as public art goes, there’s a statue by Stephen Schubert at the northern entrance to the NoHo Arts District called Phoenix Rising. There’s a nice statue of Amelia Earhart sculpted by Ernest Shelton in front of the library. There’s a collection of sculptures at the Television Hall of Fame Plaza of celebrated figures important in the history of American television. Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park & Mortuary is home to some nice monuments too.

Chandler Bikeway and murals
Chandler Bikeway and murals
Chandler murals
Chandler murals
Some of the Chandler Murals
Some of the Chandler Murals

Along a stretch of the Chandler Bikeway, there’s a collection of murals known to most as the Chandler Murals. The Chandler Bikeway is a three kilometer trail which opened in 2004 along a former railroad right-of-way. Less well-known are a couple of murals on Colfax Avenue, under the 170. One, painted by Ernie Realegeno, is called Latinos Unidos and dates back to 1996.

One of the murals under the 170
One of the murals under the 170
Finally, North Hollywood is even home to the NoHo Senior Arts Colony — a residence for Angelenos over the age of 62 which contains a visual arts studio, literay studio, digital arts center… and billiards room and swimming pool.

HOORAY FOR NORTH HOLLYWOOD – NOHO ON FILM AND TELEVISION

As far as film is concerned, North Hollywood is mostly home to prop rental stores, costume companies, and other peripheral businesses of that sort. The list includes one of Walt Disney Imagineering‘s facilities, History for Hire, Pinacoteca Picture Props, and Western Costume Company – established (on the other side of the hills) in 1912.

Movie theaters in North Hollywood include the Valley Plaza 6 and Laemmle NoHo 7. Valley Plaza 6 shows typical, commercial American multiplex fare (you know, Hollywood films). Laemmle NoHo 7, like most films in the Laemmle Theatre chain, bills itself as an arthouse although the North Hollywood location’s films seem to be more commercial than those at other locations.

North Hollywood was (or is) a filming location for many television shows, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Alias, Beverly Hills, 90210, Children’s Hospital, CSI, Desperate Housewives, Dallas, Dexter,Falcon Crest, Hill Street Blues, The Incredible Hulk, Knight Rider, Leave it to Beaver, Malcolm in the Middle, Melrose Place, Moonlighting, Parks & Recreation, The Rockford Files, Scrubs, 7th Heaven,The Six Million Dollar Man, Wagon Train, Weeds, The X-Files, and more. A couple of my favorite shows, Dragnet and Adam-12, occasionally filmed on the streets of NoHo and someone took it upon themselves to make these cool, adjustable before and after pictures of a couple of locations — click here to see. In fact, there was even a 1974 episode of Adam-12 titled “North Hollywood Division.”

Films set or shot (in part or in whole) in North Hollywood include (in addition to the aforementioned ones) Accepted (2006), After Porn Ends (2010), The Big Lebowski (1998), Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000), Erin Brockovich (2000), The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), Halloween (1978), I Love You, Man (2009),Indecent Proposal (1993), The Jane Austen Book Club (2007), Lethal Weapon (1987), Lethal Weapon 3 (1992), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1985), Pineapple Express(2008), Psycho (1960), Pulp Fiction (1994), Terminator 3 (2003), Wild at Heart (1990) and many more.

Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee

There are a couple of video stores of note in North Hollywood. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I used to rent silent films on VHS from Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee. After I snapped the photo above, I had to step aside as one of Amoeba‘s regular customers barreled into the store to ask about whether or not any new movies with teenage girls had recently been released.

Inside Eddie Brandt's Matinee
Inside Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee

There’s also Odyssey Video and Video Citi. I tried to pop into Citi to see what I could see but they were closed while the staff was on a “ten minute” break.

Corbin Bernsen Edmund Druilhet Marc Handler Merna Aodisho Tina Marie Jordan

NoHo natives (left to right) Corbin Bernsen, Edmund Druihet, Marc Handler, Merna Aodisho, Tina Marie Jordan

Actors and filmmakers born in North Hollywood include Abigail BeMiller, Ann Matthews, Brandon Rogers,Corbin Bernsen, Cuban Bee, Edmund Druilhet, Joseph Pozo, Kaye Borneman, Lincoln Kilpatrick Jr.,Marc Handler, Mark Voland, Merna Aodisho, Nikki Wall, Noah Casper, Richard Pérez, Ricky Wittman,Tina Marie Jordan, Victor Vu, and Victorine Anne Greenwood.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD DANCE 


Madilyn Clark Studios
Madilyn Clark Studios (pictured because of the rooftop horse and carriage)

Dance studios and schools of North Hollywood are many and include Art of the Dance Academy, At One Fitness, The Basement Dance Center, The Choreography House, Dance Fantasy, Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio, Halau Hula O Uluwehilaukoa, Island Groove, Liv’art Dance Studio, Luscious Maven Pole Dancing, Madilyn Clark Studios, Millennium Dance Complex, The Movement Lifestyle, NoHo Performing Arts Center, PinkPoleParty, Salseros-LA, Shiva’s Dance & Fitness, Step It UpStudio 21 Dance, and World Salsa and Bachata Academy.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD MARTIAL ARTS

Martial Arts studio on Chandler
Martial Arts studio on Chandler

In the past I haven’t delved into a neighborhood’s martial arts culture but the NoHo Arts District’s name doesn’t play favorites with types of art whether performing, visual, or martial. Besides, there are a surprising number of martial arts studios in the neighborhood, including Academy of Arms, All About KickboxingBujinkan Los Angeles, Dartanian Jiu-Jitsu, Karate 4 Kids USA, Kuk Sool Won Martial Art Fitness Center, Muay Thai Academy of America, Muay Thai School USA, Noho Dojo, North Hollywood Kenpo Karate School, Shaolin American Self Defense Academy, Shoto Jutsu Martial Arts, Systema Spetsnaz – Russian Arts, Taoist Institute, Valley Martial Arts CenterValley Martial Arts Supply, and XMA World Headquarters.

Jun Chong Tae Kwon Do was featured in The Karate Kid (1984) but the doors of that dojo have closed. One of the Karate Kid‘s sequels, Karate Kid, Part III (1989) was also partially filmed in North Hollywood. Look for them both, as well as The Karate Kid, Part II (1986), The Next Karate Kid (1994), and The Karate Kid (2010), in Amoeba’s Martial Arts section.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD BOOKS

Amelia Earhart Statue and Library
Amelia Earhart Statue and Library

North Hollywood is home to the Valley Plaza Libary and North Hollywood Regional Library. The latter library is usually known as Amelia M. Earhart Library, which it was renamed in 1981, 100 years after the death of poet Sidney Lanier. When the library opened in 1928 it was known as Sidney Lanier Library, although he was primarily chosen as the library’s namesake simply because he shared initials with the Sepulveda Library, the North Hollywood Branch’s predecessor and reason that the collection were stamped “SL.”

There are also several bookstores in North Hollywood. J&B Books and Jasons II Adult Book Store are what are known as adult book stores. I honestly don’t know what sort of books they might sell although J&B also boasts an arcade and rents movies.

The Iliad Bookshop
The Iliad Bookshop
Inside the Iliad Bookshop
Inside the Iliad Bookshop

The Iliad Bookshop sells regular, erm, non-adult books. The Iliad was formerly located next to Odyssey Video, which is cute, especially for fans of Homer. North Hollywood is also home to Blastoff Comics.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD PARKS

North Hollywood Recreation Center
North Hollywood Recreation Center at the magic hour

There are several parks to enjoy in North Hollywood. The oldest park is North Hollywood Recreation Center (also known as North Hollywood Park), established in 1927 and which includes the Dave Potell Memorial Rink, North Hollywood Skate Plaza, a swimming pool, and the North Hollywood Regional Library. When I explored it I encountered a group of sign twirlers conditioned and trained to stand on street corners and spin giant arrows.

North Hollywood Skate Plaza
North Hollywood Skate Plaza

Valley Plaza Recreation Center includes a community room and Whitsett Fields, fifteen soccer/footballpitches and baseball diamonds. There are also basketball courts, a playground, tennis courts, volleyball courts, picnic tables, indoor and outdoor gyms, and an American football field. When I visited, the soccer pitches were full, a basketball court was in use, and the tennis courts and baseball diamond were utterly abandoned except by a few squirrels and a homeless woman eating nearby.

Whitnall Highway Park
Looking southeast down Whitnall Highway (toward the dog park)

Whilst not one of the largest parks, Whitnall Highway Park North (and Whitnall Highway Park South in Burbank) have an interesting story behind them. To be brief, they are part of an abandoned highway meant to have passed through the Hollywood Hills but which never came to be — looking down on the valley from above one can still make out the outline of the never-realized highway’s route from Forest Lawn all the way up to the 210 near where it meets the 5. The route includes wide swathes of broken glass-strewn dirt but also parts that have been developed as park.. like the Whitnall Off-Leash Dog Park or the weird, fenced off area containing a motley assortment of bird feeders.

To read a much more in depth account on KCET‘s website, click here.

Other parks include Alexandria Park and Victory Vineland Recreation Center, which includes a gym, auditorium, playground, tennis courts, and basketball court.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD EATS 
Phil's Diner
Phil’s Diner — built in the 1920s but currently closed

North Hollywood restaurants include Amazing Thai Cafe, Andrew’s North Hollywood Diner, Antojitos de la Abuelita, Antojitos Guatemala & Bakery, Artizan Pizza Kitchen, Assam Indian Kitchen, Barn Rau Thai Halal Cuisine, Best Tacos & Burger House, Big Mama’s & Papa’s Pizza, Bow & Truss, Cafe Noho Grill & Lounge, Cafe Villa, Cahuenga General Store, Cake Monkey Bakery, Casita Taco de Carbon, The Chef and I, Chinese Deli T & D, Chinese Delight, Coley’s Caribbean American Cuisine,

The Cook House Cafe & Bakery, Crown Burger, Daniel’s Tacos food truck, Don Felix Restaurant, Don Zarape Restaurant #2, Dragon Street, EAT, Eat That Burger, Eclectic Fine Food & Spirits, Edy’s Burgers, El Carbonero, El Picapica, Envy Nutrition, Falafel Hut, Fantastic Donuts Croissants, The Fat Dog, Fifty 2 Fifty, Fish Dish Grilled Seafood, The Flame Broiler, Flor de Izote, Flor de Michoacan, Food Fetish, Freshy’s International Grill, Golden Palace Chinese, Good China Express,  

Hayat’s Kitchen, Hot & Cold Bowls, House Of Wings, Hy Mart Sandwiches, In-N-Out Burger, Izalco Restaurant, J & J Wok, Jaltepeque 3, Jarin Thai Cuisine, Juval Kitchen, The Kansas City BBQ Company, Katina Bakery, Kim Thai Food – Song Fung Khong, King Express Chinese Food, La Cabañita de Don Chepe, La Colmenita Restaurant, La Costa del Sol, La Fonda de Don Cuper, La Kantuta, La Maria, La Ramadita, 
Marisco's Colima
Marisco’s Colima


Las Cuatro Milpas Numbero 2, Lenzini’s Pizza, Leonor’s Vegetarian Mexican, Los Burritos, Los Super Tacos 99, Lotus Vegan, Luna, Maggie’s Bakery, The Magnolia Grille, Mariscos Colima, Mediterranean Best Food, Mi Carbonero, Mis Burritos, Miyako Sushi, Mofongos Comida Caribena, MP’s Soul Food Eatery, Mucho Mas, Nica’s Kitchen, Nick’s Hot Wings & Grill House, Nobel Bakery, Noho Pizza & Grill,
NoHo Thai Food & Noodle, Nora’s Place, North Hollywood Diner, Olympus Greek Tavern


101 Korean BBQ, Original Thai Restaurant, P Gators Southern Grill, Pacific Coast Food, Pan Guatemalteca, Panaderia La Colmena #2, Philadelphia Steak & Hoagie, Pita Grill, Pitfire Artisan Pizza,Pizza Man, Poquito Mas, Pyramido Greek & Mediterranean Grill, Quesadillas Lupita, Raspados NOHO,Republic of Pie, Restaurante Mi Tierra, Roma Deli, Rigos Taco 6, Robina’s Indian Cuisine
, Salomi Indian & BangladeshSam’s Charbroiled Burgers, Serrano Mexican Grill, Siam Victory,

Skynny Kitchen
, Spumante Restaurant, Sunlight Restaurant, Sushi Park, Swingin’ Door Texas BBQ, Taco Zone taco truck, Taco’s Manzano, Tacos Mariscos taco truck, Taqueria La Chispita, Teriyaki House, Thai Victory, Tokyo Delve’s Sushi Bar,  Tom’s Famous Family Restaurant 7, Tortas Ahogadas, Tutti Frutti, 2 for 1 Pizza, Universal Kebab, Vicious Dogs, Victorio’s RistoranteViva Italia! ProntoWola Crepes,
and Yerevan Steak House.
City Market -- a somewhat interesting structure built in 1959
City Market — a somewhat interesting structure built in 1959
Jet Steam Liquor
Come drink the friendly skies! – aviation-themed liquor store sign

Local markets include Alex Meat Market Carniceria Argentina, Armenia Meat Market & Produce, Azteca Market, City Market, Cleon Market, El Chalateco Market, El Matador Market, Envy Nutrition, Epicure Imports, Gigi Liquor 2, Gourmand Meat and Fish Market, Jet Stream LiquorKaly Market, Ladd Liquor MarketLarry Marciano Grocery, Lo Carb-U Foods, Magnolia Market, Martik’s Market, Noho Halal Meat & Grocery, North Hollywood Market, Norwood Market, Pacific Coast Food, Skyline Market, Superior Warehouse, and Vallarta Supermarket, Value + Express Market, and Yuca’s Market.

North Hollywood also has a Noho Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from 9:30 am – 3 pm.

Monaco Hall
Monaco Hall (photographed mainly because I like the sign) and a Metro bus

And because I feel like it needs to be mentioned somewhere, there are several banquet halls in North Hollywood in addition to the aforementioned Le Monge: Bellezza Banquet HallElegante Banquet HallKriestel Banquet HallLe Foyer Ballroom by LA Banquets, Mirage Banquet Hall, Monaco Hall, and Pearl Banquet Hall.

NOHO DRINKS

II’ve grabbed drinks at NoBar a couple of times. NoBar is run by the Vintage Bar Group — the bar mafia behind El Bar, The Fifth, The Parlour Room, The Well, and The Woods — all of which are pretty interchangeable.

North Hollywood also has a Big Wang’s, which despite its name, is not a gay Hooters. It’s a Tapout-and-Affliction crowd-catering sports bar that’s so un-Los Angeles that it’s kind of magical. They also boast of having the most television sets of any bar in the city… which is one more reason I passed on it.

This time I stopped at the Federal Bar. They have live music and comedy upstairs. The ambiance is nice, and a couple of strangers chatted me up (so the clientele seem friendly), service was good and after walking about 20 kilometers or so, the two beers hit me hard! Luckily I was able to lurch across the street to the Metro station and head home. It’s also where the cast of Stephen Merchant‘s underrated and sadly under-seen series, Hello Ladies, get drinks in the final episode (although it’s barely seen on-screen).Other places to get drinks include Amsterdam Cafe, The Brickyard Pub, The Bullet Bar, The Captain’s Cabin, District Pub NoHoEclectic Wine Bar & Grille, El Merengue, The Good Nite, Hot Box Cafe, Java Smoothies, La Costa del Sol, Las Torres Bar, Moby’s Corree & Tea CompanyThe Other Door, Smoke Lounge, Studs Lounge, Supreme Bean Coffee Roasters, and Sweat Shoppe.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD NIGHTS

There are a few dance clubs and gentlemen’s clubs in North Hollywood including Blue Zebra, Club Cobra,Hacienda Corona, Star Garden, VIP Showgirls Gentleman’s Club, and The Where?House. I haven’t been to it but it seems that the CIA – The California Institute of Abnormalarts is perhaps a sort-of cabaret-like performance arts/live music venue.

SITES TO SEE & OTHER STUFF TO DO

North Hollywood hosts several regularly-scheduled cultural events. Twice a month the Museum of the San Fernando Valley leads an historic North Hollywood “NoHo” Historic Walking Tour. Every may there’s a NoHo Theatre and Arts Festival. There’s also the Experience NoHo Arts Festival and in the fall, the NoHo Scene Festival.

FURTHER READING

If you’d like to read more history about North Hollywood (and Lankershim), in the 1910s and ’20s the community was served by a newspaper called The Lankershim Laconic. Online there’s the North Hollywood-Toluca Lake Patch. For a broader look at the San Fernando Valley that has some good stuff about North Hollywood, check out Kevin Roderick‘s The San Fernando Valley: America’s Suburb (2001) and Marc Wanamaker‘s San Fernando Valley (2011), part of the Images of America series.

*****

As always, I welcome corrections, additions, and accounts of personal experiences. To vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods to be the subject of a future piece, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here. To vote for Orange County communities and neighborhoods, vote here.

*****

Eric Brightwell is a writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, or listicles and jobs must pay more than slave wages as he would rather write for pleasure than for peanuts. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

 

13 thoughts on “California Fool’s Gold — Exploring North Hollywood, The Gateway to the Valley

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s