It was a little more than a year ago when I reported discovering the sale of U.S. National Register of Historic Places Building No. 87000576, more locally designated as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 57, which is more readily known as the Second Church of Christ Scientist on Adams Boulevard, just east of Hoover in the West Adams district. For a righteous $8 million, the buyer would score a a 69,000-square-foot lot upon which still proudly stands a magnificent culturally, historically and architecturally significant 24,600-square-foot mansion of worship celebrating its centennial next year, complete with an auditorium that can seat 1,100, a copper clad reinforced-concrete dome that was the largest ever in its day, and a bonus Get Out Of Hell Free card to be used in case of emergency (certain restrictions and blackout dates apply).
Not surprisingly, such a deal languished in real estate purgatory throughout 2008 thanks to the bedeviled state of the market, and the fact that this is pretty much an untouchable structure that will cost anyone a helluva lotta coin to restore/repurpose/maintain (I’m looking at you nearby University of Southern California and thinking “library”).
Much more shockingly, a bike-by last week revealed that its owners have taken on tenants. In and of itself that’s not affronting — in fact it’s nice to see the old place being put to use in the way it was intended instead of just staying locked up and lonely. But what’s got my ingrained respect for this city’s historic touchstones all bent out of true is that the occupiers, known as The Korean Christian Church, have seen it fit to egregiously drape a pathetic and garish banner across the stately facade’s six Corinthian columns as testified above, can I get a witness (click to enlargify).
I can sense some readers might not share my outsized outrage. But here’s the thing: somewhere there must be commandments governing what one can and cannot do to duly designated civic and national landmarks. And while I may be wrong, I’m willing to bet that a rule regarding inappropriate signage exists somewhere in some municipal code, perhaps Section: Oh Hell, Subsection: To The No! If not, there should be. Because crap such as that would be more at home strapped across a K-town barbecue house or strip mall massage parlor, not a recognized treasure that allows one with just a glance to go a little awestruck remembering a greater Los Angeles.
And here’s the other thing: I would certainly understand the need for such promotion if the Korean Christian Church was operating out of a nondescript storefront in the midst of a lot of other storefronts or a warehouse space in some industrial complex, but seriously these guys are gathering in what is one of the most dramatic and visible buildings in the entire district, if not the city — and it’s a freakin’ church! If its congregants honestly can’t find this place without that banner then there’s some Sunday-go-to-meeting stoopid going on and accordingly there needs to be some banishments and ex-communicatings.
One last bit: Lest you think I’m a total preservationista, I certainly am not against the organization putting up something that is properly permitted for the duration of its occupancy, and had I pedaled by such a hypothetical display appropriate in scale and posted on the grounds in front of the place, I probably wouldn’t have felt such sacrilege. But as it hangs today, this banner puts the “sin” in sign.