Los Angeles may have a very recent history and may not have a lot of ways for us to get in touch with the past. We don’t have very many historical relics or monuments that tie us back to the city’s building blocks nor do we have an Ellis Island type of mass entry to the city. Instead, we have people who tricked in to build buildings and institutions whose faces tell the story through the style they are and neighborhood they were in. Some are still so new that you can speak with neighbors or even residents who have been tied to the location since it was built. If you wander the hills of Beachwood Canyon or Franklin Canyon, this is all too apparent as tiny storybook houses recall the neighborhood’s trend that birthed them in the 1920s. But, what about the office buildings and apartment buildings that have been forgotten? They’re too expensive to maintain but too precious to demolish: what happens to them?
One of these treasures is 5701 Hollywood Blvd, located on the Northwest corner of Hollywood and Wilton. The building was built in 1930 and was originally a bank, which clearly is what it looks like. At some point it became the Escrow Center Inc. and still retains the sign. However, it is no longer an Escrow Center as we called and were greeted with an answering machine stating they were no longer a service and to contact them at “[email protected]” if we needed to contact an employee about paperwork filed with them.
Doing some digging around, we found that the building is in the hands of Joseph Castagna Jr. and the Castagna Family Trust. It does not seem like anything is in the works with the building but, as you can see below, they are renting it out for filming. We saw a car parked in the back, but no one around. We were also able to find some information by way of CRA/LA, who did an inventory of the entire neighborhood. Here’s how the building is described:
This is a strong rectangular box sitting squarely against the sidewalk corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Wilton Place. Two fluted engaged columns separate the front entrance into bags. Four pilasters on the Wilton side are interspersed with tall paned windows. Three wrought iron black window caps frame the two windows and the entrance door in identical fret work, each is topped by an eagle. There are two identical windows at the ends of the structure on the Wilton sides. There are also four small wrought iron cases at the four sides. An entablature consisting of a dark concrete frieze, surmounted by a row of dentils and crowned by a cornice with a full feather type motif tops the structure. Portions of the frieze have a decorative pattern. The integrity of the design is also to the inside where one can see a high coffered ceiling.
They also gave some history on the building:
Morgan, Walls, and Clements were one of the large Los Angeles firms. They designed numerous structures through out the Hollywood area. The edifice was designed for the Security Pacific Bank, which was one of the first Los Angeles banks to open branches in the Hollywood suburbs. This structure has been carefully designed in scale with the surrounding residential area. While designed in the late Beaux Art tradition the structure remains an entity because few alterations have been made to the interior or exterior. The structure stands as a strong reminder of an earlier, more wealthier period.
Well, obviously, 5701 Hollywood is a big deal that has been forgotten and no one seems to care about it. It represents such a history that has gone unnoticed. For heaven’s sake, the place was built “to open branches in the Hollywood suburbs!” Regardless, the building seemingly isn’t for sale and, as mentioned, is likely just being tossed around the “Rent for filming!”circuit, which will leave the place abused. Similarly, it doesn’t look to be rented out very often as there doesn’t seem to be any filming ever in that area.
Even though it isn’t for sale, we have some ideas of what we’d like to see happen to the building. First, that sign has to go. It makes no sense to still be overshadowing the building’s beauty and has no reason to stay (although it probably will as it would cost too much to remove it). Secondly, someone take it off of the Castagna Family’s hands. They don’t seem to be making much of anything with it, but should lease it to a retailer or, better yet, a restaurateur. As an old bank, it would lend itself well to a very different type of retail experience; however, the neighborhood likely won’t coddle such an establishment (see: the Pier One next door, which is barely open…).
But, the building could be perfect for a restaurant. Like Mas Malo or Bottega Louie downtown or even The Mercantile on Sunset, they could take advantage of such an open, likely tiered space and give it a New American food treatment. It would definitely attract Hollywood, Franklin Canyon, and Los Feliz’s money makers who would happily dish money out to eat in a cool building. They also have a parking lot nearly 3500 square feet of working building space, according to one website’s quote.
Regardless of what befalls the building, we pray it is not demolishing. 5701 Fuller is a piece of history that has to be maintained and brought up to speed with 2011. If the building were to change and be the host to a restaurant or retailer, it would raise the neighborhood and be the dot on the exclamation point of revamping that stretch of Hollywood Blvd has been trying to do for years.