November 29, 2012

Bekins Storage

There are buildings that become a part of your life. You drive by them or walk by them as you go about your day, traveling to and from work or school or running errands. Some are old, some are new, some imposing, some diminutive. These buildings hover somewhere between fading into the background and rising up to greet you like an old friend.

When we moved to the Koreatown or Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles a few years ago, we were struck by how present the built environment was around us. A vibrant mix of commercial and residential buildings that shows how this city spread west from the downtown core. A trail of stately 1930s apartment buildings, compact 1940s bungalows, low-slung 1960s complexes, art deco office buildings, condos and strip malls. 

We found the many neon roof signs particularly interesting, some dating back to the early 1920s when the area was abuzz with commercial developers and Hollywood elite. These signs have found their way into our lives and our work in funny ways. In particular, they now live on in our hand printed lino cut cards and bow ties. It's a lot of fun discussing which sign to work on next, it seems like there are fewer and fewer to choose from as the neighborhood slowly evolves. One person's revitalization is another person's loss sometimes. 

We were particularly dismayed when one of our favorite signs, the Bekins Storage sign on the corner of Pico and Crenshaw was suddenly missing one day nearly two weeks ago. 

This is one of those buildings for Rosemary, an old friend she drives by every morning on her way to work and every evening on her way home, often spending a great deal of time waiting to turn northeast on Crenshaw. What was so shocking was how quickly the sign came down, and how much it's absence changed the landscape around it. 

Robin did his best to try and find out what was going on, but to no avail. No one working for Public Storage who now owns the building, was able to answer any of our questions. Just as quickly, the sign was painted white last week, and much to our chagrin, they began installing the new Public Storage sign the day before yesterday. While the new sign mimics the look of the Bekins Storage sign it replaces, something is still just not quite the same. 

Bekins Storage, pre-1933 (Noirish LA skyscraper discussion group)
Up until this point, we had been quite relieved to see that Public Storage had gone out of their way to take care of this beautiful castle-like building that has been around since at least the early 1930s. It's disappointing to see such a neighborhood icon unceremoniously removed after all this time and it will take some getting used to. While we understand that time cannot stand still, we do however find it sad whenever one more part of this city's history disappears.

If you'd like to find out more about this castle of storage, take a look at this article from the L.A. Times from 1989. 

What about you, are there any pieces of your city you wish were still there? Tell us about them, we'd love to hear your stories.


  1. I have the A, R, and T from the storage part. Many of the letters were saved, unforuntately many wern't. I have rewired mine, added neon

    1. That's amazing Fern, how did you get them? When they were taken down, we contacted Public Storage and they wouldn't tell us what was happening to them! It would be amazing if you could send us a picture of the rewired letters!