Forgotten LA

Great Grate: Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple

Everyone is familiar with the original Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple (built 1925) on East 1st Street in Little Tokyo, which now currently houses part of the Japanese American National Museum (I’m such a bad Japanese American. I’ve only been there once. Sorry, Ojiichan.) but my favorite part of the building isn’t the elaborate entrance, but the ventilation grates along the side of the building. Or whatever they are.

I just love the detailed metal work makes a simple store front feature look like an elaborate woven basket. And those glossy tiles! Yum.

Check out the this photograph of the corner on 1942; sadly (to me, at least, because I’m lame like that), you can’t see the grate. According to the museum,

A central gathering place in thriving Little Tokyo, the structure was later used to store the belongings of Japanese Americans sent to U.S. concentration camps during World War II. The building eventually fell into disrepair after the Nishi Hongwanji moved to a new facility in 1969, and was sold to the City of Los Angeles in 1973.

Glad to see that the old building is now a City Landmark, and I’ll definitely pay my respects to its place in Japanese American history during my next ramen run.

John A. Roebling Building
September 1, 2009, 2:10 pm
Filed under: Los Angeles | Tags: , , ,

I’ve driven and walked by this old warehouse on the corner of South Alameda and East 4th Place in Downtown Los Angeles countless times, but I had no idea what sort of business took place inside. It seemed to be some sort of shipping company, based on the numbered loading docks along the old rail tracks along Alameda.

The train tracks don’t go anywhere, but it’s fun to imagine what sort of vehicle would pull up next to the docks and what exactly would be loaded up by workers. Judging from the sign above the building’s grand (but sadly closed) front door, Robert Arranaga & Co (apparently an organic vegetable distribution company) used the space but then how can you explain these mysterious JAR initials decorating the top of the building?

Seriously, I stood there for like 5 minutes trying to fit “Robert Arranga” into a JAR abbreviation but it didn’t work. Yes, I get it. There’s no J. But lo and behold, I found my answer around the corner!

JAR = John A. Roebling, a German born engineer famous for his wire suspension bridges, designing the Brooklyn Bridge and founding the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company. SERIOUSLY!? I would guess that this old warehouse (built in 1913) once housed part of his massive, nation-wide wire rope company (they also made the Slinky!). Their logo looks pretty familiar, too.

Fun. I hope the Arranaga company never paint over the signage.