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Art Deco in the Tech Age: The Many Lives of 431 South Fairfax Ave


Art Deco in the Tech Age: The Many Lives of 431 South Fairfax Ave

September 13, 2016  |  by Samy's Camera
Samy’s Camera has a knack for selecting unique buildings to call its operations home. For instance, Samy’s Culver City store, located at 4411 Sepulveda Blvd, was once the popular hobby store, Allied Model Trains. In business for nearly 70 years, Allied Trains is a half-block-long replica of Los Angeles' Union Station. According to the Los Angeles Times, the hobby shop attracted both locals and famous names from the golden age of Hollywood. Frank Sinatra was one of them, who had a building shaped like a train station at his Rancho Mirage estate. Allied’s former owner, Allen Drucker, had even visited Sinatra’s home on a number of occasions. Having a store resembling Union Station sure makes a location easy to spot; not to mention the 500 square-foot working model train set still found inside. However, Samy’s Los Angeles art deco-style building is an unofficial landmark in the Central Los Angeles area. [caption id="attachment_3175" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Samy's Camera Fairfax Credit: Ralph Elliot Starkweather[/caption] Samy’s Camera may now call it home; however, 431 South Fairfax has lived many lives.
Austin & Ashley
The great thing about buildings is that there must be a paper trail; and, to our surprise, paperwork for 431 S Fairfax dates back to October 9, 1930. An application for the erection of buildings revealed that the location was being constructed as a retail loft building and furniture store. [caption id="attachment_3170" align="aligncenter" width="650"]screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-10-30-16-am 431 South Fairfax under construction, 1931[/caption] Also, the architect, or in this case, the architect film is listed: Austin & Ashley. Austin and Ashley, Architects, operated in Los Angeles, CA between 1929-1935. In six short years, John C. Austin, Frederick M. Ashley would make their mark on the history of Los Angeles. Ever heard of the Griffith Observatory? They are the original architects. [caption id="attachment_3171" align="aligncenter" width="642"]screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-10-38-54-am Dome Construction, Griffith Observatory, 1934[/caption]
Furniture, Aviation, and Pharmaceuticals
For a number of years, 431 S. Fairfax was left unfinished due to the Depression. However, construction resumed in 1937. An application to complete, among other tasks, floors, plumbing, and a passenger elevator was filed by Green & Hinkle, a furniture company. Following the building’s completion and the duration of Green & Hinkle’s ties with the location, a number of companies would file in and out between 1942 and 1966: 1942: Douglas Aircraft Company, who has a long history with the Santa Monica Airport and is most famous for the "DC" series of commercial aircraft, uses the building as an office space. [caption id="attachment_3167" align="aligncenter" width="639"]screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-15-49-am Night production of fighters at Douglas Aircraft Company's assembly plant in Santa Monica, 1940's[/caption] 1945: United Drug uses the building as an office space. 1950: An occupancy permit reveals that California Physicians Service inhabits the space. 1966: The owner is listed as Warner G. Scharff, an art patron and a major Venice landowner.
Harry Karl
Once President of Karl’s Shoe Stores, the largest privately held U.S. retail shoe store chain at one time, Harry Karl’s private life was just as much in the headlines as his professional life. He was married to two actresses, Debbie Reynolds following her highly publicized split from Eddie Fisher, and Marie McDonald, and to Joan Cohn, the widow of a motion picture pioneer Harry Cohn. screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-40-41-amKarl applied for use of the parking lot at 431 S. Fairfax in 1966 before taking over the building and its 13 offices in 1971. The building would see a few more changes between the 70's and the dawn of the 21st century. In 2002, Samy's Camera applied for a certificate of occupancy, making 431 S. Fairfax its new Los Angeles location following a devastating fire during the L.A. Riots that consumed the original La Brea and Beverly Blvd. location. After 14 years on the corner of Fairfax Ave. and Drexel, the Los Angeles location houses 3 floors of retail space, including a pro video department, rental department, service bureau, and a photo lab. 2016 marks Samy's Camera's 40th Anniversary. To celebrate, 1000's of products are included in our anniversary sale.
September 13, 2016


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