Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Early Entertainment Complexes of Henry Jensen

The German-born Henry Christian Jensen is described in an earlier posting as an established brickmaker by the close of the 19th century in Los Angeles.  The proliferation of moving pictures after 1910 brought a new business opportunity for Jensen and Sons:  building movie houses.  One of the most celebrated buildings still standing is the Jensen's Recreation Center on Sunset Boulevard in the heart of Echo Park, which was constructed in 1924.  It is an early example of today's shopping mall or entertainment complex:  when it was constructed, the Center had shops, apartments, a bowling alley and a pool hall.

Ten years earlier, Jensen built the first movie theater in Glendale, the Palace Grand.  He then constructed the Raymond Theatre in Pasadena, which opened April 5, 1921.  In Hollywood, he built Jensen's Melrose Theatre (currently a Ukranian Culture Center at 4315 Melrose Avenue), date unknown.

Information on Jensen also mention Jensen's Theatorium in Echo Park (currently a grocery store), with a possible building date of 1912.  In 1930 the entertainment venue was owned by Turner, Dahnken and Langley (TD&L), a syndicate which later became a core of the conglomerated Fox-West Coast film-exhibiting circuit.  [Update 10/26/2016:  the Theatorium may have become the Hollyway, shown below, a stone's throw from the Recreation Center.]

The Hollyway shown above.  Photo from Los Angeles Saturday Night, 150th Birthday of L.A. edition, 1931
Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research

Of the buildings mentioned above, it is the early example in Glendale that has not survived.  Palace Grand, (located in the newer street numbering system at 131 and 133 North Brand Boulevard) was purchased by TD&L around 1923.  (Some sources estimate that Palace Grand was torn down before World War II.)  However, Jensen may have reconstructed portions of the theater or had found new construction adjacent, because a new storefront appeared in the 1920s called "Jensen's Arcade" or "Jensen's Palace Grand Shops."  Like the Recreation Center in Echo Park, the Glendale venue had shops on the main floor, a bowling alley and billiard hall in the basement, and a popular dining spot on the second floor:  the Egyptian Village Cafe.

In a draft historic preservation document published by the Planning Division of the City of Glendale, about 1975, the second floor Egyptian Village Cafe was recommended for preservation.  (Click on images to zoom in)

Second Floor Interior
The recommendation of the city's historic preservation element was not successful, because the building was subsequently torn down in an undetermined year.

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