Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dorothy Buffum Chandler: The Cultural Leader of Performing Arts

By Krissy Chavarin - 2013 Getty Intern

Dorothy Chandler, Order #00081875

Born as Dorothy Mae Buffum, Dorothy Buffum Chandler was born in Lafayette, Illinois in 1901. A year later she and her family moved to Long Beach, California, where her father opened the Buffum Department Stores. She attended Stanford University where she met her peer Norman Chandler, son of Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler. They married in 1922, had two children, Otis and Camilla, and became one of the wealthiest families in Los Angeles. After his father’s death in 1944, Norman Chandler became publisher of the Times and took over his father’s legacy.                                                                 

Dorothy Chandler’s participation in the community began at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles; she volunteered and fundraised for the benefit of the patients and staff. She was offered the hospital presidency in 1944, but instead decided to work with her husband in the Los Angeles Times, a major political influence and future cultural influence thanks to Mrs. Chandler.

Norman Chandler, Order #00044394

During the late 1940s, Chandler worked as an administrative assistant and continued as Vice President and Director for the Los Angeles Times; she was responsible for keeping the women’s section of the paper updated. Because of the lack of recognition of women’s creative leadership, in 1950 she established the annual awards ceremony known as the Times Woman of the Year Awards.

Chandler was chosen as Regent of the University of California in 1954. She served a sixteen-year term, as Chairman of the very important Buildings and Grounds Committee that supervised the addition of seven campuses and the growth of others. Her importance in education caused her to participate in an educational presidential committee under Eisenhower, and later was appointed to a Senate Advisory Committee by President Johnson.

Chandler was also a part of the board of the Southern California Symphony Association for many years. She was chosen by the board to raise funds for the Hollywood Bowl’s financial crisis that was causing it to close down in 1951. This began the “Save the Bowl” concerts where well-known and talented conductors performed for free. Because of these efforts, the Bowl reopened and the public’s support grew for the Bowl and the arts. Chandler was then named Symphony Association President in 1958.

Hollywood Bowl, 1963 Order #00083847

 Chandler believed that the lack of cultural facilities held back Los Angeles from being perceived as a major world city. In the mid 1950s, she focused her efforts to find a permanent home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, so she began a fundraiser with several members of the Symphony Association in 1955. The fundraising event was called the “El Dorado Party,” named after the Cadillac that was auctioned, which raised a total of $400,000 in a matter of hours. Later that year, she was selected by County Supervisors to lead an advisory committee of thirty-six members, which later grew to become the Civic Auditorium and Music Center Association of Los Angeles County (CAMCA). These members included business, film, publishing and education leaders of Los Angeles.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Chandler convinced political and business leaders that Los Angeles needed a performing arts facility, distinguishing herself as the head of the Los Angeles arts scene. Her efforts and leadership helped build the Los Angeles Music Center project. The efforts to build this Music Center were highly publicized through the Times, television and radio. This media influence attracted community interest, support and participation in this project.

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Model, 1961 Order #00043021

Fundraising for this performing arts facility, volunteers used “Buck Bags” which were commonly seen at local events. These buck bags helped raise enough money to build the $33.5 million, three-Theatre complex, which was dedicated as “A Living Memorial to Peace” on December 6, 1964. The main building, which is the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was named the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Soon after, Time magazine featured Dorothy Chandler on its cover. The article reported, "Buff Chandler...almost single-handed raised a staggering $18.5 million to build [The Music Center], and organized a company to float another $13.7 million in bonds to finish the job. It was perhaps the most impressive display of virtuoso money-raising and civic citizenship in the history of U.S. womanhood" (Time 1964).

 Music Center Model, Order #00043001 

"Peace on Earth" fountain at the Music Center, Order #00015170 

Chandler was praised for her achievement of the Music Center. In 1968, she began the Amazing Blue Ribbon 400, a fundraising organization with the main goal to raise money for the process of the Music Center.

The 59th Academy Awards, 1987 Order #00082572
                                                                                                                                                     The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion hosted many events, like the Olympic Arts Festival in 1984, the 59th Academy Awards in 1987, and the Oscars in 1996. It continues to host performances like ballet, opera, dance, and theatre.

The Joffrey Ballet performs "The Dream" at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Order #00087084

Chandler died in 1997 at the age of ninety-six. She dedicated her life to improve and establish culture and performing arts in Los Angeles. 

Aerial of the Music Center in 1970, Order #00018555

Inventing L.A: Dorothy Chandler. (n.d.) Retrieved from
            Dorothy Buffum Chandler. (n.d.) Retrieved from
Grimes, Teresa. Dorothy Buffum Chandler. (n.d.) Retrieved from
Peace On Earth. (n.d.) Retrieved from 

All photos are from the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection: 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

LA in Focus: Sat. June 29, 2013 @ 2 pm

Sleeping Beauties: Deranged L.A. Crimes from the Notebook of Aggie Underwood
presented by Joan Renner
Mark Taper Auditorium, Central Library

Writer and social historian Joan Renner explores the dark side of Southern California in a presentation focusing on crime photos from the Herald-Examiner collection of the incredible LAPL Photo Collection, with material drawn from two fascinating stories covered by legendary Los Angeles newswoman, Agness “Aggie” Underwood. One of the cases to be presented is the mysterious death of film star Thelma Todd in 1935. Also presented will be the tale of Helen Wills Love, who, after committing murder on New Year’s Eve in 1936, willed herself into a coma!

L.A. in Focus is a free lecture series presented by Photo Friends of the LAPL

For information, please visit
Parking is available at 524 S. Flower St. Garage (show your LAPL library card at the Central Library’s information desk to receive a validation for reduced rates). Handicap accessibility available.

As a covered entity under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the City of Los Angeles does not discriminate on the basis of disability and, upon request, will provide reasonable accommodation to ensure equal access to its programs, services and activities. Within 72 hours of the event please contact Christina Rice at 213-228-7403 should an accommodation be needed.

ABOUT PHOTO FRIENDS: Formed in 1990, Photo Friends is a nonprofit organization that supports the Los Angeles Public Library’s Photo Collection/History & Genealogy Department. Our goal is to improve access to the collections and promote them through programs, events, and online exhibits.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

2013 Photo Programs Are on the Horizon

Greetings Photo Fans, and Happy New Year! Hard to believe that we're already halfway through January, but that's ok because it means we're that much closer to presenting our first program of the year.

A City of Fakes: A History of Themed Environments in Los Angeles 

Saturday, February 2, 2013 - 2:00pm. Central Library, Taper Auditorium

Most cities build monuments out of stone, Los Angeles builds them out of fantasies.  From backlots to theme parks, L.A. has long been a city of imaginary worlds.  There are Mayan temples that show movies, cruise liners that bottle Coca-Cola, and Babylonian palaces that manufacture tires.  Join Zed Adams and Eric Lynxwiler on a tour of faux reality, as they chronicle the history of one of L.A.'s most distinctive contributions to 20th century architecture and design: the themed environment.  Drawing upon the photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library, they guide you through the history of Angelenos living, working, and playing in a city of fakes. 

Presented by the LAPL Photo Collection and sponsored by Photo Friends. Free and open to the public. Reservations not required.

Additional information can be found here. 

We're still working on the details, but Eric Lynxwiler will be returning in April to talk about the LAPL Turnabout Theater collection, and we're really excited for a March program featuring former photographers from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner newspaper.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Two Photographer Programs in November

Photo Friends and the Los Angeles Public Library invite you to two special November programs, celebrating local photographers William Reagh and George Mann.

First up is the Southern California release party for The Book Club of California's new book, William Reagh: A Long Walk Downtown, Photographs of Los Angeles & Southern California 1936-1991. Reagh's son Patrick, and Michael Dawson will be giving a presentation, and light refreshments will be served afterwards.

Saturday, November 3rd, 2pm.
Mark Taper Auditorium, Central Library
630 W. 5th Street, 90071

Next is "George Mann's Lost Los Angeles." The Los Angeles Visionaries Association, the On Bunker Hill time travel blog, the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection and Photo Friends present an evening celebrating the photographic work of the late George Mann (1905-1977) as it was meant to be seen: in jaw-dropping Kodachrome 3-D. George Mann’s rediscovered color images of mid-century Los Angeles are astonishing, and a must-see for anyone who loves the city and wants to know it better. The event celebrates the recent donation by the George Mann Archive of a portfolio of Bunker Hill prints to the Los Angeles Public Library.

Wednesday, November 14th, 6pm
Mark Taper Auditorium, Central Library
630 W. 5th Street, 90071

Both events are free and open to the public. No reservations required. 

Additional info for visiting Central Library can be found here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Visions of Romance: Christine Sterling's Quest for Change

By Zoey Smith - 2012 Getty Intern - LAPL Photo Collection

Christine Sterling was born Chastina Rix in Oakland, 1881. She briefly attended Mills College before she married (twice) and moved to Los Angeles. She and her husband had two children before he died and left her a widow.

Portrait of Christine Sterling, order# 00037035
Olvera Street was established when Los Angeles was first settled in the late 18th century. However, by the 1920s, the site of the original settlement had become a dirty, rundown area with a shady reputation. As Ms. Sterling explored the historic area, she was taken aback by the filth and neglect, especially since she had been drawn to the city in part by promises of “old Missions, rambling adobes – the ‘strumming of guitars and the click of castanets.” She thought it important that the roots of the city be recognized, and saw the potential in this “birthplace of Los Angeles.” In a 1933 booklet, Sterling wrote, “I closed my eyes and thought of the Plaza as a Spanish-American social and commercial center, a spot of beauty as a gesture of appreciation to México and Spain for our historical past.”

Olvera Street before improvement (Avila Adobe second building on left), order# 00008510 
Ms. Sterling became especially interested in the Avila Adobe, the oldest existing residence in Los Angeles. The building was established by Don Francisco Avila, the 1810-1811 mayor of Los Angeles, but was set to be demolished. In 1928, after a final condemnation notice had been posted on the door of the adobe, Ms. Sterling posted her own sign in front of the adobe which ended with a call to action: “Let the people of Los Angeles show honor and respect to the history of their city by making sacred and inviolate the last of the old landmarks and that spot where the city of Los Angeles was born."

Avila Adobe as it looked in 1890, order# 00078892
Although Christine Sterling initially had difficulty drumming up support, the increase of media coverage brought her struggle to the attention of influential people. Sterling turned to Harry Chandler, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, for help. In her diary, she praised his willingness to “talk Idealism and Sentiment," and noted that it was “a privilege to have talked to him.” Chandler became interested in her cause and helped her gain financial support from prominent businessmen. All the materials necessary to repair the house itself were donated. In addition, the Los Angeles County Sheriff promised to have prisoners perform the labor required to repave the street and repair surrounding buildings.

Portrait of Harry Chandler, order# 00040899
In September of 1929, the street was closed to vehicles, and work began on November 7. In addition to repaving and repairs, reconstruction involved lowering the level of the street and building stalls, or puestos, which would be given to families from Mexico for use as shops. On April 19, 1930, Olvera Street opened to the public. Ms. Sterling dubbed the street “El Paseo de Los Angeles,” thrilled that her dreams of celebrating the city’s roots had come to fruition. Not only had she created a thriving Mexican marketplace, which currently attracts over two million visitors every year, she had brought attention to the historic neighborhood, and ensured the preservation of many historic buildings.

Christine Sterling, however, was far from finished. Not only was she the “Mother of Olvera Street,” she also headed another neighborhood reconstruction project, China City. In the early 1930s, the construction of a new Union Station in the midst of Old Chinatown caused the dislocation of thousands of Chinese residents. Sterling attempted to recreate her Olvera Street success with China City. She envisioned a small town with an “exotic” atmosphere, something that would cater to the public’s romantic idea of Chinese culture. China City was competing with Peter SooHoo’s plan for “New Chinatown,” but was the first community to open. Bounded by Ord, N. Spring, Macy (now Cesar E Chavez Ave.), and North Main Streets, China City opened on June 7 1938.

Gateway to China City in 1938, order# 00057486
China City offered rickshaw rides, traditional Chinese performances, temples, restaurants, and shops. The community provided an opportunity for many Chinese residents who were searching for ways to support themselves. It was, after all, a tourist attraction, complete with replicas of the set from the movie The Good Earth. The American taste for Chinese culture was increasing, and many Chinese took advantage of this.
Chinese vendor in China City, ca. 1940, order# 00073248
However, in 1939, a large fire caused extensive damage to China City. Christine Sterling decided to rebuild the damaged areas, and China City was soon reopened.

China City after the fire, 1939, order# 00057491
China City remained a fixture of the community for almost ten years, serving as a center of business and tourism as well as a place to gather and celebrate festivals such as Chinese New Year and the Moon Festival. However, in 1948, China City would again succumb to a devastating fire, and would never be rebuilt. Although China City succeeded in attracting visitors and creating a Chinese community, it ultimately did not succeed in the way that Christine Sterling’s previous project, Olvera Street, did.

Despite the success of Olvera Street (and the short-lived success of China City), Christine Sterling’s vision was not without problems. She has been criticized for romanticizing Mexican and Chinese cultures and exploiting stereotypes. While Olvera Street was received well and has become a much-loved Los Angeles landmark, many Chinese resented China City for its artifice, instead supporting Peter SooHoo’s New Chinatown plan. As Chinese-American author Lisa See said to the Los Angeles Times, "China City was supposed to be an 'authentic' Chinese city, but was pure fantasy and stereotype." 

Pagoda Gift Shop in China City, order# 00057495
This fantasy can be seen in Sterling’s writings on Olvera Street:
“Life in Los Angeles before the Americans came was an almost ideal existence. People lived to love, to be kind, tolerant, and contented. Money of which there was plenty was just for necessities. The men owned and rode magnificent horses. The women were flower-like in silk and laces. There were picnics into the hills dancing at night, moonlight serenades, romance and real happiness.”
Christine Sterling kept this romantic vision in mind as she worked to bring these golden days to life. She was ultimately satisfied with the result, writing in her diary, “The surface of the old street felt again the touch of dainty slippers and polished boots. Romance sings the love songs of yesterday.”

Flawed though they were, Christine Sterling’s visions demonstrate her passion for Los Angeles and its history, her shrewd mind for business, and her determination to effect change where she saw a need.

Christine Sterling in 1963, order# 00037036


Cheng, Suellen and Munson Kwok. “The Golden Years of Los Angeles Chinatown: The Beginning.” Old Chinatown Los Angeles. Chinese Historical Society of Southern California.

Poole, Jean Bruce. “Christine Sterling.” The Historical Society of Southern California.

Rasmussen, Cecilia. “How ‘The Mother of Olvera St.' Got Her Moniker.” Los Angeles Times. 17 Apr. 2005.

Sterling, Christine. “Olvera Street: Its History and Restoration.” Los Angeles: Adobe Studios, 1933. Print.

All photos from the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Silent Footsteps: Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd in Downtown Los Angeles

Part of the free lecture series, LA in Focus: Images from the LAPL Photo Collection

Silent Footsteps
Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm
Taper Auditorium, Central Library

The silent-era comedians filmed extensively on the streets of Los Angeles, capturing everyday life in the background of their films. Using archival photographs, vintage maps, and scores of then and now comparison photographs, author John Bengtson will lead a virtual tour across the lost-and-found neighborhoods of Bunker Hill, Court Hill, and the downtown Los Angeles Historic Core, as documented in the films of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. 

John Bengtson is a business lawyer, film historian, and author. His latest book, Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd, follows Silent Echoes about Buster Keaton, and Silent Traces about Charlie Chaplin, to complete his highly acclaimed trilogy about the giants of silent film comedy, hailed by the New York Times as a “Proustian collage of time and memory, biography and history, urban growth and artistic expression.” Each book features a foreword by Academy Award winning film historian Kevin Brownlow. Bengtson is a frequent speaker at events hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, and the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and has provided bonus programs for several Keaton and Chaplin DVD/Blu-ray releases. Those unable to attend may access written tours at

Sponsored by the Photo Collection and the Art, Music, & Recreation Department; presented by Photo Friends

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Heroes, Villains, Jedi
The Fan Convention Portraits

The Photographer's Eye with KEVIN KNIGHT
Wednesday, August 15, 2012 @ 12:15 pm
Meeting Room A, Central Library (just off the Fifth St. entrance, bring your lunch)

Please join us for a presentation of Kevin's fan convention portraits--this will be a super-fun talk!

The Photographer's Eye is a FREE lecture series presented by Photo Friends of the LAPL. The Photographer's Eye series for 2012 is generously sponsored by Christy & Steve McAvoy.

For information, visit
Parking is available at 524 S. Flower St. Garage (show your LAPL library card at the Central Library’s information desk to receive a validation for reduced rates). Handicap accessibility available.