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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Neighborhood Fixture: East Hollywood’s American Storage Building

East Hollywood American Storage Building L.A. History

By Marni Epstein

The Public Storage facility sitting on the edge of Silver Lake  isn’t like most storage facilities. The building is striking: it’s impressively tall, has Gothic detailing surrounding the building on all sides, and ascends with ‘wedding-cake’ stepped set-backs. The building’s ornate details are clearly a nod to the excesses of the Roaring Twenties. The American Storage Building, as it was known, was built in 1928 by renowned L.A. architect Arthur E. Harvey. Harvey also built Chateau Elysee (Church of Scientology Celebrity Center) and the Widner House in Los Feliz.

I used to pass the American Storage Building on Beverly Boulevard every day on my commute  and wonder how such a beautiful building fell to become just a storage facility? Turns out, the joke is on me because this impressive structure has, from day one, been a storage facility, notes Water and Power. Along with storage space, this 13-story building also hosted the Bud Murray School for Stage as well as Lewis S. Hart Auctioneer in the ‘20s.

Contrary to what Storage Wars says, the business of storage isn’t all that titillating.  However, this historic building in the at 3636 Beverly has a mystique which originates from excesses of the Prohibition Era. The building’s top floor played host to many a speak-easy over the years, beginning with “The Roof Garden” as noted in an old flyer found by LA Hey Day. Then shortly thereafter it became Thirteenth Heaven, according to a December 1928 L.A. Times article. At this celestially themed nightclub, elevator operators dressed as St. Peter and waiters wore wings. In 1931, according to Water and Power, the Los Angeles Press Club moved in.

It was inside the Press Club that an illegal brew operation was found. The club was raided in March of 1931 upon which 203 bottles of beer and 21 gallon crocks of beer mash were found. Five waiters were arrested and held on $250 bail, reported the LA Times.

With the immense popularity of craft breweries on the Eastside today, it’s difficult to imagine a Prohibition era where small batch brewers and distillers were vilified. 3636 Beverly Blvd  stores pieces of a bygone era – Los Angeles history infinitely more valuable than any old couch or excess patio furniture.

Neighborhood Fixture  provides a bit of history and background about buildings and places that catch our attention.  Got info about a neighborhood landmark? Send details to hello@TheEastsiderLA.com

Marni Epstein Epstein is an entertainment, music, and lifestyle Journalist and resident of Echo Park. She has previously worked in the film and digital media industries with FOX and Sony Pictures Entertainment. She is currently also pursuing a Masters in Historic Preservation.



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10 comments

  1. Thanks for writing and posting this! I drive by this building all the time and wondered how such a good looking building turned into a Public Storage facility.

    Joke’s on me too…

    It would be AMAZING if they ever opened it up to a rooftop party again.

  2. I’ve always been curious about the history of this building too. If a friend had casually told me it originally was a storage facility, I’d have thought they just told me an silly joke. Thanks for the background!

  3. I have been joked, too. I think the building would be more tolerable if it didn’t say “Public Storage”

  4. Many thanks for this post — our fam grew up a block away, and this was the largest (perhaps most mysterious) bldg. in the neighborhood.

  5. I have lived near the building for over 50 years and still call it the yellow pages building as it was marked in the 60s through at least 1980. Don’t know if it was storage or printing of the Yellow Pages which now due to the internet are almost obsolete.

  6. Yes, we all thought it was the Yellow Pages building, but what if that was just an advertising sign? We used to say it was a warehouse/storage for that big book, but now I wonder if the sign was simply an ad….

  7. Pacific Telephone and Telegraph occupied the building during the late 50’s and early 60’s. My father worked the yellow pages department at the time in that building before they moved to Wilshire downtown. I would love to see a photo with the yellow page advertising (Let your fingers do the walking…) on the side but have not been able to find one.

  8. A quick glimpse of this building appears in the 1959 film, CITY OF FEAR. It appears in a scene where the main character is driving down La Brea Avenue heading south passing Santa Montica Blvd. The storage building can be seen in the background.

    http://dearoldhollywood.blogspot.com/2014/02/city-of-fear-1959-film-locations.html

    Thanks for the additional information on this building! I heard rumors that this once was a speakeasy, but never knew if they were true. I’ve been inside that building and even got to ride up the large freight elevator.

    • Robby,
      You are confusing the old Bekins Storage warehouse building on Highland just south of Santa Monica Boulevard (the City of Fear still) with the “Yellow Pages” building on Beverly Boulevard that is the subject of this article.

      Thanks, though, for including the link to the blog with your comments. My family moved to Hollywood in 1963 so I’m familiar with a lot of the “before” pictures in that article.

  9. I worked at Pacific Telephone in the 1970’s. That building was also where the coin collectors brought the money from all the pay phones and it was counted there.

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