By Becky Koppenhaver
You’ve driven past it a thousand times. It’s hard to miss the multi-storied, white and green concrete building near the Glendale Freeway and San Fernando Road that stands tall among the modest homes and businesses of Glassell Park.
Since 1992, the building has been home to Ribet Academy, a pre kindergarten-12th grade college prep school that grooms its students for colleges like Stanford, Duke, and Cornell and boasts a debate team that ranks 10th in the nation.
But long before the sounds of students and teachers filled the halls and classrooms of the dignified building, the thunder of large machinery and the drone of a hundred sewing machines could be heard from the street curb outside. Built in 1923, the building was originally the home of the Theme Hosiery factory that manufactured silk panty hose until after World War II, when nylon stockings became popular and put the factory out of business.
A person whose parents and grandparents worked at Theme Hosiery shared memories of the factory at American History & Genealogy Project:
Each [knitting] machine knit 24 stockings at one time and was tended by one worker. Men would work back to back so they could help each other when the foot was turned. Women sewed the stockings together, then they were sent to another room where they were checked for runs or mistakes. Each stocking was placed on warm metal legs where they were pressed and sent to be placed in boxes. The making of cheaper nylon stockings after the Second World War put the company out of business … My parents and grandparents worked there and I can remember visiting them when I was a little girl and the sound of those big machines would shake the floors and make talking impossible.
In 1960, the building was purchased by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and made into an all-boys Catholic school run by the Irish order of the St. Patrick called Pater Noster. At its top, the school had an enrollment of 325 boys, but by 1991 enrollment had dropped to 190 and the school was forced to close.
In 1994, Ribet Academy, home of the Fighting Frogs, moved into the building after outgrowing their original campus in La Canada. The school renovated the property to suit its needs and has since improved the 8.5-acre campus with a batting cage, an organic garden, theatre, tennis court, weight room, an arts studio, a marine biology lab, a ceramics studio and a gymnasium.
Neighborhood Fixture provides a bit of history and background about buildings and sites that catch our attention, for better or worse.