The National Trust for Historic Preservation puts out an annual list of historic sites across the US that are most in danger of being lost through demolition or advanced neglect, and this year, West Hollywood's legendary The Factory has made the unfortunate cut. Most famous for its role as the trailblazing gay disco Studio One, The Factory is endangered by a proposed project that would knock the building down and put up an enormous hotel and retail complex on and around the site.
Every time preservationists try to save a building for history's sake, there is a big debate over why that building is "historic" at all. For The Factory, a big part of its claim has to do with Studio One—the popular disco opened in 1974 as a safe place for gay guys to be gay and over time, it became associated not just with rad parties, but also with the gay rights movement; one of the country's first big-time fundraisers for AIDS research was hosted there.
But The Factory existed long before Studio One. The structure was built in 1929 to provide production space for the Mitchell Camera Corporation, whose cameras "revolutionized filmmaking" by smoothing the transition from silent films to those with sound, helping a blossoming Hollywood to really flourish. And so The Factory is one of the few buildings left in WeHo that was built for "technical aspects of the film industry." But the building also did many other things, including serving as the home for the high-profile, invitation-only club that gave the building its nickname—The Factory, according to an old story in WeHoville.
The project that now jeopardizes the future of The Factory is called Robertson Lane, and it's the work of furniture store operator Jamie Adler and developer Jason Illoulian, the man whose Faring Capital is now working on building retail space around the historic Norms diner on La Cienega, but had at one point secured a permit to demolish it.
The plan is to put a 250-room hotel, shops, and restaurants in the area where The Factory sits now. The pedestrian-friendly development would cut right through the building's current location, and a wide paseo would take out The Factory itself. The NTHP says that the paseo has "a route that could easily be realigned to spare this landmark from the wrecking ball."
Local preservationists have been campaigning to spare The Factory for years, most recently via online petitions; the LA Conservancy is concerned about the loss of The Factory too. Back in 1995, there was a failed push to have the site designated a WeHo landmark; the Historic Preservation Commission recommended protection, but since the owner objected, the WeHo City Council overruled that decision. The NTHP listing could carry a bit more weight: "More than 250 sites have been on the list over its 28-year history, and in that time, only a handful of listed sites have been lost," they say in a press release.
· Explore America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places [NTHP]
· West Hollywood's Legendary Factory Could Become Hub of Walkable Retail/Hotel District [Curbed LA]