Developer Essex Property Trust has kicked off construction of its $54-million mixed-use complex on Sunset Boulevard. Concurrent with building the seven-story mixed-user, the developer is undertaking a restoration of the adjacent Earl Carroll Theatre, designed in 1938 by Gordon B. Kaufmann, architect of Greystone Mansion, Santa Anita Racetrack, and the nearby Hollywood Palladium.
In honor of the project’s groundbreaking and to acknowledge their role in the decision to save the building, Essex invited preservationists from the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, Hollywood Heritage, Los Angeles Conservancy, and the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles to tour the landmark structure, which was opened in 1938 by Broadway impresario Earl Carroll as an upscale supper club featuring dining, dancing, and extravagant stage shows.
After Carroll and his girlfriend, showgirl Beryl Wallace—whose neon visage adorned the theater’s facade—died in a 1948 plane crash, the building changed hands and identities numerous times, most recently serving as Nickelodeon’s West Coast headquarters.
Given the structure’s multiple incarnations, visiting preservationists were pleasantly surprised to see how many of its original 1930s elements have survived.
For instance, as a KTLA segment on the theater’s restoration reveals, its opulent Art Deco bar surrounded by neon columns is still intact, as is its “Goddess of Neon” lobby sculpture.
Also still present and believed to be functional is the one-of-a-kind turntable mechanism used to operate the theater’s 60-foot wide double-revolving stage.
Essex has also promised to restore Beryl Wallace’s neon portrait to the facade, as well as the slogan that was once emblazoned over its doors: "Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world.”
“The developer is going to be doing some restoration work on the exterior. What we’re looking for ... is a tenant who will take over the interior, activate it, get some shows on the stage, put an audience back in here. This is what it was built for,” Escott O. Norton, executive director of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, tells KTLA.