Board OKs Bond Issue for New Museums : Supervisors: One facility would house classic cars. Another would portray the history of fire-ravaged Pan Pacific Auditorium.


Los Angeles County supervisors Tuesday approved a $20-million bond issue to help pay for two new museums--one dedicated to the internal combustion engine and the other to decades of concerts, sporting events and political rallies held at the fire-ravaged Pan Pacific Auditorium.

The auto history museum will be known as the Robert E. Petersen Automotive History Museum, named after the Los Angeles publisher of Motor Trend, among other magazines, who has pledged a $15-million contribution toward the project, said Craig Black, director of the Museum of Natural History.

Both proposed museums would be located near the County Museum of Art, the George C. Page Museum and a planned Craft and Art Museum in the Wilshire district.

The auto history museum is the furthest along, with officials hoping to close the deal next month to buy the former Ohrbach’s department store at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue for the facility.


Plans calls for using the building to exhibit the 74 cars owned by the Museum of Natural History and stored in a warehouse. They range from Model Ts and a 1932 Duesenberg to the 1984 Buick used to pace the torch relay leading up to the Los Angeles Olympics. Opening is set for late 1993.

Black said he is seeking to display a large collection of autos from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

The proposed Pan Pacific Interpretive Center faces a more uncertain future, including possible neighborhood opposition and required approval of the state, which owns the property, according to Black.

The proposed Pan Pacific museum, possibly incorporating the landmark building’s streamline moderne facade, would include photographs depicting the history of the auditorium destroyed by an arson fire in May, 1989. Black said the facade may be too deteriorated to be incorporated in the project.


The Pan Pacific opened in 1935 and for more than 35 years was one of the biggest gathering places in Los Angeles, hosting auto and boat shows, basketball and ice hockey games, an Elvis Presley concert and political events, including an Eisenhower-Nixon dinner. It became outmoded after the Convention Center, Music Center and Sports Arena opened in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Plans call for the 5,000-square-foot museum to include exhibits on the history of the La Brea-Fairfax neighborhood and to serve as a visitor center providing information on local attractions, such as Farmers Market and CBS Television City.

No design has yet been prepared. Black said the project could face opposition from residents who want the site used for a senior center.

When Museum of Natural History officials approached the supervisors about funding for the auto history museum, Supervisor Ed Edelman proposed that $2 million be set aside for a possible Pan Pacific museum. Edelman, whose district includes the proposed museums, has talked about building a museum dedicated to the history of the Pan Pacific since the building was gutted by fire.


Supervisors unanimously approved the bond issue after Black assured them that no funds would be diverted from other county programs, such as health and welfare, for the museums. The bond will be repaid from admission and parking fees and private contributions, Black said.