The gig: Ray Adamyk, 52, is president of Spectra Co., a Pomona firm that has played a major role in restoring such prominent historic buildings as the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, the Catalina Casino in Avalon and the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
In his view, preservation and environmentalism are two sides of the same coin. "The greenest building is one that already exists," he said. "I think people want to see old buildings restored."
Early days: Adamyk was born in England and reared in Canada, where he enjoyed physically demanding sports in his school days. As an amateur boxer, he recalls once fighting future heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, who was bigger than he was.
"He was a light heavyweight and I was a middleweight," Adamyk said. "He beat me in a split decision."
Finding a career: During his college years in Ontario, Adamyk found work restoring homes in the Niagara Falls area and he later kept up the business in Los Angeles County. Restoration turned into a full-time occupation and he founded Spectra in 1990 because he had a family to support. "I had kids," he said. "I had a job to do."
Personal: Adamyk lives in Claremont and has four children: Jack, Christy, Mary and Caroline.
Lost art: In Southern California, a metropolis known for its love of new things, few workers can be found with the skills to perform construction tasks that were common in earlier eras.
"The old craftsmen were fantastic," Adamyk said. "We had to train most of our people to do what they did."
Spectra now has about 120 employees. "We call ourselves the artisan army," he said. "We specialize in all the historical fabrics: metal, stone, wood, plastic. Our company does it all."
Tricks of the trade: In restoration work sometimes missing pieces must be re-created. The top of the landmark French Gothic-style Villa Riviera apartment building on Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach was missing six gargoyles when Spectra got the $4-million job to bring back its original 1929 splendor.
A penthouse tenant in the 1970s wanted unobstructed views and hacked off the decorative "grotesques," as they are technically known. (Gargoyles have spouts to convey water away from a building.)
Adamyk's workers made silicon molds of other dogs, bears, griffins and eagles and cast replacements. "We completely restored the outside of the building."
Consorting with ghosts: Adamyk felt the tug of history working on projects at the Hercules Campus office complex at Playa Vista. It was once the domain of aviator and business mogul Howard Hughes, who built his gigantic H-4 Hercules transport airplane commonly known as the Spruce Goose on the site.
"When I went into Howard Hughes' office I said: Whew, he was here."
Spectra restored Hughes' inner sanctum and other former executive offices of Hughes Aircraft Co.'s Mahogany Row that are now leased by advertising agency 72andSunny.
Terra cotta treasure: A recent task was restoring a downtown theater and office tower built in 1927 by film luminaries Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith. The Spanish Gothic-style United Artists Building on Broadway needed sprucing up as part of its conversion to an Ace Hotel, which opened recently.
The beige terra cotta covering the exterior needed cleaning and repairs. Spectra also restored metalwork, doors, windows and a beacon on top of the 13-story building. The hip hotel will help revive nearby blocks, he predicted.
"Things are coming together in downtown L.A. like they did in New York, where the transformation has already happened," he said. "It's happening here. I think we're really in the middle of it right now."
His ultimate dream restoration job: "The White House."