On the Town: Historical Society lets the '20s roar

What better way to celebrate some holiday cheer than at a speakeasy? How about one at the Roaring '20s-era Seeley's Furniture Company Building on South Brand? That's just what members and guests of the Glendale Historical Society did. On Sunday (Dec. 16), for one night only, “prohibition punch” flowed freely as some 200 guests also enjoyed Urban Palate-catered hors d'oeuvres and cool jazz.

Like in the old days, visitors had to announce the code word “P-s-s-s-t” to the bouncer before they were allowed to enter the tiny first-floor space for reveling. The code stood for “preservation.” And that's what Historical Society members do every day.

Guests, welcomed by society President Greg Grammer, had the chance to go on one of the several tours of the building during the 4 to 6 p.m. hours of the party, just as night was falling. Tour guide and former society board member Marty Bracciotti led his group to the 41 creative studios and office space opened just 90 days ago.

Bracciotti described the Seeley's building as “an example of preservation and adaptive reuse.” It was a recipient of the society's 2012 Preservation Award. “I live in the neighborhood,” Bracciotti said. “We were afraid the building would be torn down and turned into a mini-mall.”

Fears now aside, Bracciotti explained that the building was built in 1925 in the Spanish Revival style by architect Alfred Priest. In 1940 the building's facade was transformed into Art Deco/Moderne by architect Kurt Meyer-Radon. Today's restoration converted the building into the Seeley Studios. The restoration took six years and cost $8 million.

Some visitors stopped in one of the studios. Glendale residents and society members Alex Van Speybroeck and wife Carla German admired a pop-art Superman painting. Sonia Montejano, in '20s flapper garb, preferred Catwoman. Both works are by artist Deborah Flattery.

Society board member and supporter of L.A. Arts Alliance Julio Hechavarria Jr. was another tour guide who introduced visitors to some more of the artists present, including Mkrtich Sarkisyan, who showed off his “My Feeling.” The colorful acrylic on canvas was a visitors' favorite. Sarkisyan's studio is rent-free for several months in order to attract more artists to the Seeley Studios.

The studios — with storefronts, offices and live/work spaces — will be a community for creative professionals. “During my years on the City Council I have continued to support a ‘creative corridor,'” said Glendale Councilwoman Laura Friedman. Friedman was at the party with husband Guillaume Lemoine, landscape contractor and chef extraordinaire.

Also present at the party was society Treasurer Sean Bersell and wife, writer Heather Norris. Bersell was taken with a Seeley Furniture Co. scrapbook with yellowed ads placed many decades ago in Glendale newspapers at the time, including the News-Press and the Glendale Independent. Society members Frank Hall and his guest Sally Little, dressed vintage style, were also present in the room turned into a small museum of Seeley's building memorabilia.

Mistress of all trades and society board member Marcia Hanford had society membership applications at the ready for any guest not yet affiliated with the organization.

After living in Pasadena for 20 years, two VIPs have just moved into Glendale. Jenkins and Bob Shannon are well known in art circles in the San Gabriel Valley. Jenkins is the executive director and board member of the Pasadena Museum of California Art. She hosted the museum's holiday party for members on Saturday (Dec. 15).

Both are looking forward to decorating their Montrose-area home in, what else, California art.

RUTH SOWBY may be reached at ruthasowby@gmail.com.

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