The fragile remains of a day

Drive around the West Adams district, where genial Craftsman homes stand as vestiges of early L.A. Turn at Cimarron Street. Enter the walled compound of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. That stately brick structure with windows framed in white — is that Georgian? Those painted ceilings inside, so shockingly ornate — would you call that late Renaissance baroque?

And in the farthest reaches of the property, at the end of a dirt path, what do you call that? A Greek rotunda in miniature? A gazebo? It's topped with a canopy of lacy ironwork and ringed by half a dozen Corinthian columns. One cornice has been knocked off. Part of the bench is broken.

The fabulous decay — the cracks, chips and other scars of time — are refreshing for a city too often fixated on what's new. William Andrews Clark Jr., founder of the L.A. Philharmonic, brought this gazebo from Italy long before he died in 1934 and left these grounds to UCLA. His house was torn down 30 years ago, but this little realm of peace remains, as does the civilized pace of decades past. The city outside keeps racing ahead, but me? I'll stay as long as I can.

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