Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

L.A. Ruins | SO SoCal

Sweet Nothings

November 03, 1996|Mary Melton

It slumps, an imposing but isolated monument, squeezed between the whir of the Glendale Freeway and Metrolink. Its walls are sprayed with graffiti instead of flour residue. The Southern Pacific spur, which delivered raw materials for meringue pies and chocolate chip cookies, is cemented over. High windows, designed to flood the factory floor with sunlight, are blown out. Mangy dogs guard a back door through which an endless procession of cakes and pies and Danishes--140 products at its peak--were once carted. A "For Sale" sign hangs high and cockeyed on the back wall. "It's basically a poured-in-place concrete industrial structure," real estate agent Ted Slaught dismisses, "with some gingerbread on the front."

Had Los Angeles ever hosted a World's Fair, Van de Kamp's Holland Dutch Bakery in Glassell Park would have made a grand representative for the land of windmills and tulips: Its two-story facade was built to resemble a gargantuan 16th-century Dutch townhouse, with three cartoonish Flemish gables, a red tile roof and decorative bricks that hugged tall arch windows. Built in 1931, the factory evoked a quaint--albeit oversized--Dutch bakery in the middle of what was once described as Los Angeles' "bread basket": Dolly Madison, Foix, Frisco, Four S and Weber also lined San Fernando Road and the Los Angeles River.

As recently as 1985, Van de Kamp's employed 600 people, 200 of whom had been there for at least a quarter century. But hostile takeovers in the late '80s chewed up and spit out the to-die-for macaroons, and the beloved bear claws finally went belly up in October of 1990 when the company went Chapter 11. The L.A. Conservancy, which fought to nominate the factory as an historic-cultural monument in 1992, hailed it as "the Taj Mahal of all bakeries . . . the only Dutch Renaissance Revival style industrial plant in Los Angeles." The facade alone was later approved a monument, much to the dismay of real estate agent Slaught, who describes his firm's projects as "more user-driven than architecturally driven." He has attempted to sell the 7.1-acre property, with the asking price of $8 million, for the past 18 months.

"The cloud of an historic designation," Slaught says, "makes it difficult and time-consuming to develop." The conservancy cites the Citadel in the City of Commerce as a model for the bakery's future use. The Citadel preserved the ornate Assyrian palace facade that once fronted the defunct Uniroyal Tire factory by attaching an outlet shopping center on its rear.

In the factory's current state--the post-fire-bombed Dresden one--it's difficult to imagine this was one of L.A.'s premiere examples of a corporation conveying its image through architecture. The headquarters fully complemented the empire: Blue-and-white windmills swirled like giant neon propellers over the chain's bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants, and Dutch-costumed "Van de Kamp ladies" guided you at grocery stores to this week's special, identified by a tulip sticker. But close your eyes long enough in the bleak parking lot and the waft of baking bear claws almost rises again.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|