Wondering what’s going on behind the boarded up walls at Canon and Santa Monica Boulevards in Beverly Hills? We got a hard hat tour this week, and find ourselves wishing it were September 2013 and we were getting dressed for one of the gala premieres of our city’s latest performing arts stage! The Wallace Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts will present theater, dance, music, and professional children’s theater to Beverly Hills.
What you can’t see is the parking garage nestled under the structures – guests will have easily accessible parking, a lovely Wolfgang Puck cafe and lots of green space along Little Santa Monica for a leisurely lunch.
Those who grew up here remember the post office as one of Beverly Hills’s most beloved, elegant spaces and fortunately the lobby will be preserved entirely – it makes for a lovely theater entrance. Designated as historic, the new project will preserve the post office, installing a small theater and classrooms for the Center’s performing arts school, and the 500 seat Goldsmith Theater in a separate building nestled behind the post office, that will feature over 200 shows a year. The historic designation comes from a series of frescoes that depict the creation of the mail service. And, we love this piece of the story. The City of Beverly Hills appealed to Washington to build a post office, but was only designated about $85,000 – not enough to complete the job. So, honorary mayor Will Rogers wrote to Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury, with the following words (that were effective enough to prompt Washington to appropriate $300,000 for the Post Office). The resulting building was constructed as a WPA project.
“…It seems you owe us $250,000 to build a post office and they can’t get the dough out of you, and I told them that I knew you and that you weren’t that kind of fellow at heart… We are getting a lot of mail out here now, and they are handling it in a tent. It is mostly circulars from Washington with speeches on prosperity, but it makes awful good reading while waiting for the foreclosure.”
If you look behind the slope (which will soon be the graded seating of the main stage) you’ll see the sloping roof of the William Pereira 76 Station at Crescent and little Santa Monica.And here, you can see the elevator where guests will come up from the parking lot.
What most impressed us was that the primary mission of the new center will be arts education for children. There are three classrooms on the eastern side of the post office structure where kids will be able to take theater, dance, art appreciation and other cultural classes in the afternoons. The professionals that perform on the main stage will come to the classrooms during their show’s run to work with the children.