Historic Preservationists Mount Campaign to Save the Factory

The  Factory on Robertson Boulevard (Photo: Los Angles Times, 1929)
The Factory on Robertson Boulevard (Photo: Los Angles Times, 1929)

Historic preservationists are banding together to oppose plans to demolish the Factory building on Robertson Boulevard and replace it with a hotel and shops called Robertson Lane.

The Dead History Project, an organization created by Kate Eggert and Krisy Gosney, has created a Facebook page called Save the Factory to promote preservation of the building. The Los Angeles Conservancy has expressed its concerns about the proposed demolition in a letter to the West Hollywood Community Development Department. The Conservancy is asking that the Factory building be incorporated into plans for Robertson Lane. Both organizations mounted a¬†campaign last year to save a Streamline Moderne-style building at 9080 Santa Monica Blvd. that will be demolished for the Melrose Triangle Project. The West Hollywood City Council approved the project, but the L.A. Conservancy has filed suit in L.A. Superior Court arguing that the city has not complied with state law requiring an assessment of the project’s impact on the environment, which includes an assessment of the 9080 building’s cultural and historical significance.

The Factory building was constructed in 1929 as the manufacturing plant for Mitchell Cameras, which supplied cameras to the nascent motion picture industry. After World War II it went through several evolutions, and in 1967 became an elite nightclub called “The Factory.” That club closed in 1972. In 1975 Scott Forbes, a gay optometrist, opened a club called Studio One in the building during the height of the disco era. Studio One, Forbes said, “was planned, designed and conceived for gay people, gay male people. Any straight people here are guests of the gay community. This is gay!” Studio One closed in 1988. The building has housed numerous other venues, including the “Axis” club that helped make Sandy Sachs a lesbian icon, and has served as home to nights such as “Rasputin” and “Ultra Suede.” An effort to have it designated a cultural resource was rejected by the City Council in 1995.

Both Dead History Project and the L.A. Conservancy cite the Factory’s history as a manufacturing center for motion picture equipment and a center of gay nightlife in arguing that it be preserved and incorporated into the Robertson Lane project.

Robertson Lane is a project of Jason Illoulian’s Faring Capital. Illoulian’s partner in the project is the Goller family, which shares with the the Illoulian family a long history in West Hollywood. Nate Goller, an attorney, is the husband of Phyllis Morris, founder of Phyllis Morris Originals and one of the more distinctive furniture designers from 1950 until her death in 1988. Their daughter, Jamie Adler, now runs Phyllis Morris with her husband Jonathan, and their flagship is situated next to the Factory. Goller was a partner with Sandy Sachs in the Factory / Ultra Suede club that opened in the building in 2000.

Robertson Lane would replace the Factory with a hotel with more than 250 rooms, underground parking with more than 1,000 spaces and small cafes and small retail spaces that Illoulian says will be “curated” to ensure a variety of interesting shopping experiences. Illoulian proposes a 30- to 35-foot-wide lane through the Robertson Lane building, providing a pedestrian walkway between Robertson Boulevard and LaPeer.

The city currently is at work on a draft environmental impact statement that will consider, among other things, the possible historic or cultural significance of the Factory building. The project likely will go before the Historic Preservation Commission, the Design Review Subcommittee and the Planning Commission before being presented to the City Council for its approval.

Rendering of Robertson Lane Hotel as seen from Robertson Boulevard. (Architect Hodgetts + Fung)
Rendering of proposed Robertson Lane project as seen from Robertson Boulevard. (Architect Hodgetts + Fung)

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Lynn
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Lynn

Oops that was private citizens.

Lynn
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Lynn

@Roy: please turn back the clock on the awareness of the preservationists that all have their fave structures. Attempting to continually turn back the development clock at the eleventh hour is tantamount to tilting at windmills. I’m w you in sentiment but can we please be practical?

Roy
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Roy

Gotcha Lynn but the city of West Hollywood is at fault for not conducting historic building surveys. Can you believe they actually claim poverty with nearly 100M in the general fund?!
That leaves it up to us–overworked volunteers who care about our history.

Lynn
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Lynn

Hi Roy, private vitizens can do more than they think they can. If everyone in WHPA nominated just one building a piece before it was threatened w potential development, you’d be ahead of the wrecking ball. Could be part of an incentive program.

Roy
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Roy

JJ by incorporating The Dr. Jones Cat & Dog Hospital, for example, into the master plan for the Melrose Triangle does nothing to inhibit the development on the site. Same for other large developments in Weho. Your argument is specious at best.

JJ
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JJ

It’s always…”we are not against development…” They just never find a development they don’t have a problem with. This is an old factory built long ago for a purpose that is long since gone. Put up a plaque, take a picture..move on. We’re a very small City with very little space. This space could do so much more for the community and in the end, I believe this site will be cleared of the old structures and new life will emerge on this site. Time will tell.

Kate
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Kate

There are many criteria that determine whether or not a building is historic – the way it looks is not the only criteria. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A lot of people (including us) think it’s hot!

John Allendorfer
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John Allendorfer

I first want to recall many happy years dancing to at the Factory and before that Studio One. The Hollywood and gay history of the site is very historical and important but the building itself is not architectural outstanding and in my opinion should be demolished. Whatever buildings replaces it should bring a reference to its historical past in some kind of visibility through educational or sculptural display. I could see replacing it with structures that would accommodate a hotel and stores especially being so close to the bars and restaurants in that part of town and create a revenue… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Let me add that we are not against development. There is always a way to incorporate historic structures into new design. And I think the majority of the people behind us feel the same way.

Lynn
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Lynn

JJ: the comment about Koontz was somewhat in jest.

JJ
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JJ

I’m sorry Kate, but I’m sure there are a ton of old buildings that can claim some sort of “famed history” (as weak as you’ve outlined) or some sort of MILDLY famous tenant, but I’m still not swayed that this old camera factory is worth saving. It’s time and purpose have passed. The newly proposed structure will benefit the City far more then this old factory. It is NOT an iconic or history structure worthy of saving. LET. IT. GO.

Kate
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Kate

Historic preservation is not determined by opinion but instead by facts. There are different criterion that historic preservation follows – to put it simply it could be the architecture that makes it significant or specific events in history that make it significant. (To learn more, google criterion A, B, C, D) Here are some facts about The Factory that make it historically significant- -Mitchell Camera built the factory in 1929 and was there until they moved to Glendale in 1946. -By 1940, Mitchell Camera shot 80% of motion picture films wordwide. -The cameras made at the West Hollywood factory made… Read more »

Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs
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Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs

The only thing historic about the factory is the amount of cocaine that has passed through that building. #tearItdown

JJ
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JJ

OMG Lynn, as much as I love Knootz (I don’t know what I’d do if it left down) you can’t go and save/nominate every old building! (and you can’t nominate(?) a business..that’s ridiculous).
If change never happened, the people of this city would still be living in mud huts and pulling plows and it wouldn’t be called West Hollywood.