Worth a Look: Great Hall / Long Hall As a Home for HIV/AIDS Activists

HIV/AIDS great hall long hall plummer park historic preservationLaura Dominguez, preservation manager at the Los Angeles Conservancy, chronicles the importance of Plummer Park’s Great Hall / Long Hall for early HIV/AIDS activists in a story with a video featuring Kevin Farrell and Helene Schpak on KCET’s website that is worth a look.

“Completed in 1938, Plummer Park and its Great Hall/Long Hall reveal essential layers in West Hollywood’s development and identity, from its New Deal origins to its role in LGBTQ community organizing.

“Decades after its construction, at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and ’90s, the facility in Plummer Park hosted meetings of the local chapter of the prominent advocacy group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), serving as the backdrop to unprecedented campaigns for greater visibility and more effective treatment. The group was instrumental in compelling the federal government to respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis through new research and healthcare programs.

“The construction of Plummer Park, however, predates West Hollywood’s incorporation as a city and its association with the LGBTQ community. In partnership with the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the County of Los Angeles dedicated the four-acre park in 1938 as part of countywide efforts to expand park space during the Great Depression.”

The full story and photos of Great Hall / Long Hall and the early AIDS activists, can be found here.

  1. Wow, it’s great to learn about the history of my family’s favorite park!

    I always thought Great Hall could be an especially great, unique city resource for families like mine: a medium-sized, more-or-less segregated auditorium (important for not disturbing community center users) with attached courtyard, kitchen, and bathrooms, that could host kid-friendly events any day that park personnel are on-site. With the imminent destruction of the Sky Room and Auditorium in West Hollywood Park and consolidation of that park’s amenities into one, tightly-planned building, Great Hall could be an even greater resource for WeHo families.

    I’m extremely puzzled that the city has chosen to block off *all* private rentals of the space (and has discreetly done so for an unknown amount of time, no one has been able to give me a firm answer).

    Even though the City authorized new rental guidelines/pricing for Great Hall a mere 10 months ago.

    Even though I toured the Great Hall with a group in January, and we were told that the Hall was specifically available for one-time private rentals, like birthday parties.

    Even though City Hall commissioned a report (delivered last month!) that noted that it was, quote, “Underutilized space. Primary room use is for sporadic private rentals” (“West Hollywood Facility Use Effectiveness Project”, delivered February 6th, 2017).

    Even though Mayor Heisman noted that the Great Hall/Long Hall demolition was a low-priority capital project, and that it “seem[ed] like such a waste to not use these facilities”, and that “[City Hall] need[s] to make sure facilities are available to the public, especially our residents” (both from the City Council meeting on February 6th).

    Even though Acting Recreation Manager Chris Worland told me last week that, yes, the Great Hall is specifically available for certain one-time private events and that he was sorry for any miscommunication about it not being available – only to get a call from him this morning saying that, no, as decided by the City Council and City Manager, the Great Hall is *only* available for city-sponsored events (never mind that I’ve almost never seen the city use the Hall, not when there’s the community center or Fiesta Hall nearby).

    Apparently this block was put in place without any public hearings or discussion as far as I can tell? I’m aware that there’s some maintenance issues, but no one – NO ONE – has given me a straight answer as to why or when Great Hall was blocked off from the public. Very strange situation.

    If there are any organizations that are committed to opening up/restoring Great Hall, I’d love to volunteer – perhaps by helping out for website design, attending meetings with City Councilmembers, or speaking during public comments at City Hall or City Facilities Commission meetings. Let me know! Twitter @molliechristine

  2. @cathy and stephanie and roy and …all the same group of people. the park is used by myself, sorry cathy, im there often and see you there with my dog but who wants to argue with you. the problem is you think the park is your front yard. besides, aren’t you on the historic commission or one of those groups.. shouldn’t you recuse yourself? actually isn’t most of these posters your friends and just more members of the same group? but you don’t speak for the rest of us. we want a place to park , walk our dogs and enjoy open green space. right now plummer park does not meet the needs of the residents.. and the east side deserves as much attention as the west side, isn’t that what you always say? I’m sure you want to be 39 forever but the park belongs to the future residents and to be honest, new history will be made in the park. great things will happen in a new park that can handle it.

  3. Childish emotional behavior always claiming mistreatment from “city insiders”. Will the “tree huggers”and “park lovers” please step up and adopt a professional, informed demeanor in seeming collaborative opportunities rather than “good cop/ bad cop” diatribes and scorched earth rhetoric? Even the informed tree conservation folks were put off by the hysteria. The collective angst alone may be killing the trees and making the buildings shiver.

  4. Thank goodness for Tree Huggers. With deep budget cuts to the EPA that are proposed and will no doubt be passed, we will get a better idea of all that we have to lose. Plummer Park is a gem of tranquility in a world of increasing madness. We also need to keep a keen eye on our Bond Debt here in West Hollywood. Plummer Park needs TLC that will NOT cost multiple millions. How bad can that be?

  5. Wow a great back story to a building so many in the community here in West Hollywood might not know has so much history in the fight to Stop Aids in a time when the President wouldn’t even say that word. And Its so sad that the Audubon Society and Russian Library were evicted from this building, when the city made attempts to level it for a parking lot. I personally made effort once it was not demolished to work with the President of the Audubon Society to get them to return after being in this building for decades. Unfortunately they wanted a guarantee from the City Council that they wouldn’t be evicted again. Which our long term ,Gay incumbents had no interest in providing. So much history in this building. And so much to respect. Many in the community advocated for its re-opening for public use once the parking lot plan was blocked by Activists and Protect Plummer Park. I personally work with a non long term incumbent council member on this effort, but to the community’s surprise when It came up for a vote on council, even though the major plan to turn the park into a park lot was stopped. Our 30 plus year Gay council member and Another High Profile Gay Council member who championing’s himself as a #lgbtq advocated, stunned the community and made a motion for its demolishment. It seemed to many in the community like a pay back for our basic grassroots activism to protect our park. So we gathered again to protest its Demo for no purpose that many could see except for political pay back. And in the same spirt of ACT/UP we got loud and protested as the demolition contractors came out to bid. We were loud, we were proud, we do the same thing that ACT/UP did years ago and said this isn’t right. And it stopped the Demo. This space though still to this day could be used by the community in a more accessible way. Where the Audubon Society once had its location and the Russian Library was, sits emptied and in-available to the residents or community. And to this day our city of West Hollywood with millions in reserves wont even fix the broken and cracked distinct red clay roof tiles that are damaged in many areas of this building. Such a shame, that our city leaders wont respect its heritage in the #lgbt community and keep it in tip top shape.

  6. Who says you can’t have a pool, an off leash area and preserve Great Hall and Long Hall?
    It is just a lack of imagination. Don’t let the City Hall insiders tell us we only have two alternatives. We can make Plummer Park more user friendly and responsive to our changing needs while still respecting our history.

  7. Great Hall / Long Hall should definitely be saved and spruced up/re-purposed. They are charming buildings in a charming neighborhood, something that will soon be scarce in the newly overbuilt concrete jungle of West Hollywood.

  8. I think Plummer Park is fine the way it is; maybe a little cleaning up and painting, but this should not and cannot be turned into a yuppified dog park with underground parking. there are plenty of places on the eastside that “fix our park” and others can look to so they can create the kind of space they need. Plummer Park and Great Hall/Long Hall has served the community well and can continue to do so. We can’t wipe out our history and our future with the drastic changes they envision. You can easily put a small dog park in Plummer Park but there is no need, absolutely none, to demolish Great Hall/Long Hall. There are also several dog parks in and around West Hollywood. Plummer Park is a people park and it should be cleaned up and kept up so we can start using the Great/Long Halls again.

  9. @Fix our park! Best to get your facts straight before you comment. I take it you do not use Plummer Park, or you would know that it IS a neighborhood park for everybody from babies to 90+ year olds and every age in between, with a rich history dating back to the 19th Century right up to present day and that Great Hall/Long Hall, besides being listed on the California and United States National Historic Registers, is now being recognized as an important LGBTQ location of significance. The community never had any significant input into the process and it is clear that you had no input either, and that you did not attend any of the 62 meetings the city held, or you would remember EVERYONE wanted a pool and a dog park, but, alas, the city’s Master Plan did NOT include either one.

  10. I wish Wehoville would not publish anonymous comments, its easy to gripe when you can be in the shadows.
    Thankfully the National Historic landmarks were saved. The City had the perfect opportunity – eminent domain — to buy the Movietown Plaza when it was vacated and a vacant lot. It could always be re-sold if the City got in a cash crunch. There would have been ample space for dedicated dog park. Parks are for people first. no one wants to face plant into dog poop. And not all people pick up after their pooping pooches.
    There is still room for a swimming pool in Plummer park. It won’t be 5 stories in the air (Why?, why? why?) like at the Taj Mahal park underway in the nice part of WeHo. But there could be a pool. Plummer Park is a gem of this city.
    Keeping Great Hall / Long Hall is respectful to our history. Those buildings should be utilized more. The City did have an art exhibit this last year in Long Hall to great success. West Hollywood (Pride) Park is dropping more money per square foot, than any government project in the history of LA county.
    And one minimal earthquake will close half the hotel revenue for half a year or more and the debt service to pay the $100 million on the park will be the responsibility of the property owners in the City. Could it happen? Dunno, could a TV reality star become president.
    Nothing is out of the realm of reality.

  11. “Fix Our Park!” Perhaps history means nothing to you, but more than a few “tree huggers” would like to retain the character and nature of Plummer Park, including the beautiful Great Hall/Long WPA Spanish Revival buildings and the truly lovely and historic Fiesta Hall.
    If you want additional parking- which, by the way, currently is almost never at capacity- the north side lot could be double leveled with tennis courts on top, more than doubling the stall number. Or perhaps a robo-garage, a ’80’s style gurgling fountain in a mega drought and a crashed spaceship in the side of Fiesta Hall with no trees in sight are more to your liking, for what is likely a hundred million dollar final expense. Oh, and car fume exhaust spilling out into a school rooftop play deck is a grand idea, isn’t it?
    As long as we have entrenched councilpersons acting like a junta and calling the shots, you may well get your wish of three years of construction and more congestion than ever. Let me give you a walking tour of the park and area. We’ve already lost an Ed Fickett masterplan on the west side: no need to gut the east side as well. Ironic our city hall was designed to emulate and in homage of Fickett and now we are destroying the originals.
    Meanwhile, come on the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance’s Sunset Strip Walking Tour Saturdays in March and we’ll show you the importance of our history and just how much we’ve lost.

  12. Plummer Park should be upgrade in a careful manner unlike the mess they have and are creating in West Hollywood Park. To begin with a BELOW ground parking structure should be built where the current parking lot and tennis courts currently exist. A new tennis court along with a swimming pool could be built above the parking structure and the excess space where the tennis courts now exist could become a Dog Park. We lost the historic home that used to exist there and both the Great Hall and Long Hall should be preserved and improved.

    Trees are a wonderful part of any park and with the cities prior history replacing trees along Santa Monica Bl. I fear what is proposed to replace the current trees will be but another disaster.

  13. @ fix our park. I am so happy you brought up the pool. Did you know that in all the years of meetings that the city had, the ONLY thing the majority of the residents wanted was a swimming pool. However the $41+ Million dollar redo of Plummer Park did NOT include a POOL. And yet, WeHo Park phase 2 by some miracle gets not ONE pool but TWO! The Plummer Park plan did NOT include a POOL!

    And by the way, “a couple of voices…. a very small number of tree huggers” = over 1,000 people.

    The story and video on KCET by the way is about LGBTQ history and not about nostalgia!

  14. @ fix our park. I am so happy you brought up the pool. Did you know that in all the years of meetings that the city had, the ONLY thing the majority of the residents wanted was a swimming pool. However the $41+ Million dollar redo of Plummer Park did NOT include a POOL. And yet, WeHo Park phase 2 by some miracle gets not ONE pool but TWO! The Plummer Park plan did NOT include a POOL!

    And by the way, “a couple of voices…. a very small number of tree huggers” = over 1,000 people.

    The story and video on KCET by the way is about LGBTQ history and not about nostalgia!

  15. I hope this city goes forward to build a park for all of us and not go backwards because a couple of voices want to stay 39 forever. We need a dog park on the East Side. There should be enough parking like West Hollywood Park is going to have. Do only West Hollywood West get a pool in their backyard? It is reprehensible what happened to our park plans because of a very small number of tree huggers. And who wants to fight the mean people in a public spectacle. We need a park for everybody and this building needs to be moved or demo’ed!

  16. Thank you Hank Scott for putting this story in Wehoville.

    Please read the attached KCET story and watch the video it’s wonderful.

    Keep in mind that Great Hall/Long Hall continues to be in danger of demolition as the Plummer Park Master Plan was never officially vacated by the City Council.

    Here is a direct quote from the story: “In recent years, the City of West Hollywood has sought to redevelop the park, specifically calling for the destruction of Great Hall/Long Hall. This effort places the site at risk of disappearing before its full history can be confronted and understood in a contemporary landscape…
    “Helen Schpak sums up the significance of Great Hall/Long Hall, reflecting,
    “History was made here, period.”

Comments are closed.