You’re Invited to the Gordon B. Kaufmann Book Signing September 21st!

00011956Please join Marc Appleton, Bret Parsons and myself in celebrating the publication of our new book on one of the Southland’s greatest architects Gordon B. Kaufmann. Published through Tailwater Press, this volume is the first in our series on the Master Architects of Southern California 1920-1940. It is richly illustrated with spectacular vintage images highlighting two dozen of Kaufmann’s major projects such as Greystone mansion in Beverly Hills, the Isador Eisner house in Hancock Park, CalTech’s Atheneaum in Pasadena, and the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia. We are so proud of this project and would be delighted if you could join us in celebrating an architect whose influence on the built-environment of Southern California is still being felt today.


The festive event is going to be held next Wednesday, September 21st from 6:00-8:00 PM @ Snyder-Diamond in Santa Monica. There will be live jazz, cocktails and hors d’ouerves for all in attendence. RSVP to RSVPChristine@CommunicationArtsInc. com. Here’s the invite with details. There’s also FREE valet parking. What more does one need in Santa Monica? Hope to see you there!



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Where, Oh where have I been…?

EDH3Hello to anyone who may still be out there. I receive many e-mails asking why I stopped posting and it embarrasses me to say that I just became overwhelmed. Doing a blog is hard work as I was to discover. When I had no one looking at me, I could turn out a post when the spirit moved me but when I got readers, when it got to a half-million, there was pressure to post weekly,even daily, and I never wanted to post anything that wasn’t thoroughly researched or well-written. I am a slow writer, but thorough. But what was the capper was the blog resulted in my getting work as an author. I found I could not accommodate two mistresses at once so I chose the one that paid. Over the last few years I have written four books and a feature article in Los Angeles magazine. I miss the blog and I believe I will return to it at some point, but in the meantime I wanted to let you know I was still around and am active. I thought you might want to know of the books I’ve written. Most have been on Palm Springs history. In 2012, I was called to come out to Palm Springs on a temporary basis to write a book on the historic Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn. I wound up staying, and as of this writing, have no current plans to return to the daily struggle on the 405! The fourth is on Gordon B. Kaufmann, the great architect of so many So Cal landmarks as well as the Hoover and Grand Coulee Dams. And just in production, Reginald D. Johnson. I will post more of them anon. The book is due out this summer. In the meantime, here are my current opuses. And if anyone wants to read them, I am including info on how to buy them. If you choose to buy any, I would LOVE to get your feedback!


_dsc6059I was commissioned to write a book on an exclusive private club in Palm Springs. When I began, I knew very little of it as most people do, which is as they like it. As it turned out, it had an incredible history of famous politicians, movie stars, aviators, etc. It is the oldest private club in the Palm Springs area and has a who’s who of famous people who were either members or guests. Although my politics run decidedly to the left, as a historian I cannot help but be impressed standing in the same spot Joe McCarthy harangued about communism or where Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, Oliver North, or even Sonny Bono, sipped cocktails, along with Carol Channing, T. Boone Pickens, Walt Disney, General Jimmy Doolittle, Jackie Cochran, Buzz Aldrin, Walter Cronkite, among many, many others. The clubhouse itself is a historic treasure, having originally been the gatehouse of a great old Palm Springs estate for oilman Tom O’Donnell, designed by the unsung but very talented William Charles Tanner, an unaccredited designer who did great work in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, particularly the Dorothy Arzner/Marian Morgan estate in Los Feliz @ 2249 West Mountain Oak Drive (1929).

This book gives you an exclusive peek into one of Palm Springs most venerable and secretive organizations. It is filled with rare, original images and can be purchased directly from the club for $65.00 hardcover, either by e-mail @ or by calling Cheryl Wedner @ 760-325-6937. Tell her I sent you!


SIS1The second book I did was a fabulous little effort about Palm Springs’ historic Tennis Club neighborhood. This area is the most historic spot in all of Palm Springs and includes a history that goes from the Agua Caliente Indians in the 1830s to the most modernistic of modern Palm Springs. It is an area that includes homes, hotels, apartments, commercial structures, and even churches, designed by such masters as Lloyd Wright, Wallace Neff, Rodney Walker, Albert Frey, William Cody, Myron Hunt, E. Stewart Williams, Paul R. Williams, etc. I was originally asked to document the network of historic stone walls that criss-cross the district and their story turned out to be the story of Palm Springs, and what a story it is! How to buy: You can buy this book directly from the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation for $40.00 here. BTW, the PSPF is a great organization that does so much to preserve and protect the amazing architectural history of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.


EDH1A decade ago, when I would sneak out to Palm Springs with friends for a weekend, I would always stay at the historic Casa Cody. While there (when not overdoing it on margaritas at Las Casuelas), I would wander the neighborhood and stop by the gates of The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn, looking up and dreaming about one day staying there. I had no idea that a few years later it’s owner, the fabulous Tracy Conrad, would seek me out (via the blog) to write a history of this historic spot. It turned out to be even more than I could have ever hoped with a rich and diverse history that began with its original owners, William & Nella Mead of Los Feliz fame, to architect William J. Dodd and then to Samuel Untermyer, one of the great attorney of his day. A history that was filled with some of the most important luminaries of the twentieth century from New York Mayor Jimmy Walker; Lord Beaverbrook; Upton Sinclair; John Galsworthy; Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg; movie stars Billie Burke and Marion Davies; President Woodrow Wilson’s family; and later, a host of notables of such diversity as Arianna Huffington; Jeb Bush; Anna Nicole Smith; Cameron Diaz; Jared Leto; Jessica Simpson; Sydney Pollack; Quentin Tarantino; Robert De Niro; among many, many others. But the most famous of all was Albert Einstein, who came to stay not once, but three times between 1931 and 1933. Dr. Einstein loved The Willows and for that alone, it deserves a special place in history.

The book is filled, not only with a compelling story that involves the whole history of Palm Springs, but also so many rare images, some never before published. It’s a fun read if I do say so myself (OK, I’m a little biased). How to buy: E-mail me @ Price is $45.00.

Just wanted to give you an update and in the immortal words of Gen. MacArthur, “I shall return.” When, however, one never knows.





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Then & Now – 4447 Cromwell Avenue

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The Schoenborn House in 1926. Original landscape design by the Beverly Hills Nurseries.


And today. Photo by Charmaine David via listing.

Thanks to the ever-fabulous Curbed L.A., I was tipped off tonight that one of my favorite Wallace Neff houses, the A.L. Schoenborn Residence (1924) in Los Feliz has just come on the market for $2,750,000. This is a relatively early Neff and while it might not be one of his most famous designs it is a perfect representation of why I love the Spanish Colonial Revival style so much especially as interpreted through the genius of Wallace Neff himself. And the siting is exceptional too, visible but still private with second-to-none views. As usual, Neff was able to bring in all the beauty of Spanish Colonial Revival, the impressive woodwork, colorful tile and intricate ironwork all set against whitewashed stucco walls while still keeping the house feeling relaxed and informal. I’d like to think that the young Mr. Schoenborn (only 33 when he had the house built) had given Neff carte blanche to design the house just as Neff envisioned it. The architect used much of the Spanish design vocabulary here with a bold rotunda, arches of varying types, Monterey balconies, variegated roof lines. It’s simply a fabulous house and a unique treasure, not only for Neff but the incredible ironwork of Eugen Julius Dietzmann. It looks like there’s even at least one original Crane bathroom too.

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Charmaine David via listing.

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Charmaine David via listing.

I wanted to put up a post on the house because I noticed that there have been requests to see some vintage pictures. The good news is that there are some, the bad news is they are few, but it is at least a taste. We see Adrian has caught some heat for saying the house has been “bastardized.” Based on the photos it looks like the problem seems more with its current overpowering interior decoration than any irreparable structural muddling so it looks like the bones are still good. However, we stand by Adrian here @ Paradise Leased since any revision to us of a Wallace Neff original is a bastardization! Go ahead and have at it with the kitchen but touch ye not the work of genius elsewhere lest you be forever haunted by the ghosts of good taste past.

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Hey, they filled in the bookcase. Why dat? Charmaine David via listing.

This great house is listed by the fabulously named Juan Longfellow and Louise Leach of Normand & Associates and has its own website with 57 beautifully done shots by Charmaine David @

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Charmaine David via listing.

A little word on Albert Lawrence (“A.L.”) Schoenborn, the original owner/builder of 4447 West Cromwell Avenue. Born in Buffalo, New York on May 22, 1890, Schoenborn became something of a wunderkind in Los Angeles financial and investment circles during the 1920’s, founding the Wilshire Building & Loan Association by the time he was 32. After selling out to the State Guaranty Corporation in 1927 (of which he became vice president) Schoenborn also took on the vice presidency of the Pacific States Savings and Loan Company as head of its Los Angeles branch @ 6th and Grand. Schoenborn was also a pioneer in San Fernando Valley real estate development, buying and subdividing a number of Chatsworth-area tracts and maintaining a ranch (long gone) @ 21510 Roscoe Boulevard throughout the 1920’s and is accredited as the founder of “North Owensmouth.” While that name has vanished into oblivion, Schoenborn Street still runs through the Valley as a lasting memory.

No one will ever know for certain as to why, but on April 17, 1929, Schoenborn succumbed to toxic exhaust fumes in a garage in Sawtelle. While reports stated that he had suffered a nervous breakdown and disappeared from the house in a state described as “delirious,” no official determination of suicide was ever made by the County Coroner. It was believed that in his unstable condition his death might well have been accidental as much as intentional and therefore the cause remains “undetermined.” Schoenborn, who left behind a wife, Veral S. and a son, Larry, was only 38 years old.

Dora Doubter

I always try to see both sides, but I must verify.

Lastly, our intrepid scholar Dora Doubter has some, well, doubt about the assertion that this home was actually lived in by Wallace Neff himself. You can’t blame her, after all, it’s built into her DNA. It sure would be cool if it were true, but…she’s demanding proof. Anyone know the original source? Would love to confirm so she’ll stop fussing about and get back to reorganizing the garage where her services are most needed.

And a few more images by Charmaine David of the listing via the listing. Many more here.


Charmaine David via listing.


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High Above Apple Valley – New Vintage Images of the Apple Valley Inn and Newt’s Hilltop House


For those of you following the blog you know there have been big doings as of late regarding the fate of the once spectacular but now ruined Hilltop House sited 300 feet above the once famous but now shuttered Apple Valley Inn. These two properties constitute the greatest historic treasures in all of Apple Valley and they both cry out for rescue before it’s too late. As it stands now, the Hilltop House and its twenty acres are up for sale. That can mean salvation is on the way or total destruction is around the corner. And there’s also an intriguing third scenario, which would turn the Hilltop House into a public park. Only time will tell as to what will ultimately happen. In the meantime, I wanted to share a beautiful set of aerials taken by Howard D. Kelly on February 3, 1961 of the Hilltop House and Apple Valley Inn. You can see both properties in all their long-gone glory.




These great images were recently unearthed by the Los Angeles Public Library and comprise part of the Kelly-Holiday Collection of the library’s vast holdings.  Thanks to the LAPL for releasing them for our enjoyment!

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After 68 – Remembering the Unforgettable Ambassador in a New Documentary

After68I have risen momentarily from my blog-writing slumber to let everyone know about a wonderful new documentary project by producer/director Camilo Silva called After 68 that’s currently in the works on what is perhaps the single greatest loss of history to ever befall Los Angeles – the demolition of the Ambassador Hotel in 2005. If you think I’m being overly dramatic just take a look at the scope of the history of this astounding place. We really lost something here, something that ran way deeper than the loss of a mere building. So many events, so many people, so much that made Hollywood and Los Angeles and beyond, centered around the Ambassador. It was part of the very soul of Los Angeles. It didn’t just witness history. It made history. Now its gone and we can never get it back.

That’s why I am so happy to see this documentary being done on the Ambassador, its rise and tragic fall and from what I’ve seen it looks like its going to be great. I can’t wait to see it finished. Please check out the trailer here and please help make After 68 a reality by contributing to its completion funds if you can. The goal is within sight. Every dollar helps. We owe it to the Ambassador, to Los Angeles and to ourselves to make sure this story is told. We can never replace this treasured landmark, but we might be able to learn something from it. The Ambassador can be our Penn Station, a tipping point in the battle for historic preservation that ultimately saved so many other Manhattan landmarks from the same ignoble fate. Will it become a rallying cry of “never again,” never again allow something so critical to our history to be taken from us without at least one hell of a fight? I hope so.

Here’s the full press release on After 68 and its related links.


Filmmakers Recover Legacy of Historic Hotel by Resurrecting its Demolished Past


LOS ANGELES, CALIF. (August 10, 2013)


In 2005 the landmark Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles became one of the most historically significant and celebrated U.S. buildings of the 20th century ever to be destroyed. Nearly a decade later, a dedicated team of documentary filmmakers intend to bring the Ambassador back to life with After 68. The feature length documentary is a gripping exposé on the dynamic history and controversial demolition of the iconic hotel. “Though the hotel’s structure is gone we are working hard to ensure that its legacy lives on. By chronicling its rich history and the emotional fight to save it from demolition, we hope to give the Ambassador its rightful place in history,” states director/producer, Camilo Silva. “This film is particularly important because it goes far beyond just recapping the history of a famous site. It will challenge audiences to think about historic preservation in new ways and question how actively we value our aging structures from the past.”

After 68 examines historic preservation through the lens of the 15-year struggle to save the Ambassador Hotel from the wrecking ball. For decades the Ambassador was the epicenter of cultural and civic life in the U.S., playing host to the Academy Awards, celebrities, international dignitaries, iconic authors, artists, scientists and every U.S. President          from Hoover to Nixon. The hotel’s legendary Cocoanut Grove was one of the most sought after music venues in the world, showcasing almost every major musical act of the 20th century and launching the careers of countless stars. In 1968 the Ambassador’s fate took a dark turn when it became the site of a tragedy: the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

When the hotel closed in 1989, the Ambassador once again garnered national headlines during a dramatic battle between preservationists and the school district over the fate of the site. A heated fight ensued, quickly polarizing the community and sparking a multifaceted debate that pitted education against historic preservation. After a lengthy and costly legal battle, the board voted to demolish the hotel. “California doesn’t          preserve much of their history…Tear it down and build  something new, there was no interest in the preservation of it” stated Merv Griffin in his After 68 interview.            Coming in at just under $600 million, the new school campus that was constructed would end up with the distinction of being the most expensive school built in U.S. history.

In the first feature  film ever to turn the lens back on the Ambassador, Silva weaves together classic photography and historical footage, along with captured footage of the building’s demolition, and emotional interviews from a range of key people involved with the hotel. “As documentarians timing is critical for us because with every day that passes we are threatened with losing the oral histories that only remain within our          collective memory and we want to recover them before it is too late,” says Silva.

Using first-hand accounts, After 68 demonstrates how the Ambassador Hotel’s rich history ultimately placed it between opposing cultural divides: a pawn in the power struggle between those who saw the importance of preserving our past as a means to define our future, and those who were willing to destroy it. “The Ambassador’s story marks the irrecoverable loss of an important relic of human and social history, and as          filmmakers we want to educate the public about the value of protecting our past, and thereby ensure that the other Ambassadors of the world may be saved” declares Silva. This film is not only a tribute to the life and legacy of the hotel but it will also serve as an important symbol for the value of historic preservation worldwide.

For More Information Visit:

Media Contact:           Katie Ravnik •           • 510-847-9054

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Aloha on Rimpau – A Hawaiian Hero in Hancock Park

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Designed by the very prolific Frank Meline in 1922, this charming house on Rimpau south of Wilshire was rented in the mid-1920’s into the early 1930’s by the legendary Hawaiian Duke Paoa Kahanamoku. (Dee Cappelli)

hawaii908160336AR_bHe is still the most famous of all Hawaiians, a superb athlete revered today as the “Father of Modern Surfing.” Yet Duke P. Kahanamoku’s legacy goes well beyond Olympic Gold medals and the host of other honors heaped upon him in his decades as a world champion. A magnificently handsome man with a jet-black mane of hair, soulful eyes and dazzlingly white smile, Kahanamoku came to symbolize the very embodiment of the true spirit of Aloha to such a degree that in 1959, he was named Hawaii’s official “Ambassador of Aloha,” a role he had unofficially been fulfilling for decades ever since his first Olympic victories at Stockholm in 1912. Kahanamoku’s Olympic triumphs combined with his looks and winning personality made him an international celebrity, bringing sudden attention to the heretofore obscure Hawaiian Islands and a marked increase in island tourism was directly credited to the fame of their native son.


duke_kahanamokuFrom almost the moment of his birth on August 24, 1890 in Honolulu, Kahanamoku’s life revolved around the warm Pacific waters surrounding the island.  He learned to swim, in traditional fashion, by simply being tossed into the water by his father and uncle. “I had to swim or else,” he later remarked. From his sink or swim beginnings, Kahanamoku developed into an expert swimmer and diver. While that on its own might not have been a particularly unusual accomplishment for a Hawaiian Islander of the time, what was unusual was the speed by which Kahanamoku could propel himself through the water. By the time the first officially sanctioned Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) swim meet took place in Hawaii, Kahanamoku was already something of a local legend. In that race, held on August 12, 1911, Kahanamoku performed so remarkably, shearing 4.6 seconds off the world record for the 100-yard open water, AAU officials stateside refused to believe the time and declared there must have been an error on the part of all four judges.


(Bain News Service/Library of Congress)

The following year, Kahanamoku and several other Hawaiians were sent to the States to compete in the AAU National Swimming Championships. Kahanamoku easily won his races, earning him a place on the United States Olympic team. At the summer games held in Stockholm, there was no mistaking Kahanamoku’s incredible speed and power this time, and he won the 100-meter freestyle, yet again breaking the world record and easily taking the Gold medal. He also earned a Silver as a member of the 200-meter relay.


(Bain News Service/Library of Congress)

Over the next few years, Kahanamoku’s reputation grew to new heights as he continued shattering world aquatic records in various competitions around the globe. At the same time, he was credited for single-handedly reintroducing to the world to the sport of surfing. Although it had been an integral part of Hawaiian life for generations, by the turn of the Twentieth Century surfriding had been largely forgotten. In a series of widely attended demonstrations around the world, Kahanamoku would ride the waves on his handmade long board to the delight of onlookers, and before long, the ancient sport was revitalized along the coasts of the world.

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In 1918, the noted English artist and printmaker Charles W. Bartlett painted Duke Kahanamoku on his famous long board perfectly capturing the romance of surf riding. (


Duke, Ross Norman and other Olympic swimmers show off their robes between events at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, which proved to be a triumph for the Hawaiian swimmer. (International Olympic Committee)

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Friends for life. Johnny Weissmuller & Duke Kahanamoku at the Paris Olympics where the torch was passed from Duke to Johnny. (Corbis)

At the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium, Kahanamoku continued his nonstop winning streak, taking two more Gold Medals, the first for the 100-meter freestyle and the second in the 200-meter relay. By the time of the 1924 Olympic Games, Kahanamoku was thirty-four, considered an advanced age for an Olympic athlete, yet, he had no trouble qualifying for the team as did his younger brother Sam. It was in Paris, however, that Kahanamoku suffered his first major defeat, coming in second behind a new swimming sensation, an athlete thirteen years his junior named Johnny Weissmuller. It was Weissmuller who would take the mantle from Kahanamoku, going on to become the winningest record holder in American history up to that point. Kahanamoku showed no anger or bitterness in defeat and he maintained a close friendship with Weissmuller that was to last the remainder of their lives. Years later, Weissmuller would honor his friend by declaring, “I learned it all from him.” Duke Kahanamoku continued swimming for the rest of his life, winning his last Olympic medal at the age of forty-two. His remarkable twenty-one year career as an Olympic champion remains today a record achievement.


(Getty/International Olympic Committee)


In the 1920’s, Duke was all over Southern California. He even made it to Palm Springs for a meet at the El Mirador. (LAPL)

As someone so identified with the Hawaiian Islands it is easy to forget that Duke Kahanamoku ever spent significant time anywhere else, yet he was a regular presence in Southern California throughout the 1910’s and 1920’s. Duke had become entranced by the wonders of Southern California ever since his first visit in 1912 and even imagined the possibility having a home here someday. The Southland was equally charmed with Duke making many friends and becoming a particular favorite of the movie colony. And, of course, his worldwide fame and good looks didn’t go unnoticed by the studios. In 1925, Famous Players-Lasky (Paramount) offered Duke a film contract. However, his promising film career was hobbled by an ironic twist – He couldn’t appear on-screen doing what the world best knew him for – swimming. AAU rules strictly prohibited Duke from accepting money for swimming, something studio lawyers might not have been fully aware of before offering him a contract. And Duke had no intention of giving up his amateur standing in athletics just for Hollywood film making, which he considered nothing more than a fun lark. As it was, Famous Players-Lasky found themselves with a non-swimming swimming star and were forced to come up with creative ways to use him in non-aquatic roles. They tried their best and over the next few years, Duke made appearances in a number of films including the epic production of Old Ironsides in 1926, but without being able to be seen as the aquatic champion he was his career in movies quickly fizzled. Interestingly, in later years, Duke would return to the screen on several notable occasions. In 1948 he played a native chieftain opposite another famous “Duke,” John Wayne, in The Wake of the Red Witch, and in 1955 he again played a native chief in the John Ford-directed Mister Roberts with Henry Fonda and James Cagney.

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If he couldn’t swim then make him a tribal chief or other exotic. Here’s Duke appearing with Ronald Colman in 1929’s The Rescue.


Like any other budding star, Duke was forced to submit to silly Hollywood publicity photos. Can’t get much sillier than having to golf and surf at the same time. Duke took it all in stride. (LAPL)


The famous LAAC pool in Duke’s day.

During his first visits to Los Angeles, Duke was usually put up at the Los Angeles Athletic Club where he enjoyed swimming in the club’s enormous swimming tank and palling around with the many well-known athletes and young Hollywood stars who resided there. During the 1920’s and into the 1930’s, Duke found more spacious quarters at the home of his good friend Leslie A. Henry in a large house on Rimpau Boulevard near 8th Street. Henry, known to his friends as L.A. Henry, was a prominent local bonds dealer also extremely active in athletics, serving as chairman of the board of governors of the LA Athletic Club, president of the AAU, as well as serving on the U.S. Olympic Committee. Ironically, Henry’s house lacked a swimming pool, but Duke had ready access to the large tank at the LAAC and the plunge at the Hollywood Athletic Club, which Duke was given the honor of inaugurating on January 12, 1924 . And, of course, he had the nearby waters of the Pacific.

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It is a bit of a challenge to pin down exactly what style Frank Meline had in mind when he designed 824 South Rimpau. Kind of Spanish, sort of Italian. Maybe. But charming nonetheless. (Dee Cappelli)

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(Dee Cappelli)

By the early 1930’s, Kahanamoku left Hollywood to return to his native Hawaii, where he became its most revered citizen and goodwill ambassador. For more than twenty years he served as Sheriff of Honolulu and after Hawaii became the 50th State in 1959, he was made the State’s official “Ambassador of Aloha.” Kahanamoku died at the age of seventy-seven, just three weeks after greeting Hawaii’s one-millionth visitor.


Duke steered clear of the altar until he was 50, but when he did get hitched he made it a good one. In 1940 he married the lovely Nadine Alexander. It was a union that would end only with Duke’s death in 1968. Does Nadine know how to pose like a lady or what?


Cool at any age. The Sheriff of Honolulu.(

Today, there are many memorials and monuments to Duke Kahanamoku on the Hawaiian Islands, but all too few stateside. Along with the historic and famous Los Angeles Athletic Club, the old house on Rimpau is one of the most significant sites in Los Angeles that can still be linked to the legendary swimmer and surf rider, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku.


The Duke Kahanamoku Statue on Oahu (

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Save the Date – May 13, 2013 for Aaroe Architectural #22 John Parkinson Presentation!

This Monday, May 13th you are cordially invited to attend the latest presentation of the Aaroe Architectural Education Series. This one is going to really be great too. Stephen Gee, author of the brand new John Parkinson, Architect of Los Angeles, will be giving a very informative and well illustrated talk on Parkinson, one of the most significant architects in Los Angeles history. You won’t want to miss this one. And he will be signing copies of his new book afterwards. Here’s your official invite.e1366927883_56

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