Beverly Hills project combines preservation with expansion
Looking to the future as well as honouring the past, the Beverly Hills Cultural Center Foundation broke ground recently on the new Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts at the historic Beverly Hills Post Office. The project is stated for completion in late 2012.
Designed by Zoltan Pali of SPF: Architects of Culver City, California, the new centre calls for a renovation of Beverly Hill’s historic post office into performing arts centre and hub for the city’s cultural programs. The historic, Depression-era building will be renovated and the spaces that were once used for mail sorting and postage purchases will be redesigned to include a theatre school, a flexible studio theatre, sculpture garden, café and gift shop. Complementing the historic building will be the new 500-seat contemporary Goldsmith Theater.
The historic landmark Post Office building is the cornerstone of Beverly Hills' business triangle. Facing Santa Monica Boulevard, between Crescent and Canon drives and is listed on listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1933, the Post Office was constructed as a Work Projects Administration (WPA) project on the site of the former Pacific Electric Railway Station. Prominent local architect, Ralph C. Flewelling, in concert with Allison & Allison Architects, received the architectural commission for the Italian Renaissance Revival-style building, which complemented the design of the adjacent City Hall.
Artist Charles Kassler adorned the walls of the Great Hall fresco murals depicting the creation of the mail service and views of modern life during the Depression. These murals are one of only two fresco murals in California.
Following the decision in 1993 by the United States Postal Service to vacate and sell the building to the City of Beverly Hills, the Beverly Hills Cultural Center Foundation was awarded a long-term lease by the City Council in 1999 with a specific mandate to raise the necessary funds for the building, restoration and operation of a new Cultural Center.
The groundbreaking event also featured an exhibition featuring contents from the 1933 time capsule, discovered as preparations began for groundbreaking was also on display. The small copper box contained a collection of documents, indicative of the economic, sociopolitical, and cultural climate of the nation at that time.