Walking out of Masa tonight after dinner, I look up and was thrilled to see some light shine on the top of the historic Jensen’s Recreation Center in Echo Park. The 1924 Jensen building is a great piece of Echo Park history and architecture, and the 28 feet wide x 17 feet tall sign has 1300 red, green and white incandescent light bulbs (which not many existing signs in the area have any more since neon became popular in the 1920s).
In 1997, after 50 years of neglect and the sign unlit, it was restored and re-lit through a cultural affairs grant. We’re not exactly sure how long the sign was lighting up the Rec Center roof, but we do know it was fixed and re-lit again in 2005. However, that lasted only one month, and the sign has been dark ever since.
The relighting you see now is a part of some testing being done to check what needs to be repaired, according to an article Monday on The Eastsider LA. The relighting has been made possible by a $5,000 LA County Historic Preservation Society grant through the Echo Park Historical Society. Echo Park residents, fans of history, and Echo Park Improvement Association members have also privately donated to fix and maintain the sign as well. And in October 2010, Greater Elysian Echo Park Neighborhood Council approved the allocation of $2,500 to the Historical Society for the restoration.
With this new development comes the question: When will the Jensen’s Recreation Sign lighting officially happen?
Hopefully we’ll find out soon, and the fundraising continues! Visit the Echo Park Historical Society website for more information and to donate.
Also, a comment on The Eastsider LA article intrigued us: “What a waste of tax payer dollars we can’t afford to throw away!!!!! Way are we the public paying to improve a privately held commerical building.???? how is the public or community being helped out. ????”
I suppose technically the money allocated by the GEPENC is technically tax-payer, but, like most funds allocated by the neighborhood council, it was put to a vote. In addition, we do appreciate historical parts of our community here in Echo Park, and this building is officially Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument No. 652. There’s even remnants of an Egyptian themed mural in what once was the bowling alley of Jensen’s Rec Center that still exists (the Historical Society gave a tour in March).
But it can’t be done without grants and donations from community members and organizations, and for those we say hooray.