Category Archives: America’s Cities

Bekins storage in Hollywood

Throwback Thursday: Bekins in Southern California

Since 1891, Bekins Van Lines has been a leader of innovation in the household-goods moving industry. Throughout Bekins rich history, the specialization in storage became a primary service, especially in Los Angeles and its surrounding areas. For a special throwback Thursday, here is an article from the LA Times in 1989. Looking back how Bekins changed the storage business as well as the South California landscape.

Bekins: A Storehouse of History
LA Times
March 01, 1989
Leon Whiteson

They rise like medieval castle keeps above busy Southern California intersections. Their steep blank sides, relieved by rows of small windows, give no clue to the activities behind their fortress-like walls. Only the skyline signs reading Bekins Storage reveal the mundane purpose of these muscular architectural landmarks.

The era of the grand Bekins castles is past, along with the grandeur of the service that moved America when the entire country seemed to be shifting West. But as the company’s late president intended, Bekins’ powerful buildings stand as permanent landmarks on our changing urban landscape.

According to contemporaries, Milo Bekins believed that “moving is the American way.” He also believed that customers entrusting their personal possessions to Bekins needed the sense of reassurance offered by solidly built warehouses located on prominent sites. In a young and rapidly expanding city such as Los Angeles, where so many buildings seemed flimsy and transitory, he decided that his structures for temporary storage would appear unshakably permanent.

Bekins built its first reinforced concrete warehouses in the 1920s and ’30s. A prime example of its architectural style is the 55-year-old building at 929 S. Brand Blvd. in Glendale, a solid oblong box that towers seven stories high.

Bekins Santa MonicaAt street level, the arches of a recessed arcade mark a regular rhythm between the slender vertical columns that rise to the roof and end in finials resembling little dunce caps. Between the main columns are small pilasters that form frilly edges to the concrete cliff at top and bottom. Tiny windows make the building appear even bulkier, increasing its presence on the street.

Yet another landmark warehouse, an eight-story castle built in 1929, is located at the corner of Pico and Crenshaw boulevards. A ground-floor arcade houses a row of shops, including Bekins’ furniture sales division, and arches are two stories high, allowing light to filter into second-floor offices.

In its heyday the Bekins Co. owned more than 100 storage buildings in 14 states. In an attempt to streamline its operations in the face of stiff competition, Bekins began selling off its real estate in the early 1980s. By 1983, when purchased by Minstar Inc. of Minneapolis, Minn., Bekins’ stock of warehouses had been reduced to 55.

Founded in 1891

Bekins Van Lines was founded in 1891 in Sioux City, Iowa, by two young Dutch immigrant brothers, Martin and John Bekins. Martin moved west four years later, first to Omaha, Neb., and then Los Angeles. In 1895 the brothers organized the first transcontinental move from Sioux City to Los Angeles, and opened an office here in an old van at the corner of 2nd and Main streets.

bekins-storageOne year later, Martin Bekins owned six horse-drawn vans and a one-story brick storage building at 360 S. Alameda St. A five-story reinforced concrete building was later built on the site and still stands alongside the original warehouse.

The Bekinses were innovators in the moving and storage business. The first company in the West to specialize in household goods, Bekins later pioneered the concept of containerized storage. In 1903, Martin Bekins introduced the “side-winder” gasoline-powered moving truck to Los Angeles.

Martin’s son, Milo, took over as Bekins chairman in 1927, and built the company into the largest operation of its kind in the world. In the 1950s, 1,000 Bekins vans rolled across the country, serving a restless post-World War II population moving from the cities to the suburbs, and from one suburb to another.

A Simple Formula

The pre-World War II Bekins buildings were designed by structural engineers rather than architects. The vaguely Italianate style of decoration, featuring mini-pilasters and curly roof lines, was culled from the contemporary architectural pattern books popular among designers at the time. An example of the style can be seen at the 511 S. Fair Oaks Ave. warehouse in Pasadena.

Bekins buildings had a simple structural and design formula. Columns were spaced in 26-foot bays under 12-foot ceilings. At the rear were one or two high doors for loading and unloading goods. Ground floor frontages were glassed-in for small shops or offices. Big metal signs displaying the company name dominated the skyline.

LABekinsSMBThe warehouses have stored an extraordinary range of personal items over the decades, from cases of monocles to the Pentagon Papers. The latter, a top-secret study of U.S. military involvement in Indochina, was stored in the Bekins Beverly Hills warehouse at 215 S. Canon Drive, in “several metal handcases, a footlocker, 18 book volumes, a large cardboard carton and a large carton file,” according to an affidavit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

In the 1940s and ’50s, the style of the Bekins buildings changed. In keeping with the undecorated modernist fashion then coming into vogue, the warehouses became plainer and squatter.

Typically Featureless

The 1943 four-story concrete warehouse at 35 W. Huntington Drive in Arcadia, a similar design at 2101 E. Carson Street in Long Beach, and the 1953 five-story building at 1425 Holt Blvd. in Pomona are examples of the slab-sided, featureless and almost windowless blocks typical of this period.

The company also bought warehouses built by other storage companies. The 11-story Hollywood Storage Co. building at 1025 N. Highland Ave. was the tallest structure in Hollywood when erected in 1925. It was purchased by Bekins in 1939. And in 1943, a nine-story structure at 3625 S. Grand Ave., built in 1924 by the Birch-Smith Storage Co., was added to Bekins real estate inventory.

The original article can be found here: http://articles.latimes.com/1989-03-01/news/vw-725_1_bekins-vans

RichmondVA_Skyline

Happiness is in Richmond, Virginia

Want to move to the happiest place in the country? Looks like you are headed to Richmond, Virginia!

According to the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research, Richmond, Va. was ranked as the “most contented area in the country” and contented equals happiness. What makes Richmond the most contented place in the country?

Fellow Richmonder, Teresa Bonifas, explained why she thought they were ranked as the most contented place in the country. “The best thing about Richmond is there is always something to do at any given time. The southern charm and history of Richmond along with the many festivals, restaurants, outdoor activities and central location will make anyone fall in love with this city.” Bonifas continued, “Richmond is a place where people say please and thank you and give an appreciative wave when driving while also coming together to support the city’s many programs.”

Here are some other facts from visitrichmondva.com:

  • Richmond has hot summers and generally mild winters.
  • In September 2007, Richmond was ranked the third-best city for business by MarketWatch.
  • The Richmond Region has more than 18,000 hotel rooms and 900 restaurants with prices to fit every budget. They also have a growing food truck and craft brewery scene.
  • Richmond is located along the James River, which offers bike trails, hiking and nature trails, various water sports and scenic overlooks.
  • Several colleges and universities call Richmond home, including Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and University of Richmond.
  • Richmond has a long, rich history, including being the capital of the confederacy in the Civil War. Richmond offers several Civil War attractions throughout the area.
  • There are six Fortune 500 companies that are headquartered in the Richmond Region, which is among the top 15 cities in the nation with the most Fortune 500 company headquarters.
  • The Region hosts a variety of sporting events throughout the year, including two NASCAR races and Dominion Riverrock, and is home to minor league sports teams Richmond Flying Squirrels (baseball) and Richmond Kickers (soccer).
  • There are more than 80 attractions in the Richmond Region. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Henricus Historical Park, the James River, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Kings Dominion and numerous Civil War sites are just a small sampling of all the Region has to offer.
  • Parenting.com named Richmond as “America’s healthiest city and one of the best cities for families” in 2010.
  • Trail Runner ranked Richmond as one of the nation’s “Top Seven Cities for Trail Runners” in 2009.
  • MovieMaker named Richmond one of the nation’s “Top 10 Cities for Filmmakers” in 2011.
  • Forbes.com ranked Richmond as one of the nation’s “100 Best Bang-For-The-Buck Cities” in 2009.

Richomonders have a lot to be proud of and have no problem showing it. “Richmonders love showing their pride whether it is displaying a RVA sticker on their car, flying a U of R flag on their house, or walking down the street in VCU apparel,” Bonifas said.

Below is the top ten list of the “Most Contented Area in the Country. ”For more about the Happiest and Unhappiest places in the country,visit http://www.cbsnews.com/news/passage-the-happiest-and-unhappiest-cities/
1.    Richmond-Petersburg, Va.
2.    Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News, Va.
3.    Washington, D.C.
4.    Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
5.    Atlanta, Ga.
6.    Houston, Texas
7.    Jacksonville, Fla.
8.    Nashville, Tenn.
9.    West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, Fla.
10.    Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, N.J.

References:

http://www.visitrichmondva.com/media/media-kit/fastfacts/

http://www.richmond.com/city-life/article_eb55921e-1270-11e4-aa55-0017a43b2370.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/passage-the-happiest-and-unhappiest-cities/