Monday, October 22, 2012

The May Company, Movie Museums and the Colorado Connection

An iconic building in Los Angeles is getting new life as a movie museum. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the folks who bring us Oscar), has met its initial

fund-raising goal of $100 Million to convert the old May, Co. building on Wilshire Boulevard at Fairfax (in the Miracle Mile) into a museum dedicated to the history and ongoing development of motion pictures.

This is a great building, built in 1938 in the Streamline Moderne style. The building is owned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art which will lease the building to the Academy under a 55-year lease with a 55-year option to renew.

The Academy needs to raise an additional $150 Million to complete the project and create an endowment that will support the museum’s operations. Annette Bening and Tom Hanks, co-chair the fundraising effort which began this year. I am proud to note that my union SAG-AFTRA has contributed to this effort (the building is just down the street from the SAG-AFTRA offices). The museum is expected to open in 2016.

Ahh, the May, Co.

The building that will become the movie museum was part of the May, Co chain in southern California. But the May, Co actually got its start in Colorado. It was founded in 1877 by David May in Leadville, CO during the Silver Rush. May moved his headquarters to Denver in 1889. Eventually the company relocated its headquarters to St. Louis, MO in 1905 and then incorporated as the May Department Stores Company.

In 1956 May Company acquires The Daniels & Fisher Company (of the Daniels & Fisher Clock tower on the 16th Street Mall at Arapahoe Street) and becomes the May D&F division of May department stores.

The flag ship May D&F store in Colorado was at 16th Street and Court Place. Built in 1960 on what was then called Courthouse Square or Zeckendorf Plaza it was designed by

noted architect, I.M Pei. It was part of a mixed use complex with a 22 story deluxe hotel with convention facilities, the four story department story, and a public plaza which became an ice-skating rink in the winter. The hotel connected to the department store through a second story pedestrian bridge over Court Place. That is still the case.

When the hotel part of the complex opened in 1961, it was a Hilton. In 1985 it became a Radisson and then in 1995, Fred Kummer bought the hotel and made it part of his Adams Mark chain. Two years later, he demolished the May D&F store and in its place built an addition to the hotel. Kummer sold the property and in 2008 it became a Sheraton.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding Kummer’s ownership of the two buildings, not the least of which was the destruction of the iconic May D&F building.

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