Deco Discoveries: Neighborhood Gems Hiding in Plain Sight

Baker Coupling: Herbert's Machinery

ImageWarehouses and factories rarely change their façades to fit prevailing trends in architecture. If the original style is still functional, why go to the expense since it's a part of the business the public rarely sees? Because of this, the industrial sections of the city are full of the Deco styling that was popular when the company first opened its doors.

One of the most delightful examples is to be found at 2929 Santa Fe Avenue. Built for Herberts Machinery and Supply Company, the building, circa 1933, features fluting and zig-zags, but what really sets it apart is the bas relief over the door where the Machine Age collides with Egyptomania in the form of a scarab-winged gear. It could have been carved for Tutankhamen's tomb, if only the pharaohs had the foresight to worship 20th century machinery.

ImageHerberts Machinery was incorporated in 1917. By 1930, president Curtis A. Herbert announced the company's third increase in capitalization in order to keep pace with the growth of industry in Southern California. The company, at that time, represented forty-one of the leading machine tool manufacturers, and was doing an annual business of $1,500,000 in Depression-era dollars. In 1933, they supplied air compressors used for construction of a series of tunnels for the aqueduct, although their biggest press coverage came a year later when they beat out the Richfield Oil Company to take top honors at a Los Angeles trade exposition. Their exhibit, per the Los Angeles Times, "was given over to ponderous machinery, which emitted sparks and roared with the voices of powerful motors as the respective planers, drills, lathes and grinders tore into the fabric of case-hardened steel as though the latter had no more resistance powers than the products of a modern bake shop."

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