CNS – The Felix Chevrolet showroom and neon roof sign in downtown Los Angeles may be local landmarks, but the Los Angeles City Council has declined to designate the site as a historic cultural monument.
The Cultural Heritage Commission recommended the sign be designated a cultural monument to protect it from being torn down. But the city Planning Commission made no similar recommendation, and on Oct. 10 the City Council declined to act, in effect rejecting the proposal, which had been opposed by the dealership’s owner.
“We built the sign and we maintain it,” said Darryl Holter. “We’ve never made any plans to demolish the sign, or do anything with the sign or the showroom. What we’re trying to do is keep the business going and look to the future.”
Holter said the designation could pose an unnecessary burden on the family in the event the business is ever sold.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district includes the dealership, opposed the historic-sign designation because they believed it could impede major development projects along the Figueroa corridor.
Charlie Fisher was one of the people who sought to protect the showroom and roof sign.
“The showroom and the sign are the true historic icons of this property. They are a history not only of (dealership owners) Winslow B. Felix and Nick Shammas, they’re also the history of the Tupman brothers who preceded them with their Ford dealership.”
The property is the oldest of three notable auto showrooms in Los Angeles, according to city officials. The others are Lou Ehlers Cadillac on Wilshire Boulevard and Casa de Cadillac on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks.
The council’s three-member Planning and Land Use Management Committee could not reach an agreement Oct. 2 on whether the showroom and sign are historic, and sent the proposal to the full council without a recommendation. The Cultural Heritage Commission had recommended approval of the designation.
The commission called the showroom at Jefferson Boulevard and Figueroa Street an example of “mid-20th century modern commercial architecture and monumental neon-signage design.” The property also reflects the growth of the auto industry in Los Angeles, the commission found.
The dealership was designed by Richard King in 1920 as a showroom for Tupman Motors. The building was remodeled in 1946 and sold to Nickolas N. Shammas, the owner of Felix Chevrolet, 12 years later. Holter is Shammas’ son- in-law.
The neon roof sign, designed by Wayne E. Heath, was added in 1959, and costs about $1,300 a month to maintain.