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Oxy & The Kid

December 8, 2009

Came across this gem of Highland Park history the other day while searching Google Videos for something. I started watching Charles Chaplin’s 1921 silent motion picture, The Kid that is uploaded in its entirety (including an option for Esperanto subtitles).  In the very first scene is a building used as a Charity Hospital where the mother of The Kid emerges with her child.

This Charity Hospital looks familiar. The doorway, the columns, the bricks, the windows. I have seen this before. Could this be the former Occidental College building at 121 North Avenue 50 built by Myron Hunt around 1900? Why, yes it is!

Occidental College, on Avenue 50 in Highland Park, 1904.

When the movie was filmed in 1920, this building had already been abandoned by Occidental College six years prior when the school moved to Eagle Rock. This becomes obvious seeing the re-naturalized state of the yard in the screen-shot, and if you look closely, there’s evidence of a few rocks thrown through the upper windows. (Those darn Highland Park kids!)

There are some other recognizable sights in the movie such as the Colorado Street Bridge over the Arroyo Seco, AKA “Suicide Bridge.” Where the mother in the picture contemplates, what else, Suicide. The slum scenes are filmed at the once heavy industrial neighborhood around Olvera street & Alameda Street before it became Union Station, freeways, and a Mexican-themed tourist attraction. But this was quite a surprise to see a place in our neighborhood in a film from 90 years ago. Watch the first ten minutes for yourself!

The doorway from The Kid in 1920, as an apartment building in 2007.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Nimby permalink
    December 8, 2009 9:42 am

    Great post. Just watched the film the other night and was wanting to know where it was photographed. Thanks!

  2. mfree permalink
    December 8, 2009 10:53 am

    Great post!
    I’m curious, did this building get torn down? I drive 50th every day enroute to the freeway and haven’t spotted it? Did it sit on the now open lot at 50th where the train crosses?

    • Bob Bailey permalink
      May 11, 2013 9:31 am

      Since you drive down 50th you would never see it as it’s on N Ave 50.

  3. Keith Malone permalink
    December 8, 2009 11:27 am

    The building is still there, but it’s behind a grouping of small bungalows and an auto repair shop on the corner. If you stand back a ways, you can see the building. It’s definitely there.

  4. Br1 permalink
    December 8, 2009 5:10 pm

    When the Space Ark gallery was around the folks that lived there claimed it had been owned by Chaplin and had been one of his studios. Has anyone ever heard that?

  5. carol permalink
    December 8, 2009 9:01 pm

    The most unobstructed view is probably from the parking lot of the market across
    Figueroa. But better yet, you can go walk around it and go in it. From the front doors clear through to the back doors is open lobby area, There are what looks like the original open staircases going up to the other floors.

    LA Conservancy includes the building in their area walking tours. Its currently used as an apartment building. If anyone asks , just tell them that you have an historical interest in the building.

  6. December 9, 2009 2:16 pm

    Does the roof remain as ornate as it did 90 years past? I’m going to check it out.

    • Zachary Taylor permalink
      September 1, 2014 3:51 pm

      The roof has been changed however you can access it from inside onto a fire escape ladder, really cool! My mother in law lives there.

  7. Tina permalink
    February 26, 2011 8:06 am

    It is the old Occidental College building. The Highand Park Hertitage Trust has taken over the walking tours from the Conservancy. The building is a HCM (Historic Cultural Monument) nominated by the HPHT as the remaining two floors are originally intact. The building had a fire at some point and lost the third story so the roofline is gone. And what is left are apartments that are lived in that were once the class rooms of the college. Signal films was one of a handful of film studios that shot in Highland Park at this time. Join the HPHT for their walking tours…

  8. December 8, 2011 12:14 am

    Hi there I love to know the history of highland park I feel something nice went I see all of the pictures I was living in from of 121 n.ave 50 for the 15 years and I didn’t know about the oxy everytime I see it I star thinking about the past,I love it 🙂

  9. Zachary Taylor permalink
    September 1, 2014 3:49 pm

    My mother in law lives in that building now, she has told my wife and I stories of her ” seeing ” a man, in green work clothes, large key ring, haunting the hallways at this building. Also, a neighbor of hers tells os hearing children outside her door playing, late at night. The neighbor has called the on property manager to complain. When he looked at the security camera there is no one there!

  10. MaryStilwell permalink
    February 5, 2021 3:11 pm

    Jackie Coogan in the kid with Charlie Chaplin made his first communion with my mom about 1922/23 at St Brendan’s Catholic Church in LA/Hollywood. He gave her a rose.

    Mary Stilwell

  11. Mary Stilwell permalink
    February 5, 2021 3:31 pm

    Mom and rose from Jackie Coogan.


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