Issue: Summer 2018
Hollywood in Miniature Returns
By Olga Clark, Photos by Kevin Jordan
You could probably call it a “travelling exhibition” because it’s traveled extensively since it was first displayed or even a “monumental” art project—in miniature. However, whatever it might be called, now, thanks to Hollywood Heritage, it is Hollywood’s newest attraction.
Originally created by Joe Pellkofer, a master cabinetmaker, the Hollywood In Miniature was backed by some Hollywood business men with Leon Bayard de Volo and Dino S. Alessi as supervising directors of the construction. To keep his master craftsmen busy in 1936 slack periods, Pellkofer had them re-create detailed street scenes of Hollywood with its landmark theaters, churches, billboards, businesses and neighborhoods. Surrounding the entire city is a painted cyclorama mural of the Hollywood Hills and surrounding areas.
The Paramount Pictures studio, much as it looked like in 1946. It was originally displayed to everyone’s delight in the 1946. It was an immediate sensation and requests to exhibit came from across the country and abroad. Pelloker packed it up and even designed special trucks to transport the exhibit. At one point in Oregon, the exhibits were stolen turning up in North Carolina. In 1947, the miniatures were placed in a permanent exhibit on the Million Dollar Pier in Atlantic City until Pellkofer decided to take them on the road again. Growing tired of travel, he decided if he couldn’t find a home for the miniatures in Hollywood, where they belonged, he would bring them back to California and lock them in his barn— they stayed there for 37 years.
Restoration takes concentration and attention to detail.
Photo by Kevin JordanIn the mid-80s, president and founder of Hollywood Heritage, Marian Gibbons, embarked on an ambitious project to return the miniatures to Hollywood after being contacted by Pellkofer’s grandson, John Accornero. What she saw astounded her: 45 blocks of Hollywood including 450 buildings, all built to scale, 11 feet wide by 12 feet. An electrical cycle took the city from dawn to dusk, when lights glowed in the buildings, with street lamps and cars of the era. There was a replica of the Malibu film colony, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood Bowl and the Paramount Pictures lot.
Donna Williams puts finishing touches on tiny structures.
Photo by Kevin JordanThe exhibit got some attention but the resources to continue didn’t come. When the Hollywood Entertainment Museum found a new home in the Hollywood Galaxy across from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the exhibit was installed under plexiglass where It remained until the museum closed in 2007. After that it went on the auction block and disappeared—again.
Informed that Hollywood Heritage had acquired the Miniatures, former museum director Phyllis Caskey exclaimed, “I am elated! Of everything that had to go, it was the loss of that exhibit that broke my heart.”
The miniatures are now living at the Hollywood Heritage DeLongpre* Annex which is located at 6411 Hollywood Blvd. It was there, at a recent unveiling prior to beginning its full restoration, it quickly became apparent that although true to scale, the Hollywood In Miniature Exhibit was not exactly true to location. Although capturing most of its noted buildings, many still easily recognizable today, they had been placed according to the artist’s eye, not reality’s eye. A few of the accompanying miniatures have either been destroyed or not yet found. In addition to the main Hollywood exhibit, the Paramount Pictures lot miniatures still exists and was the first to be restored.
Visitors are fascinated with the diminutive cityscape.The exhibit can be seen as part of the Hollywood Entertainment District’s “Old Hollywood Walking Tour”. For more information please visit:
You can watch the work of materials arts conservator Donna Williams who is at the most weekends with her brushes and glue faithfully bringing the exhibit back to life.
At 80, 30 years ago, Pellkofer said of his display “I built it just because I felt like it. And because Hollywood is Hollywood. It’s magic. You could pick any other city and who would care? But Hollywood in the 40s was still a live city. It was really alive. That’s why we built Hollywood. Hollywood was known all over the world. It still is.”
It still is and it still is a work of art…and a work in progress. Being restored.
Editor’s Note: Named for noted artist Paul DeLongpre whose home and extensive gardens formerly stood on this site in 1904. Special thanks to Hollywood Heritage’s Bryan Cooper for his assistance with this article.