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The Factory, A Former Gay Club And Camera Manufacturing Plant, Eligible For Historical Status

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Los Angeles's cultural history and booming real estate development are at an impasse, yet again. This time, in West Hollywood.

The Factory, an historic camera manufacturing facility turned pioneering gay club, is facing redevelopment into a 250-key hotel with retail and parking spaces, notes WeHoville. The project, dubbed Robertson Lane, is being proposed by Faring Capital and may reorient the current structure to allow for a paseo connecting Robertson Boulevard to La Peer Drive, continues Curbed LA.

However, the West Hollywood Heritage Project has been fighting to save the historic building, and has recently announced that the U.S. National Park Service has deemed The Factory site eligible for listing on the National Registry of Historic Places. The listing would make The Factory the first site on the West Coast to honor LGBTQ history.

“The Factory is a trove of important and multi-layered history that simply cannot be replaced," Stephanie Meeks, CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said. The Factory has proven many times over its history that it can successfully evolve with changing times to serve a variety of uses. As West Hollywood plans its future, this is just the type of place to protect and preserve, not destroy.”

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According to the Trust, The Factory is noted for two historical periods. First, between 1929 and 1946, when The Factory was first built "to accommodate the booming success of the Mitchell Camera Corporation. Mitchell Cameras revolutionized filmmaking and continued to influence camera technology until the digital era arrived in the early 2000s."

Then again between 1974 and 1993, when it was converted into Studio One.

Founded by a Beverly Hills optometrist and openly gay man, Studio One provided a place for gay men to socialize and proudly and openly celebrate their identity while being entertained by the likes of Patti LaBelle, Joan Rivers and Liza Minnelli. As such, it was associated with the gay rights movement throughout its history. When the AIDS epidemic hit in the early 1980s, for example, one of the nation’s first major fundraisers took place at Studio One.

However, Studio One is not without its detractors. Some have criticized the club for its discriminatory door screening process.

"Studio One doormen subjected African-Americans to a different admission requirement than whites, echoing Jim Crow," Don Kilhefner wrote in a 2016 op-ed for WeHoville. He added that African-Americans were required to show two forms of I.D. to doormen, while Whites were sometimes able to enter without any I.D. at all.

In lieu of pending historical status, Jason Illoulian of Faring Capital told Curbed, “We are committed to restoring The Factory and bringing it back to its glory days.” The firm's plans for the project call for 60% preservation of the building.

“Our plans remain the same," he continued, adds WeHoville, "and we look forward to restoring the building.”