The gutted interior of the Venice post office was revealed on Wednesday as film producer Joel Silver, the new owner, gave an update on the ongoing building renovations.
Silver, 60, who has funded dozens of blockbusters, including the Matrix movies, Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, finalized the purchase of the historic Venice post office in September, and renovations have begun on the 1939 art deco building that was built under the federal Works Project Administration. It is the last WPA building that remains in Venice.
“If I could dream of a building that would work for us, this would be it,” Silver said. “I’m not going to make fun of Burbank, I was there for 25 years, but let’s just say it was great to be voted off the island.”
Under the agreement with the federal government, Silver must abide to strict restoration standards – the exterior facade will be touched up slightly and include a Silver Pictures company sign. But aside from minor alterations, the outside will look much like it did in 1939, according to Bret Thoeny, the architect.
“This serves as a great example of adaptive reuse for a historic structure,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “Venice Beach has ben inextricably linked to the arts and Joel Silver embodies the heart of Venice.
The post office’s famous 1941 Edward Biberman mural, which depicts Abbot Kinney and his vision, will be restored for about $100,000 under the guidance of conservationist Nathan Zakheim – who has restored murals for over 25 years including the famous Diego Rivera mural in San Francisco’s Coit Tower.
Silver stressed his passion for the arts and architecture. He helped restore the Frank Loyd Wright Storer House in Los Angeles and the Auldbrass Plantation in South Carolina, another Wright masterpiece. He said he came to visit the Venice post office mural when he moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s.
The public will be granted access to the mural, although the exact details are uncertain at this point. But Silver said that anyone who wishes to see it meanwhile can make an appointment and the production company will accommodate the request.
A team of four is restoring the piece and they have been cleaning it for the last month, removing layers of grime that have revealed the painting’s original vibrant colors. Once the cleaning is completed, it will be removed and placed on two sheets of aluminum honeycomb to stabilize it and preserve it for “thousands of years,” according to Zakheim.
“It’s in pristine condition, there is nothing to paint,” he said. “There are a few problems with the painting, but they are not unsurmountable.”
Silver Pictures will also occasionally hold public events and movie screenings. And, organizations can request access to the space for parties and fundraisers. The company is also establishing a 10-week program for high school students that will expose them to every aspect of film production.