GUEST BLOG: Wow, The Real-Life Birthplace of The Enterprise - TODAY
By Larry Nemecek - February 27, 2014
Buddy Dayton Ward's reposting of this iconic 1964 photo with a reminder of the 49th birthday of the "real" NCC-1701 recently was a great kick in the butt to get something done I'd meant to do for years.
Meant to, in fact, ever since we had first published that photo and many more 13 years ago in a great piece by model historian William McCullars in the old Communicator (#132). It was a piece that made me realize once again that, duh, we do live in SoCal here—and that once again the future "San Francisco" had again been faked for Star Trek. About a mile from me.
For just as, say, the Bird-of-Prey "Bounty" had really set down on Will Rogers' polo field in ST IV, not Golden Gate Park... so too were the Starfleet "San Francisco Navy Yards" actually located at ... 104 E. Providencia in Burbank. That, you see, was the 1964 location of Volmer Jensen's Production Models Shop ... and the location of that iconic photo above, snapped on the occasion as primary model contractor Richard C. Datin (at left in photo) took delivery of the 11-footer for Howard A. Anderson Effects and Desilu.
I had been meaning for years to go over, scout the area, and try to recreate the angles in that now-famous photo—and another couple more we had from William but didn't publish. It was Dec. 30, only a day later and about the same long-shadowed time of late afternoon.
What I found... was astounding. Compare for yourself—12/29/64 vs. 12/30/13:
The distant church, the midground building on left, and especially the motel and the brick-topped short stucco sidewalk wall at right are all intact and obviously visible. Even the sidewalk and many phone/power poles appear to be the same. Changes in trim, doors and windows plugged since 1964—all can be picked out.
This second UNPUBLISHED photo (aside from William's now-gone website), which has a bit of Jensen's shop sign, gets an updated angle too. The dang modern green-screened gate is in the way, but try to look past it and see the short stucco "fence" turn back anyway. I was staring into a late afternoon sun-blanked MacBook monitor for reference, so my angle is not as true as I'd like; I should have been further left into the street, but hey:
There is no photo (to my knowledge) of Jensen's shop head-on, but here's the angle of what's there today (right): a tile and flooring shop, where I met the owner's brother Tony—who was well aware of the historic nature of his brother's little enterprise. They had not received many pilgrims like me, but the notoriety of the place had been handed down from neighbors and prior owners.
All these pics are another good reminder why both Tonight Show's Johnny Carson and Laugh-In writers thought the irony of a 1960s global media capital with a "Mayberry" downtown was too much to pass up—and so "Beautiful Downtown Burbank" was as much a local joke as a worldwide catchphrase.
I got by just in time, as Tony reminded me: the downtown modernizing of Burbank since the 1990s now means that a new IKEA and parking lot are going in this year just behind the shop, and a new downtown Hilton is going in across the street —taking out all the surrounding block of old 50s-60s low-story, freeway-adjacent industrial buildings. The building across the street at left and all the low-key use will be gone in a year—as will the flooring shop's neighbors.
Somehow, THIS shop escaped the new IKEA plan buyout... so, like Independence Hall amidst tall downtown Philly, this little Burbank division of Starfleet appears to live on—for now.
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