In the 1930s, a Montgomery Ward department store stood on the corner of South Pacific Avenue and Seventh Street in San Pedro. Today, the art deco building still stands, but it is now home to Patti Kraakevik and her partner, George Woytovich, who have renovated the building into three art galleries and a residence packed with art deco items.
Usually the large building in the city's historic arts district is quiet, and solely occupied by the couple, who run their real estate business from the downstairs office. But once a month, during San Pedro’s First Thursdays Art Walk, the couple graciously opens the downstairs galleries and basement to the public.
“We typically have anywhere from 150 to 200 people come through for a First Thursday,” Woytovich says.
On these nights, art enthusiasts stroll through the various sections of their home. Three downstairs art galleries — a large one that takes up the corner of the building, the other two on either side of it — are rented out to local artists, who get a chance to showcase their work on First Thursdays.
Kraakevik and Woytovich used to open up to the public their upstairs penthouse residence — where most of the art deco antiques are — but now, according to Woytovich, “It gets out of hand.”
“Well, I [used to] tell them when they go upstairs not to touch anything because they’ll disturb the dust, and then I have to get serious about it,” Kraakevik jokes.
Still, between the ground-floor galleries and basement, there are hundreds of art deco collectibles to keep people occupied.
The building's south entrance, with classic movie theater steel doors, leads into a vintage movie theater lobby. There's a grand staircase, neon signs, a candy counter, multiple posters of classic movies — such as Creature From the Black Lagoon — and even an original chandelier from the El Capitan Theatre.
Following the stairs down to the basement leads to a photo gallery, Gallery 741, where Woytovich features much of his own photography work, along with old cameras and film reels. The room adjacent is modeled after an old-time speakeasy, complete with a stage, baby grand piano, vintage couches and coffee tables, old lamps and a thick, maroon carpet to tie the cabaret-style room together.
“We’ve had parties down here, birthday parties, poetry readings and jazz groups come in here and perform,” Woytovich says.
But aside from First Thursdays (and private bookings), the speakeasy is used for the sole enjoyment of Kraakevik and Woytovich, who find it the perfect atmosphere for listening to their large collection of classic records.
“The other night, we sat down here with hors d'oeuvres and just listened to the music,” Woytovich says.
Up on the ground floor, when the large corner gallery isn’t being rented out to local artists to showcase their work, Woytovich uses it as his “playpen,” and stores extra or newly acquired art deco items.
“I’m an avid movie memorabilia collector and we collect a whole variety of different items,” Woytovich explains. “What we don’t use in the building, most of it ends up here.”
Within Woytovich’s playpen is what the couple call their “UFO Room.” Filled with radios acquired from Kraakevik’s late father, the small room is set up to resemble a small airport radio-control room.
“He has a switch that he does and you hear all these sounds like ‘Woo-ooo,’ “ Kraakevik says, impersonating a whirring UFO sound. “It’s really a kick.”
The couple began their extensive art deco collection after coming across a 1940s Wurlitzer jukebox in the 1980s. This jukebox now sits upstairs in their penthouse residence, refurbished and completely functional.
The penthouse is also where they keep some of their more alluring collectables: an old Otis birdcage elevator, which they found in a salvage yard in Chicago; a 1920s “Auto Skooter,” a popular bumper car model from the Lusse Brothers; and the original revolving doors into the Westclox Factory Building, the historic Illinois clock manufacturing building and state landmark, which was destroyed in a fire in 2012. The curved glass doors, wood and brass have been restored to a near-perfect state, and are used as the doorway to the couple's bathroom area.
Kraakevik and Woytovich often find things to add to their collection on the Internet, or at antique stores. According to Woytovich, the two try to acquire collectibles that they can use around their home. They use most of their deco furniture every day. In fact, the couple had their entire kitchen remodeled to be art deco, and it's used to host cooking shows for local cable-access channels.
“Most of this stuff just sort of happened — we don't cast ourselves out there to find something specific,” Woytovich says. “It just sort of calls out to us and then we buy it.”
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