One of the most gorgeous old silent-film-era relics in West Hollywood — the Pickfair Studios, on a plot of land known as “The Lot” — just got ruthlessly gouged by a demolition crane.

The redevelopment gore can be blamed on CIM Group, the real-estate investor who owns the historic cluster of buildings. Protesters led by director Allison Anders have been aggressively rallying against the tear-down since early March. But despite their pleas, the first of four buildings reportedly scheduled for demolition…

… fell victim to the claw yesterday afternoon at Santa Monica and Formosa. A video of the gouging is “hard to watch,” says one Facebook commenter.

Indeed. Hard to watch a cornerstone of Hollywood history come undone:

Silent-film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks moved onto “The Lot” in the 1920s to found United Artists, the first artist-run studio. On these 11 sunny acres, OG movie stars like Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith signed onto the golden couple's label and filmed a string of era classics.

Lead protester Anders described the significance of the Pickford building (the old wooden one demolished yesterday) in an email at the end of March:

Mary was the first, maybe only, woman to ever have her own studio lot. Her films, her husband Doug Fairbanks pictures, Mary's brother Jack Pickford's were all made here. In the 1930s, after Mary and Doug divorced, Sam Goldwyn bought in and moved his studio to the lot, and after that Howard Hughes set up shop for awhile, and later most of us knew it as Warner Hollywood studios. Some of the films shot there include — “Robin Hood”, “West Side Story”, “Some Like It Hot” , “Wuthering Heights”, “The Best Years Of Our Lives”…(and I happen to love that the TV show “The Fugitive” was also shot here!)

Despite their loss, protesters say they'll continue to try and block the demolition of three more buildings on the land: the Writers Building, the Fairbanks Building and the Editorial Building.

CIM Group insisted in a press statement a few days ago that it “respects the history of The Lot” and intends to “honor it as part of a thriving studio campus.” More from the company's explanation, with bold added:

All buildings designated as historic will remain. The re-development of The Lot, as has been done successfully at many other Hollywood studios, is necessary for the studio campus to evolve and remain competitive.

The land use, building design, and historic preservation at The Lot, formerly known as the Pickfair Studio, is governed by the Comprehensive Development Plan and Development Agreement adopted by the City of West Hollywood into the city's General Plan in 2007. Consistent with this plan, CIM is beginning the initial phase of the revitalization of The Lot's 11-acre site by removing two non-historic buildings and constructing a new 93,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art media office building designed for production and media companies. This new building is located on the southern portion of the property along the Formosa Avenue perimeter. At every stage of planning and construction, great consideration has been given to not disrupt the sensitive production operations on the property.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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