Starting the New Year with Historical Awards

The Beverly Hills Cultural Heritage Commission kicked off 2022 by finalizing its three newest selections for the Golden Shield Award during its first regular meeting of the year on Jan. 12. The Golden Shield has been the city’s way of recognizing culturally significant landmarks in Beverly Hills since 2019.

The latest nominees include the former sites of Pixie Town children’s clothing store on Beverly Drive, Hans Ohrt bicycle shop at Camden Drive and S. Santa Monica Boulevard, and the Francis-Orr stationery store on Beverly Drive.

The Golden Shield is a ceremonial award that is not given to recognize anyone, but a commemoration made in an effort to preserve the historical significance of the city’s geography. The physical award includes a plaque that is publicly installed on the sidewalk at each chosen location. The plaques carry a brief inscription about the historical significance of the landmarks.

Just south of Brighton Way on Beverly Drive, the former site of Pixie Town is currently occupied by Scotch & Soda apparel. Pixie Town was established at the location in 1950 by Jean Earle, according to the City’s historic consultant. It was the go-to stop for children’s designer clothing for many decades.

While the store offered a variety of clothing for boys, Pixie Town specialized in girl’s clothing for children of all ages, from infants to pre-teens. It often catered to elite Hollywood families with custom orders, alterations and other boutique services.

“My father and I were quite the consumers at Pixie Town,” said Cultural Heritage Commission Vice Chair Kimberly Reiss during a Nov. 4 meeting. “I can look at photographs and still see what we purchased from there and know it very well.”

The former site of Hans Ohrt Lightweight Bicycles on the corner of Camden Drive and S. Santa Monica Boulevard is now a bank, but the bike shop, founded by cyclist Hans Ohrt in 1949, served the Beverly Hills Community for almost 40 years.

A sign that once hung over the outside main entrance at Ohrt’s shop read, “My notion is that mankind would be better mortals if they all rode bicycles,” according to a city report.

“I just continue to be struck by the sign that hung over the store,” said Commissioner Marc Teren. “And certainly, with the times that we’re facing, with climate change and other things, it’s probably more relevant than ever.”

Teren added that the combination of Ohrt’s history as an athlete, and the fact that he opened the store at retirement age, was an interesting backstory that helped inspire him to nominate the location for the award.

Francis-Orr Stationery was one of the first female-owned businesses in Beverly Hills and operated in the city for nearly 100 years. The original location was opened in 1924 by founders Estelle Francis and Estella Orr. It was located on Beverly Drive at the current site of an elevator lobby to a city owned parking structure. Curtis Guss and his wife “Annelle” Mullis Guss bought the store in 1959. It changed locations but the store remained a Guss family business until it closed in 2018.

The store once served stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, including Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, according to a city report.

“I have memories from there,” said Commissioner Jill Collins. “She was a woman that was in business for many years. I think that’s important to bring up.”

Collins added that the sheer number of years the business was open makes Francis-Orr a prime candidate for a Golden Shield Award.

The commission’s three nominees will now go to Beverly Hills City Council for final approval. While the Golden Shields have so far been awarded to locations inside the Business Triangle, the city is working to grow the program, with new candidates being named on a regular basis.

“I think they can go beyond the Business Triangle at this point for other interesting commercial areas of the city, or even residential areas,” said Commission Chair Craig Corman. “I think we can cast the net a little wider now. So hopefully we can get a lot more suggestions, and we can start bringing back some fresh new suggestions in other areas of the city to start expanding the program.”

Locations now under consideration for future awards include the sites of Hunter’s Books, Uncle Bernie’s Toy Menagerie, Kerr Sport Shop, Don Loper Boutique, Brighton Coffee Shop and Sun Lumber Company.

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