Historical Background

1927, Francisco Cornejo. Exterior of the Mayan Theater, 1040 S. Hill St.
Francisco Cornejo shared with Diego Rivera a strong interest in his Mexican heritage. But unlike Rivera, who applied his immense talent to create a unique style, Conejo had a more limited goal of reviving pre-Columbian art. Cornejo designed Mayan and Toltec sets and costumes for choreographer Ted Shawn, head of the pioneering Denishawn Dancers in 1919.(1) He also designed interiors of homes in the Mayan Revival style during the 1920s.2

Gerald Davis, a theater manager, was inspired to build a theater with a Mayan motif by reading about Cornejo's application of pre-Columbian imagery. The noted local architectural firm of Morgan, Wells, and Clements designed plain interior and exterior spaces for Cornejo's Mayan, Zapotec and Aztec decoration.3

Capping six columns, seven bas-relief busts wearing Mayan headdresses dominate the exterior facing Hill Street. This authenticity of the faŤade, constructed of gray cast concrete, was destroyed by the addition of bright colors in 1960.4


1 "Mayan Revival Style," by Marjorie Ingle, Peregrine Smith Books, Gibbs M. Smith, Inc., Salt Lake City, 1984, p. 10.

2 "An Art Awakening," by D. Cartmel, School Arts Magazine, March 1921 (AAA, Perret Collection Role 3843, frames 1391-93.)

3 Ingle, Op. Cit., pp. 45-46.

4 Ingle, Op. Cit., pp. 46-47; "The Architecture of Los Angeles," by Paul Gleye, Rosebud Books, The Knapp Press, Los Angeles, c. 1981, p. 194.

The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, January 2000.

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