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Finding Aid for the Mae Babitz papers, ca. 1920-2000
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
Mae Babitz (1911-2003) illustrated architectural landmarks of Los Angeles from 1940 to 1970 and was instrumental in saving Simon Rodia's Watts Towers from destruction. The collection includes artwork as well as personal correspondence and correspondence with the City of Los Angeles with respect to exhibitions, acquisitions and saving the Towers. Babitz is most known for mid-century illustrations of Los Angeles architecture, some of the only surviving records of buildings that no longer exist. Examples include buildings at Bunker Hill, the Bradbury Building, Hollywood Hotel, Watts Towers, and various Victorian homes. A self-trained artist, Babitz used pencil, quill and ink on watercolor paper; she painted at site, primarily of Victorian buildings. After many years of working to get the City of Los Angeles to acquire Babitz's artwork for posterity, her daughter, Mirandi Babitz donated the materials to UCLA in 2006. Collection consists of extensive personal and professional correspondence, personal photographs, loose papers, exhibition fliers and booklets, newspaper and magazine clippings and ephemera of Mae Babitz's life as an artist. In addition to personal and work related papers, the collection includes over 70 illustrations that were shown in galleries and public buildings, and many other earlier sketches and drawings. Also included are correspondence and internal documentation related to and generated by the Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers in Watts.
Background
Mae Babitz, adventurer, historian, activist, preservationist, artist, wife and mother, was born in Crowley, Louisiana in 1911 to Cajun-French ancestry and baptized Lily May Josephine. Her childhood was spent in the oilfield boomtown, Spindletop, Texas. Babitz moved to Los Angeles in 1934, worked as a secretary and fell in love with Los Angeles architecture. She married musician, Sol Babitz, violinist and consultant to Igor Stravinsky. Igor and Vera Stravinsky became godparents of the Babitz children, Eve and Mirandi. Mae Babitz started a career as an artist in the 1950s as buildings began to be demolished to make way for postwar architecture styles. A self-trained artist, she illustrated primarily Victorian buildings on-site, using pencil, quill and ink on watercolor paper. While some illustrations are in the private collections of the Stravinskys, Edward James and Eugene Berman, most are here at UCLA. Babitz worked with Kate Steinitz and Dr. Elmer Belt in the Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana at UCLA. During that time, Babitz helped found the Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers in Watts in 1959. The Committee lobbied both the City of Los Angeles and private donors and held various fundraisers to successfully save the Watts Towers from destruction. Babitz wrote a biography of Simon Rodia, the research of which included many interviews with Rodia and travelling to his birth place in Italy. The Committee sponsored a documentary film as well. Babitz hosted regular meetings of like-minded artists, poets and musicians, including Igor and Vera Stravinsky, Bernard Herrman, Ingolf Dahl, Kenneth Rexroth, Kenneth Pagent, Jellyroll Morton. She and her husband helped found the Ojai Music Festival.
Extent
17 boxes (8.5 linear ft.) 12 oversize boxes 5 map folders
Restrictions
Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.
Availability
COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.