Track 16's Last Stop: Iconic Gallery to Become Train Station

Studio 360

From KCRW's Which Way LA, hosted by Warren Olney

It's a sad irony for those of us who crave more mass transit that a special spot has to fall to make way for the new Expo Line. Wine-sipping, art-loving visitors have flocked to the galleries at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica for nearly 20 years. But the building that houses the massive 13,000-square-foot wonder known as Track 16 will be razed soon. In its place, a train platform will eventually rise for the Olympic and 26th Street stop.

Next door neighbor Robert Berman's Gallery and Auction House has found other space on the grounds, but there's no space to accommodate Track 16.

Ahead of the December 7 move-out, I went to talk to Hollywood writer and producer Tom Patchett (Alf, The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Bob Newhart Show) who helped develop Bergamot Station back in 1994, when it was a warren of abandoned warehouses.

Track 16's 1920s diner is up for sale
The iconic 1929 diner inside Track 16's main space is up for sale. (Lisa Napoli)

If you've ever visited Track 16, you know it wasn't a typical gallery. It was enormous, crazy, fun-filled with Americana, like this old diner from the 1920s, and lots of memorabilia, like the original Brown Derby neon sign.

Patchett and his crew prided themselves on what they offered the community, often for free: "Theater, performance, all kinds of events," he said. "Our specialty has not been selling art because we didn't want to be dependent on the things that were commercial and salable so we tried a lot of experimental things. In fact, during the Occupy Movement we did a show called 'Occupy Track 16' where people were allowed to write on walls and the young woman who was on the cover of Time Magazine as the Person of the Year --- The Occupier --- came and lived in our gallery for a month, pitched a tent, so we've done some really crazy, kooky, wonderful things."

Those days are over now. Patchett and his staff are moving what they haven't sold off to an industrial area in Culver City, where they will be on their own. And as a result, Patchett says, Bergamot's days as a cloistered fine arts village are done. "It was just one of those really flukey things, in the middle of a large metropolitan area that will never, cannot be replaced," he said. It is likely that a hotel, parking lot, and retail space will be built on the site.

While the remaining tenants are hopeful that more traffic won't spoil the feel of Bergamot, there's no way to know what will happen once the train comes in. "While Bergamot will survive in whatever way shape and form, I wish everyone well, we are really devastated," said Patchett. "I just don't see how we could possibly duplicate what we were doing here anywhere else."

The site of the new station
Behind the gallery, the site of the new station. (Lisa Napoli)
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