August 18, 1948…Vine Street Studios Debut & TV’s Top Shows Follow
Did you know this was originally the home of The Don Lee – Mutual Network? Or, that this is the first place Johnny Carson ever went on network television? This was also the home of “The Dating Game”, “The Joey Bishop Show”, and more.
The building, at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood, was constructed in 1948 as a radio and television studio facility at a cost of $3 million. The dedication of the Don Lee-Mutual Broadcasting building was held on August 18, 1948. It is the oldest surviving structure in Hollywood that was originally designed specifically with television in mind. As you can see from the layout image, it was huge and very well planned.
Cadillac dealer Don Lee got into broadcasting to stay competitive with his friend Earle C. Anthony, a Packard dealer, who bought radio station KFI as a method of appealing to his customers. Lee bought KFRC in San Francisco and KHJ in Los Angeles, ultimately building the chain to 12 West Coast stations. Though named for him, Lee, who had died 14 years earlier, never saw this building.
The building was the original home of Los Angeles Channel 2, which is now KCBS-TV, through the 1950s. KCBS-TV is one of the oldest television stations in the US. It was signed on by Don Lee Broadcasting, and was first licensed by the FCC as experimental television station W6XAO in June 1931. The station went on the air on December 23, 1931, and by March 1933 was broadcasting programming one hour each day only on Monday through Saturdays.
During World War II, programming was reduced to three hours, every other Monday. The station’s frequency was switched from Channel 1 to Channel 2 in 1945 when the FCC decided to reserve Channel 1 for low-wattage community television stations. The station was granted a commercial license (the second in California, behind KTLA) as KTSL on May 6, 1948, and was named for Thomas S. Lee, the son of Don Lee.
Don Lee’s broadcasting interests were placed for sale in 1950 following the death of Thomas S. Lee. General Tire and Rubber agreed to purchase all of Don Lee’s stations, but General Tire chose to sell KTSL, and the building at 1313 Vine Street to CBS. On October 28, 1951, KTSL changed its call-sign to KNXT to coincide with CBS’ Los Angeles radio outlet, KNX (1070 AM). In April of ’84, it became KCBS.
These are the studios where Johnny Carson’s earliest mid-’50s television appearances, including “Carson’s Cellar” and “The Johnny Carson Show” were done.
ABC bought the building from CBS around 1967, installed GE color cameras and produced shows like “The Joey Bishop Show”, “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game” from 1313 Vine Street.
Today, it is the home of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study. It was dedicated in honor of legendary silent film actress Mary Pickford in 2002. Pickford was one of the founding members of the Academy. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee