Success molded by tradition: J.P. Weaver & Co. celebrate 100 years
The company's 11 employees celebrate 100 years of elaborate ornamentation for their clients.
J.P. Weaver president Rob Tyler works on an intricate molding at his work station on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. J.P. Weaver designs high-end moldings and ornamentation for homes and movie sets. ) (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / February 22, 2014)
Just a few blocks from the Disney campus, J.P. Weaver is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The company produces molding, friezes, frets, scrolls and dozens of other types of ornamentation for homes, businesses and the movie industry.
The company’s namesake, J.P. Weaver, emigrated from England and brought his affinity for the art to a shop in Hollywood in 1914. The business moved to its current location at 941 Air Way in 1990.
Lenna Tyler Kast, who still refers to herself as “just a Glendale housewife,” bought the business from Weaver’s aging partner in 1979 and turned it into a thriving concern.
Rick Barnes, co-owner of Real Estate 1 on Glenoaks Boulevard, has been a close friend of Kast for nearly 20 years. Kast came to him in 1996 for what became a two-year search for the right house.
“I met Lenna in the ugliest room I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Barnes. “When I looked closer and saw the depth and beauty in the ornamentation, I knew my life had changed.”
Now retired, Kast turned the business over to her son Robert Tyler and the tradition continues.
“Lenna was a real go-getter,” said Tyler. “When she went after something she usually got it.”
One of the company’s bigger jobs, said Tyler, was the task of reproducing some of the ceilings in the governor’s office at the capitol building in Sacramento, which had been buried by multiple layers of false ceilings to accommodate wiring and light fixtures over the years.
“We are known in the trades as perfect and reliable,” said Tyler.
Tyler began working with Lenna when just a child. He did the sanding and prepping from the time he was 10 years old. Now he carves detailed designs based on the customer’s needs.
Film companies have been coming to J.P. Weaver for decades to reproduce authentic sets and props. The highly decorated chariots in the 1925 movie “Ben Hur” were designed and manufactured by Weaver.
“Mr. Weaver was the only one who could make the curved ornaments needed for the chariots,” said Tyler.
Film studios still come to J.P. Weaver & Co., he said, for the company’s attention to detail and authentic style. James Cameron commissioned the company to design the state rooms on the RMS Titanic for the titular 1997 film.
They have also done work for Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Casino in Florida as well as his golf resort in Palos Verdes.
Barnes was there when Kast and others assigned to renovate Trump’s resort first toured the structure.
“During the tour Trump asked if anyone had questions,” said Barnes. “Lenna stood up and said. ‘I have a problem Mr. Trump. You can’t do that with this room.’”
Trump was impressed with Kast standing up for herself. She was not fired.
Tyler said that many Glendale residents see the company’s work each New Year. Since the 1930s, J.P. Weaver & Co. have been making the plaque with the rose motif placed on the city’s float entry in the Tournament of Roses parade.
The company consists of 11 employees including Tyler and his two partners. Some have been there for 20 years. Company hiking and climbing excursions are a popular escape.
“When things start to get stressful, you might find us at the top Mt. McKinley,” said Tyler.
Sal Polcino is a freelance writer.
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