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Bob Baker Marionette Theater to move out to make way for housing

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater, a 50-year-old puppet playhouse in Echo Park, is set to move out of the building next year to make way for a 104-unit apartment complex, The Eastsider reported Thursday.

The Cultural Heritage Commission, which oversees changes to historic-cultural landmarks, heard a presentation by an architect and consultant for the new owners. They proposed that portions of the theater would remain as part of the lobby for the housing complex.

Richard Barron, president of the Cultural Heritage Commission, said preserving parts of the building without a functioning puppet theater seemed "foolish."

“It’s sort of sad for me to watch this presentation. The beauty of the Bob Baker Marionette show was Bob Baker and his fantasy and love for the marionettes. The building is nothing….Without Bob Baker and the marionettes, you don’t have a monument anymore. It’s been hollowed out.”

The Los Angeles City Council designated the theater as historic-cultural landmark in 2009. Three years later, the theater property was put up for sale for $2.05 million

Baker himself, 90 years old, is currently in hospice and is seeking support to be able to stay at home, according to a GoFundMe page set up in his name. The campaign, which started Thursday, has currently raised almost $2,000 with a goal of $120,000.

According to The Eastsider, the commission told the developer to continue working with city staff on the proposal. The theater will likely remain in the building until next March.

KPCC visited the theater earlier this year and captured some images of the puppets in action.

This story has been updated.

Listen to Queena Kim's 2007 Off-Ramp profile of Baker by clicking on the audio.