Globe -- Leisure World Historical Society


Globe Renovations Halt as Continents Collapse

LW Globe after it has been tented for repairs.
-Ruth Osborn, staff photos. THE LEISURE WORLD GLOBE is affectionately referred to as “The Marshmallow” by some residents who are following its renovation process.

Questions about renovation project are answered

by Randy Ankeny, GRF Executive director, May 14, 2015

At a very well-attended meeting of the Physical Properties Committee on May 8, an update on the status of the Globe repairs and conservation was provided. Here are highlights of that meeting.

The Golden Rain Foundation is still in the process of researching and receiving proposals to replace the continents on the Globe. The process to research, review and verify requires time. Now add the time it may take for the companies involved to gather their facts, seek materials proposals and consider all aspects of the project and finally, submit a qualified proposal. At this time no actual work is being performed on the Globe, but all parties involved have been active in securing the best costs to replace the continents.

A special meeting of the Physical Properties Committee has been scheduled for 1 p.m. on June 1 in the Administration conference room. The committee will be supplied with a recap of all proposals received.

More than a few questions were asked at the May 8 meeting, and following are some of the highlights:

• When was the Globe constructed?

The original contract between the Golden Rain Foundation of Seal Beach and QRS Neon Corp. was signed on July 29, 1962. Of note, the Globe was originally leased for a 60-month term at $1,512 per month. A small 15-inch globe that was located in front of the Amphitheater was signed on March 29, 1962, for the same terms at a cost of $789 per month. Both agreements included the water features.

• When was the Globe purchased?

As noted above, originally the globes were leased. In 1966 an agreement was reached with QRS Neon to purchase both globes for $35,882.27.

• How often has the Globe been repainted?

Records show that Globe was painted in 1980 and again in 2002.

• When was the water feature removed?

The water feature was removed sometime between 2000 and 2004.

• When did the Globe stop rotating?

When the Globe was constructed in 1962, a specialized and purpose-built running gear was installed. With 50 years of use, components of this running gear have failed, including bearings, which are no longer available. The Globe stopped rotating on or about 2011.

• When was the current contract approved?

In accordance with applicable sections of the Civil Code, due notice was posted and the Globe was placed on the Board’s agenda. The Physical Properties Committee reviewed and recommended to the Board the selection of United Riggers at its February meeting. At the regular meeting of the GRF Board on Feb. 24, 2015, the Board approved the repairs and conservation of the Globe in the amount of $163,270. This amount included a $14,843 contingency. At the regular scheduled meeting of the Board on March 24, 2015, the Board reviewed a request to upgrade the paint to a metallic color. By unanimous approval, the Board approved the change order for $21,000, bringing the total revised amount to $184,270.

• How many proposals were received?

Requests for proposals were sent out to 12 qualified contractors; however, not all provided full proposals. Due to the nature and scope of the work, some chose not to bid or only provided a proposal on a portion of the work.

• What is the total contract price?

The total approved is $184,270.

• When did the current work begin?

Work began in March 2015 with the structure built to cover the structure during repairs and restoration. Once covered, work on the Globe was performed in the following stages: 1. Chemically strip and remove all paint, and properly dispose of it. 2. Sandblast all surfaces to bare metal. 3. Apply primer to all surfaces. 4. Repair any structural elements and re-prime.

• When did all work stop?

After the removal of over a quarter-inch of paint, sandblasting to bare metal and priming, some structural elements of the Globe were replaced and/or patched. It was at this time (April) that the determination was made that the condition of the continents was beyond repair.

Facelift will restore iconic LW landmark

by Ruth Osborn, Golden Rain News, March 26, 2015

Leisure World’s iconic globe, which stands four stories high and weighs 14 tons, is undergoing a major renovation. When it was first installed at the Main Gate in the early 1960s, it could be seen for miles in all directions.

There were no freeways, no fences, no Security Building and even the trees were mostly saplings. The “unisphere,” as Leisure World builder Ross Cortese called it, symbolized the universal significance of his $150 million, 541-acre development, according to “Seal Beach, A Brief History,” by Larry Strawther.

Last year, Orange County supervisors designated the LW globe as one of 125 must-see landmarks in the county.

But decades of coastal weather have caused deterioration. Rust has eaten parts of the steel structure; winds have sheared off pieces of the continents, and paint has flaked away.

The Golden Rain Foundation Board of Directors has come to the rescue with a $184,270 restoration project that will completely renovate the globe.

Last week, workers erected scaffolding and a tent. They will sandblast the structure to bare metal and repair rust erosion and structural damage before repainting the globe a metallic bronze. The work also entails removing the rotation gear because parts are no longer available. The globe will now be fixed in place.

It once revolved around a pool of water 50 feet in diameter, with 60 submerged floodlights illuminating it. The water feature was removed several years ago.

According to historical accounts, the globe was assembled in a building on Washington Avenue in Los Angeles and transported to Seal Beach. The land masses were painted, showing major mountain ranges and rivers of the world. Some of the relief qualities can still be seen, despite many coats of paint, but the landmarks are no longer identifiable.

The Globe is part of Orange County's 125th Anniversary

Orange County 125th Anniversary
Certification marking the Globe as part of Orange County's 125th Anniversay.
Orange County 125th Anniversary
Letter from supervisor John Moorlach to the Golden Rain Board, February 2014, about the Globe's part in the celebration.

O.C. Historical Society declares the Globe a landmark

Orange County Historical Commission Letter about the Globe
Letter from Orange County Historical Commission urging the preservation of the Globe because it is a historical landmark.

The Globe is Googie architecture

Signe Merrifield


The globe sculpture is an example of a historical architectural style called Googie. The LA Conservancy has been involved with the preservation of many Googie buildings.

Googie is a style of Modernism which originated in Southern California and was popular from the late 40's through the 60's.

This article is a good overview.

We have many examples of Googie architecture in Leisure World and in surrounding communities. Leisure World has several Googie style buildings in addition to the globe: The A-Frame church; The folded roof Community Church; The Mutual 15 Laundry room; The A-frame club houses. The Parasol Restaurant (now Panera Bread ) building that is listed in "Googie Redux" by Alan Hess and is just up the street from our Main Gate on Seal Beach Boulevard.

As the World developed: Global involvement takes a unique turn for [Ray] Disinger

Golden Rain News, August 5, 1999. by Cathie Merz, staff writer

One of the most notable landmarks in Seal Beach is the 50-foot globe at the entrance to Leisure World.

When it was first installed, the globe could be seen from all directions; there were no freeways, no fences, and the trees were not much more than twigs.

Ross Cortese, the LW developer, was a big time promoter and he wanted something identifiable, that would call attention to his new development, Leisure World, Seal Beach.

The globe was constructed by QRS-Quality, Reliability, Service, Inc. of Los Angeles. Ray Disinger, president of Mutual 16, was a sales representative for the company. He and another salesman, Joe, were sent to pitch the company's ideas to Mr. Cortese in 1961.

Mr. Cortese's vision was to construct a special place for older people. His slogan for LW was a "country club city for happy people over 52."

He wanted the image to say Leisure World emphasizing "world", and saw it as the grand entrance and exit. There was no budget for the project.

Mr. Cortese had the whole Seal Beach area in an uproar with LW and Rossmoor both being developed at nearly the same time. The Walnut Creek LW was not far behind. He was rushing to get the projects up and running and time was of the essence.

Ray thought that Mr. Cortese was "a very unusual guy." He remembers him always pounding his fist to emphasize what he wanted done. He was a gentleman, never used bad language, and Ray had great admiration for him.

The first idea was an enclosed globe that was lighted from the inside, but Mr. Cortese realized that an enclosed sphere would need endless repairs and painting.

Joe envisioned water spraying up from the bottom. Pete, the company's designer, envisioned the globe suspended. The idea for exterior lights was next, and then the idea of a revolving sphere came into play.

Once a design was finally agreed upon, the globe was assembled in a building on Washington Avenue in Los Angeles and transported to Seal Beach.

No one had the knowledge of how to constantly keep the globe revolving. "It's heavy." says Mr. Disinger. QRS went to many gear manufacturing companies trying to figure out a way to make turn.

The designer thought that a wheel from an 18-wheel truck would work, since a truck was able to continuously carry heavy loads. The wheel lasted only two weeks and wore out. Over the years the gearing has been revamped many times.

The icon at this point was down more than it was up. However, Mr. Cortese and Lewis M. Letsen, president of Mutual 16, did not want to be tied to a maintenance contract, so they terminated the contract with QRS, and it became the responsibility of the LW Maintenance Department.

According to Mr. Disinger "every kid in Seal Beach and the surrounding towns came to LW to throw a box of Oxydol" into the fountain. This made a huge mess with soap running down Seal Beach Boulevard, which at the time was only a two lane road.

When the globe was first constructed, the land masses were painted, showing major mountain ranges and rivers of the world. Many coats of paint later the relief qualities of the map can be seen, but the the landmarks are no longer identified.

QRS also constructed globes with the same design for Leisure World, Laguna Hills and Rossmoor, Walnut Creek.

In addition to the large globe, a smaller globe was also erected by QRS and was located near the center of the community at the Administration Building.

The company was also commissioned to provide a piece of sculpture at the entrance to the Amphitheater.

The original thought was for the sculpture to be a musician such as Beethoven, but Mr. Cortese wanted something beautiful. "Twiggy," a sculpture of a woman was the result.

Twiggy has provided entertainment over the years for many residents who have added different forms of attire to her. She no longer greets those attending functions at the Amphitheater. She was moved during LWHCC construction to a new location near the LW Library.

Mr. Disinger was impressed with what he saw when working with Mr. Cortese and thought that LW had "great merit and great possibilities". realize that he would move into the building he watched being built. He resides in building 51. Building 51 was used as the models and sales offices for the new development.

LW was put together under great pressure, according to Ray. There was a great urgency, to "get it done right now." Because of the urgency, not everything in Mutual 16 is identical as one would expect. "All the counters are slightly different," he says, which makes it more of a challenge to get things replaced.

The builder learned as he built, according to Ray. When potential buyers came through, the salesmen took notes and made changes along the way. Because the project was low cost senior housing, Cortese was able to get many subsidies. It was amusing to Ray how the more one pushed the fancier it got. Many new building practices were tested such as florescent lighting and heating in the ceilings.

He has seen many changes take place in Leisure World since the beginning when the area was a "swampy mess."

Mr. Disinger came to California in 1960. He had sold an auto dealership back east and was intending to buy another dealership in Southern California. That deal went bad and he went to work for QRS.


This article says that the smaller globe was located at the Administration building. That is incorrect. According to "Celebrating A Milestone Program" and Souvenir Booklet," page 102, there was also a smaller globe at the Amphitheater, which was sold as scrap in the 1990's to make way for construction.

Carol Weller recalls the demolition of the smaller globe. She can verify its exact location. - Signe Merrifield


Pictures of the smaller globe with a fountain base at the front of the Amphitheater can be seen on the photos page of this web site. -M.Gillon