Sunday, September 28, 2014

Art Deco Tour of Downtown LA

Yesterday I went with some friends on an LA Conservancy sponsored walking tour through downtown LA. The Conservancy hosts quite a few guided tours (and some self-guided ones as well). This particular one was the Art Deco tour. It cost $10 per person and met in Pershing Square. Parking was ample in the lot under the square and was only $5 for the whole day with validation.

I’d only been downtown once before, and that was at night. Viewing it from afar the few times I drove by, I was unaware that downtown holds so many historic buildings. This is perhaps because, until the 1950s, buildings in LA were not allowed to have occupied space above 150 feet. Therefore, when viewed from afar, LA’s historic buildings are dwarfed by modern skyscrapers.

I was absolutely delighted to discover the beauty of LA’s historic architecture. First, a few shots of downtown from Pershing Square:

The brick building at the bottom is the Biltmore
Hotel, an example of Beaux Arts architecture.

Sculpture in Pershing Square.

This statue is part of the statue garden (mostly
dedicated to soldiers KIA) in the Square.

The first stop on our tour was the former Title Guarantee & Trust building, which is now residential housing. Our tour guide, Dennis, was extremely informative. He taught us not only about the history of each building, but also about the design elements of Art Deco, called Moderne at the time (and also about its predecessor, Beaux Arts).

A close up to show the zigzag pattern under the
window. Zigzag was prominent in Art Deco.

In Beaux Arts, building sculptures were three-dimensional but in Art
Deco they were more 2D, like this.

The next stop was the former Southern California Edison Company, now Torrey Pines Bank. We were not only allowed in the bank, but also allowed to take pictures, so I got a lot of them:

The man is holding a torch to denote energy, since this
was built for an energy company.

Love this color blocking. The "feet" in this pic
belong to a modern sculpture placed there in the 1980s.

Gorgeous front door. Note the zigzag pattern.

Suns and river etched in the door = energy.

Beautiful marble floors.

Perhaps my favorite picture of the lot.

More gorgeous doors & a favorite pattern of mine:
black & white checkered floors.


Kitty corner across the street is the Rick Riordan Central Library, which has a tower with fantastic tile work on the top:

Sun patterns were also very common in Art Deco.

I didn’t get any good pictures of our next building, the former Mayfair (now Hilton) Hotel. The following picture is of the Pacific Mutual building, which is an example of Beaux Arts (not Art Deco) architecture but I love the way it’s “texturized” so I’m including it:

Then we moved on down the street and around the corner to the James Oviatt building, former home to the famous LA haberdashery Alexander and Oviatt. It now houses a restaurant called Cicada.

The top part of this case is the original etched glass.

Cool marble work in the floor.

This elevator door is glass & denotes orange trees.

Love these doors.

More cool etched glass.

The interior of Cicada. You may recognize it from
"Pretty Woman" or "The Artist."

The light was such that I didn’t capture a good picture of our next stop, the William Fox building, which has a lovely exterior of cream and subtle purple. However, I did capture the magnificent Sun Realty building across the street, and its next door neighbor, the Harris & Frank building. All three of these buildings are now at the heart of the jewelry district:

Harris & Frank on the left; Sun Realty on the right.

Better lighting so you can see the beauty of
the Sun Realty building.

By this point, I have to admit that I was getting tired of picture taking, so even though we saw a few more buildings, I only took pictures of the Eastern Columbia building, which used to be a department store but is now residential housing:

The tour was long, over two and a half hours, but I can’t stress enough how awesome it was. I got to exercise, learn more about the history of LA, see fantastic architecture, and spend a lovely few hours outdoors, all in one fell swoop. This is absolutely my favorite thing I’ve done in LA so far. I highly recommend it! If you’re visiting LA, you need to take one of these tours.


Patricia said...

Watching the movies 500 days of Summer I was flummoxed as to what city they were living in. Which city had so many fabulous buildings? My whole view of the City of Angels changed when I found out those great buildings were in LA.

I love Art Deco too and this post was chalk full of awesome. Just the doors alone were particularly fabulous.

balyien said...

Oh my gosh, I had no idea that movie was filmed in LA! I assumed it was NYC for some reason, but I only saw it once, back when it was still in theaters.