At my son’s wedding I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely young couple who live downtown. They were very gracious and invited me to come see their apartment in a wonderful old building on Spring St. Here is an image from the 1980s’ before the building was renovated. There used to be a blade sign in the middle of the building which is now gone. Here is the renovated exterior, the fire escape was removed, and the platforms became balconies. On the south side of the building, they broke through, added windows and balconies as well.This building was built in 1913, named for the developer. The beautiful design elements on the exterior are Art Nouveaux, a style seen more in Europe than in the US. Charlie Chaplin lived there as he was starting his career here in LA.The wonderful designs are molded concrete. The Green is colored bricks. A few years later Gladding McBean would start manufacturing wonderful glazed terra cotta tiles. It’s nice to see what predated that.Last year, the building got this designation.
A resident found this sign and it is now in the lobby. Notice the misspelling of the name, I think they ran out of room for the second L. Fireproof was a big selling point in those days, fires were the biggest hazard to buildings in the early 20th century. Those prices are what one would expect for a nice hotel in those days.
One of the things that made this hotel famous was the lobby. Here is an old image of the lobby. Below the lobby in the basement there was a cafe as well, a very necessary service to offer guests a place to eat. Both made extensive use of Batchelder Tiles. To my delight and amazement, there are plans underfoot to turn this into a restaurant. We were able to go take a look.Apparently they are working in conjunction with historians to maintain the correct colors. You can see two of the pillars are being painted black, they do have some leeway with their design choices. They are building a bar (right side of the photo) and are covering up some of the tiles.It appears that they are removing the white paint from the bannister, interesting, since in the old photo it looked white. Maybe that is why they are choosing black for the pillars, to match the dark bannisters.Also, cleaning up the woodwork, which I think will be a great improvement.Here are examples of the tiles, both plain and decorative. Batchelder is known for unglazed tiles and often uses these wonderful animals, both real (bird) and mythical (griffin).The top image shows how they have covered all but the decorative tile. It’s covered with drywall – so no tiles are being destroyed.
Examples of the floor. Not all the original floor remains but what does is beautiful.
As for the apartment. It is lovely. My hosts asked it I was surprised that it doesn’t have any historical elements. Not at all. The exterior and the lobby of many buildings are beautiful and made to impress. Once you go into the office areas or hotel rooms – they are standard and pedestrian. The need to impress is only in the public areas. I can say that the apartment was light airy and had storage! The modern developer did a great job but to be fair, had nothing historic to work with.
My introduction to downtown was in the early 90s’. We had recently moved to LA from Israel, for Joel it was moving back, for me it was a whole new world. Our first year here I started taking classes at LA Valley college, a wonderful local community college. I then enrolled at FIDM and set out studying textile design. That is a subject for a different post.
FIDM had just completed their lovely new building, so I found myself going downtown a few days a week. I stayed very close to the campus. I would venture to the Fashion District and even got a part time job there. But in those days, downtown was still very sketchy. So I never ventured far.
How things have changed, today I am a downtown docent with The LA Conservancy and I love exploring on my own, which is what I did the other day. I’m sharing some pictures without much information. I know I should get better at both taking the pictures and gathering information. Meanwhile, just enjoy some wonderful architectural details, Los Angeles can boast as much as NY or Chicago – we have real beauty here which I am happy to share.The exterior of this building is on my Downtown Renaissance tour, since I am doing all the talking I don’t take pictures. I had the opportunity today to enter the lobby. Today this is a low income building, but as you can see, the owner Izek Shomof takes very good care of his buildings regardless of how much rent is being paid.
I love the detail on the railing. Hotel Hayward was originally a hotel for traveling salesmen, very close to the PE Trolly station. Even then the cost for rooms was reasonable, but the lobby was very well appointed. This building is further south on Spring st, someone was filming there. I just love the details. How about these wonderful eagles? I think the address of this building is 801 Spring st. Spring st and Main st. meet just beyond this location. I was capturing the exterior when a young man with a camera exited and he just let me in.As you can see, the building straddles two streets. Today this is a residential building, the lobby is beautiful and well cared for. The details on the ceiling are lovely, someone cleaned and possibly repainted them.There are three elevators, only one still has the original doors, I don’t know if the car was replaced. As you can it, it used to have one of those dials that let you know what floor the elevator was on. I did see that the other two are modern doors, no I didn’t take pictures of them.
That is it for today, I promise many more in the future.
I always tell people, when walking downtown – look up! There are amazing things to see. While dress shopping on Saturday, I had to stop and take a closer look at this building. With so much cacophony on the street, it’s easy to miss even a building of this size. As you can see, most of the area is much lower buildings. So this Beaux Arts and it’s neighbor the Bendix building do stand out.
This is a photo from the 1930s. You can see there was retail on the ground floor even then and across Pico Blvd, no high construction. This was really the outer limits of downtown, from here on there would be other tall buildings, but many more low warehouse and small industry.
As the fashion industry rapidly expended here, the owners are doing just fine renting out large loft style space. They also set about spicing up the lobby.You can see the wonderful old elements that haven’t changed, the marble wainscoting, the wonderful mail box. In 2010, they brought in the artist Andre Miripolsky to add some vibrant color. Boy did he ever.I love how he worked around the old elements, the clock, The grill.Wonderful old elevator doors. I was able to see into the elevator but not snap a picture. It looked like the original paneling – no fancy materials but nicely decorated wood. And there is an elevator operator – which leads me to think – they haven’t updated this elevator to standard push button yet. Now there is a job you don’t see often, although I’ve seen other buildings downtown with one.It was hard to isolate out an image like this, so much stuff on all sides. This is the balcony over the Lobby entrance, also, the end of the fire escape.On a busy shopping trip, I’m sure this restaurant does good business. I love the cocktail sign, I think it was from a previous business. I’m pretty sure there are manufactories upstairs, they have wide open loft space, although this business looks more like a design studio.
Next door is another very interesting building. The Bendix building. I shot this image from the rooftop garage across the street where we parked. This building was build in 1930. The tower was built by Bendix Aviation Corporation manufactured to aid in nighttime aviation. The entire sign stands 150 feet tall; the letter “B” alone is 25 feet tall and 16 feet wide. This helped light the way to an airfield in Glendale, 9 miles away. Three years ago the tower was restored and the neon is now lit again at night.
In the 1930’s this building was used to manufacture automotive parts, navigation instruments and car parts. The fashion industry moved in much later.
I am falling in love with California tiles. It makes perfect sense that in a city where homes were built from clay (adobe) there will be a wonderful ceramic tradition, and there is. Ernest Batchelder has his own unique style, namely – he didn’t glaze his tiles, they don’t shine, he would paint many of them, and seal them. Notice the ones on the floor by the elevator, color, but no shine.
Many private craftsmen homes have fireplace surrounds with his tiles, in downtown LA, we have amazing examples of his work. This building is one of his largest commercial installations. Unfortunately you can’t go up to the mezzanine level to look down, it is a fully functioning office building these days and yes, the tenants are paying for privacy.