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.
Another downtown Los Angeles gem. The hotel Figueroa. It was built in the late 1920’s by the YWCA as a hotel for businesswomen, but unfortunately it didn’t survive as one and by the 1930’s was simply a hotel.Nothing in Los Angeles is simply anything. If you have seen any movie or TV show where people are meeting in a restaurant or lobby in the middle east – it was probably filmed here.Although when doing so, they have to remove the Buddhas and the very Mexican looking items.A view into the restaurant
These tiles are on the wall right as you enter, I need to find more about them.
The long hallway to the bar and pool. As wonderful as this lobby is, and it is a feast for the eyes. This is what is really impressive about this hotel.
Yes indeed an in-ground pool. When this was built, land was at a premium and since then, no-one, not even the Los Angeles Athletic club put a pool in the ground. It has survived the area being run down and everything around it becoming parking lots. I met an old woman who told me that as a child she learned how to swim in this pool.In the bar area, right off the pool is this wonderful day bed, I’m sure that at night when the place is full, people enjoy this luxury.
Over 20 years ago, I was a student at FIDM , in those days, the only places I went was the school campus and up to the garment district. Downtown was still very sketchy. I’d often drive down Olympic Blvd to get to the freeway. I’d pass a large building, with three sections facing Olympic. There always were and still are full size advertisements on these sections. Only years later did I find out the history of the place and venture in to look at the lobby. I have since met people who have stayed there. The rooms were renovated a few years ago, but are simple run of the mill hotel rooms. These days the hotel is right across from LA Live and the Staple center. Sure you can stay in the JMW Marriott, or stay here, enjoy history and take a dip in that pool!
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.