Seat of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Architect: José Rafael Moneo (Spain). Dedicated September 2, 2002, by Archbishop Roger Mahony.
Some Favorite L.A. Buildings
Los Angeles Theatre, 615 S. Broadway, Downtown L.A. (1931). Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #225.
The last spectacular movie palace built in the Broadway Theater District, the Los Angeles Theatre was rushed to completion just in time to premiere Charlie Chaplain's City Lights in January 1931. Once a glamour capitol for upscale entertainment and shopping, the District's fortunes faded in succeeding waves with the Great Depression, film studios' shift toward Hollywood as an industry center, and postwar suburban sprawl. The Los Angeles Theatre closed in 1994 and its French Baroque interiors have continued to crumble with time, though it's well worth your effort to catch a special event scheduled there! Consider visiting Downtown L.A. the last Saturday in January for Night on Broadway, during which free performances are staged at participating movie palaces, many of which are otherwise similarly inaccessible to the public—and a couple of which are just as off the charts in grandeur.
Clifton's Cafeteria, 648 S. Broadway, Downtown L.A. (1935)
Formerly known as Clifton's Brookdale, this is the second and only surviving location of a chain of eight restaurants. Each restaurant's look was distinct, with Brookdale's theme inspired by the Santa Cruz Mountains lodges that founder Clifford Clinton had visited in his youth. Giant faux redwoods, water features, and taxidermy still greet diners inside, with a ballroom level extant from the building's original 1904 Beaux-Arts design. During restoration in 2012, an ill-advised aluminum grill, which had obscured most of the building's face for over 50 years, was removed to reveal relatively intact original architecture. In subsequent construction the upper half of the building was left untouched except for some window repairs, while the bottom half was given a significant but age-appropriate face-lift. This picture was taken from the fourth-floor fire escape of St. Vincent's parking garage across the street.
"Clifton's Golden Rule" was that no one should ever be turned away for lack of ability to pay, and the cafeteria is legendary for having distributed tens of thousands of free meals to hungry diners. Ray Bradbury and Charles Bukowski are two of the more famous souls who claimed to have taken Clifton's up on that offer more than once during down-and-out periods. When the founder retired Clifton's to his children after World War II, he and his wife dedicated their energies full-time to their international nonprofit Meals for Millions, a mission that would dominate their lives to the end.
Mark Twain Hotel, 1622 N. Wilcox Ave., Hollywood (1924)
While the Mark Twain's interiors have recently been renovated in a boutique hotel rebirth, its 1924 Spanish Colonial–style exteriors and that fabulous sign were preserved by John Kaliski Architects, who similarly honored the Old Hollywood integrity of the Gilbert Hotel, just a couple of doors down. While never a tony address, the Twain has been continuously occupied since it opened over 90 years ago, largely scraping by on weeklies, its survival as tenuous as the livelihoods of its tenants. Note the old Warner Bros. radio transmitter tower in the background.
Hollywood Pacific Theatre, 6433 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood (1928). Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #572.
Originating as the Warner Hollywood Theatre, this Beaux-Arts movie palace is perhaps most recognizable by its twin radio transmitter towers, remnants of the Warner Bros.–owned station KFWB. It was a movie house of considerable size in its heyday, with 2,700 seats, though capacity was reduced to 1,500 when it was converted in the 1950s to accommodate 70-mm and cinerama-style presentations. After Pacific took over the theater in 1968, it was subdivided into a multiplex, lasting only a couple of decades in that iteration before underground flooding and structural damage from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake forced its closure. The building was later used as a branch of the Ecclesia Hollywood Church, but now sits vacant—perhaps biding its time for a grand comeback?
Gilbert Hotel, 1550 N. Wilcox Ave., Hollywood (1920s)
One of many vintage accommodations along Wilcox Avenue in Hollywood, a pocket of hotels and apartment buildings that have remained relatively unmolested by modernization or gentrification. Once a flophouse, it's one of a pair of lucky, proximate 1920s hotels on Wilcox that has recently been renovated by John Kaliski Architects to preserve exteriors and signs while modernizing rooms for rebirth as a boutique hotel.
Eastern Columbia Building, 849 S. Broadway, Downtown L.A. (1930). Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #294
Art deco at its best, with bright turquoise terra cotta tiles and gilt edges that shimmer on sunshiny L.A. days. Built to house the Eastern Outfitting and Columbia Outfitting companies, it stands out among downtown architecture not just because—look at it!—but because its clock tower was granted an exemption from then-current L.A. City height restrictions, allowing it a full 100+ feet of additional swagger over neighboring buildings. (The only other exemption granted while the ordinance was in effect was the art deco–hybrid L.A. City Hall, completed two years earlier.) Now the Eastern Columbia Lofts, the building was converted to haute condominiums in 2006, winning accolades and awards for adaptive reuse. Condo owners are currently fighting development of a 27-story adjacent structure that would block their downtown views. Far more troubling for those who can't afford to live there, the new development would block OUR views of that magnificent clock tower.