Historic Los Angeles: An Architecture Walk

The Million Dollar Theater, Broadway St. Los Angeles, Ca. @PennySadler 2013

The Million Dollar Theater

On my recent trip to Los Angeles I walked the historic downtown area – a fascinating neighborhood packed with interesting old buildings that tell the history of Los Angeles from 1890’s to the present.

I was surprised to learn that there is a huge theater district built mostly in the 1920s and 30s and it contains the largest concentration of theaters located within on city block in the nation. Take a walk down Broadway St. – from beaux arts to art deco, it’s an architects dream come true.

The whole area was once the center of art and culture in Los Angeles, but was mostly abandoned by the 1990’s. However there is a movement to revitalize the area, and funding has been approved to install a downtown streetcar. There are rumours of big name retailers like Urban Outfitters moving into the area as well. Many of the buildings are already being converted into lofts, however there are still a lot of buildings that look only partially refurbished – it looks like a very long term project.

@PennySadler 2013 Detail of the facade on the Million Dollar Theater

Detail, Million Dollar Theater

A great place to start your walk is at the corner of Broadway and 3rd. On one side is the Million Dollar Theater and the Grand Central Market, and across the street is the famous Bradbury Building. The Bradbury is the oldest commercial building in Los Angeles, and it is working building so you can only visit the first floor. The beautiful French wrought iron, five story atrium, and wood and terra cotta details of the interior, were inspired by a futuristic novel from 1887 called, “Looking Backward,” by Edward Bellamy. Interesting anecdote, parts of the building were used in the science fiction film, Blade Runner.

The Bradbury Building, Los Angeles, @PennySadler 2013

Interior: The Bradbury Building

Adjacent to the Million Dollar Theater is Grand Central Market, the oldest open air market in Los Angeles and it’s still a hopping place. You can find everything from tacos to fresh fruit smoothies here.

Grand Central Market, Broadway, St. Los Angeles CA @PennySadler 2013

Grand Central Market

Walk through Grand Central Market to the other side and across the street you will see the world’s shortest railroad, the Angel’s Flight funicular built in 1901. Ride it to the top for just 50 cents and experience a bit of L.A. history.

Angels Flight @PennySadler 2013

Angels Flight

Go back to Broadway to continue your tour of the amazing theater district.

The Los Angeles Theater, LA. California @PennySadler 2013

The Los Angeles Theater was built in 1931 at a cost of 2,000,000 dollars! The owner went in the hole pretty quickly and Fox took over the theater until the 1980’s. Check out this link for photographs of the interior which is magnificent!

The Tower Theater, Los Angeles @PennySadler 2013

The Tower Theater

exterior the Palace Theater, LA. Cal. @PennySadler 2013

The Palace Theater

The Palace Theater was built in 1911 and was one of the first of the Orpheum Vaudeville Theaters.

There are many other buildings of historical significance aside from the theaters. If you can plan in advance (I did not), the Los Angeles Conservancy offers tours of the various neighborhoods and styles of architecture for only $10.00. Some include the interiors which I’d love to see!

The Chester Williams Building @PennySadler 2013

The Chester Williams Building

For more information on theater district visit Bringing Back Broadway

Farmers Merchant National Bank @PennySadler 2013
theater Broadway St. Los Angeles, CA. @PennySadler 2013

All materials ©PennySadler 2013

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21 thoughts on “Historic Los Angeles: An Architecture Walk

    • Hey Tin Man, how are things in SA? I went to one of those old theaters once, near the Riverwalk, can’t remember the name, but it was really beautiful. Take some pics! 🙂

  1. Great set of photos. Just goes to show how important it is for “newer” cities to protect their history. It might not be as old as things in other cities around the world but it’s still fascinating and full of history.

    • Thanks Paul. I’m always amazed at what I find, even in Dallas. It’s great when it’s all concentrated in a small area like this though.
      It’s also very close to Union Station and Olvera St. Lots of history to visit in lA.

  2. Great pictures! I never really thought about doing this kind of tour in LA. I was more focussed on star spotting!

  3. I lived in California for about 4 years but never ventured to such amazing places and historic treasures. Now you inspired me to go back…even for a week of Summer break. Thanks. Awesome post!

  4. I’m really looking forward to the day I make it to Los Angeles. I love to see Art Deco pieces of which I’ve not seen enough to date.

    Especially going to try the Art Deco tour that you pointed out, such a shame you didn’t get to.

    • What a nice comment. Thank you! I want to go back too and visit the interiors. I’d also like to take the tour with the LA Conservancy.

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