One Good Life in Los Angeles

Roslyn's observations about places and events around Southern California

Downtown Renaissance – Walking with the Los Angeles Conservancy

24 Comments

los angeles downtown

After enjoying the Los Angeles Conservancy Art Deco Walking Tour a few weeks ago (see my post here), I invited another friend on a different tour, Downtown Renaissance.

From the Conservancy brochure: Once the heart of Los Angeles’ financial district, Spring Street and Main Street are today at the heart of an urban renaissance. The area’s magnificent banks, offices, and hotels were left all but deserted in the 1970s as the city center moved west. Since 2000, the conversion of many of these long-empty buildings for new uses has brought a new vitality to the area that continues to grow. 

The photo at the top is of the Classical Revival Farmers and Merchants Bank Building, 1905.

downtown Los Angeles

Detail of the arch with reflection of the San Fernando Building in the window.

los angeles downtown

Tile mosaic floor on the lobby of Farmers and Merchants.

los angeles downtown

Our group met outside the San Fernando Building. Originally built in 1907, the top two floors were added in 1911. Like many of the downtown buildings of this time period, this has been converted to loft apartments (with commercial spaces at street level).

los angeles downtown

James Boon Lankershim was a real estate developer. His family owned 60,000 acres of the San Fernando Valley and Lankershim Boulevard was named after them.

los angeles downtown

A superb hanging light fixture belonging to the San Fernando Building.

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los angeles downtown

These light fixtures are in the street. Although it was 10:00am, the power was on which made for a good photo. The second photo is the reflection of the street lamp in a window. Gotta love those reflections!

los angeles downtown

The purple glass made these vault lights in the floor of the lobby look magical.

los angeles downtown

Barclay Hotel (originally Van Nuys Hotel), 1896. For Los Angeles this building is very, very, very old. After all, Los Angeles only officially became a city in 1850.

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The Barclay is the oldest hotel in continuous operation in the city.

los angeles downtown

A photo of the old and the new with an LA City streetlamp. I am so happy a lot of the original street lights in the downtown area were not torn down and replaced with modern, but not so decorative, lights like the one pictured outside the Barclay Hotel three photos up.

los angeles downtown

Herman W. Hellman Building, 1903.

los angeles downtown

los angeles downtown

Light fixture and tile floor in the lobby of the Hellman. I hope I got this right. I am writing this post two weeks after the tour and a LOT has happened since then so I’m doing my best to piece it all together!

los angeles downtown

los angeles downtown

I don’t know the name of this building, I just liked the gorgeous detailing at the top. Of course I could only see it from street level with my 135mm lens but when I looked at the magnified photo in Lightroom I was even more blown away.

los angeles downtown

los angeles downtown

El Dorado Lofts in Gothic Revival style (originally Stowell Hotel), 1913. As of this writing the 1,700 sq ft (158 sq meters) penthouse is for sale at $2,100,000.

los angeles downtown

433 Spring building in ZigZag Moderne style (Originally Title Insurance and Trust), 1928. Known as the “Queen of Spring Street.”

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los angeles downtown

Details at street level.

los angeles downtown

I saw this window in passing. I was a big fan of the 80s-90s British TV comedy-drama “Lovejoy” with Ian McShane. For the two of you not familiar with this show, McShane played a loveable rascal who owned an antiques business. That was before Netflix so I had to be home at a certain time to catch the show on re-runs!

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los angeles downtown

Hotel Alexandria, 1906 and 1911. Once upon a time THE place to stay in LA until it deteriorated into long term, low income occupancy. It has now been converted to apartments. I’m always fascinated by the elaborately designed fire escapes of that period.

los angeles downtown

Not exactly The Last Bookstore but bookstores are becoming pretty scarce. 20,000 sq. ft. of new and used books.
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20,000 sq. ft.

Located in the Spring Arts Building, 1914.

los angeles downtownIf you saw my previous blog on the Art Deco walk, I took a photo of the cat sculpture on top of the elevator building at Pershing Square. I noticed another one on this walk but have not been able to find out any information on what this cat series is all about… a mystery!

los angeles downtown

Pacific Electric Building, 1905. Now used for residential use, this was built as the main depot for the Pacific Electric Railway in the Romanesque Revival style.

los angeles downtown

Display case in the lobby with photos showing the trains coming out of the building at street level. And models of the Pacific Electric cars. This is how people traveled around Los Angeles in more civilized days. The first time my parents and I came to LA in the early 60s some of these red cars were still running. When we returned from England a few years later they were all gone and replaced with freeways.

los angeles downtown

los angeles downtown

Views from the top floor.

Allowing these older, mostly abandoned office buildings to be converted to apartments and condominiums has changed the face of downtown Los Angeles. It is estimated that about 40,000 people now live in the area. You see people walking their dogs and pushing strollers. Supermarkets and drugstores and other amenities have opened to accommodate the needs of the residents. And the best part is that these beautiful buildings no longer stand empty and in disrepair.

All photos and content copyright roslyn m wilkins. Please feel free to pass along this post via email or social media, but if you wish to use some of our images or text outside of the context of this blog, either give full credit to myself and link to One Good Life in Los Angeles, or contact us for proper usage. Thanks!

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Author: RMW

I am an explorer and creative person. I've had many jobs, careers and interests... everything in life and the universe fascinates me. Born in Brighton, England, I've lived my entire adult life in Los Angeles. Recently I rediscovered photography and I am busy learning everything I can about it. It's a great excuse for getting outside, wandering around and stopping to look at things.

24 thoughts on “Downtown Renaissance – Walking with the Los Angeles Conservancy

  1. Isn’t it great to live in a city? There is soooo much to photograph!!!!

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    • Yes, Cate, I agree…. I have a backlog of places and photos that I will probably never get around to posting… hard to keep up with everything.

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  2. Oh my…I could spend hours in that bookstore. You’re certainly leaving your footprints all around LA. Your photos are wonderful. You really should contact the Chamber of Commerce. They may need promotional photographs.

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  3. Great photos of the architecture, Roslyn! I really like the angle and perspectives of these photos. The window reflections of the San Fernando Building is so very cool! 🙂

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  4. Great shots of beautiful architecture ! It’s wonderful that there’s life budding in those old buildings now.

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  5. Very nice presentation! Wonderful buildings here in LA and it’s good to see the current revival.

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  6. Stunning architectural images of neoclassical style,perfect sideways angles and upward perspective!The first Bank building with the arched reflections is really striking and so are the floor mosaics!The facade of the “unidentified” mansion is incredibly elaborate!

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  7. I so enjoy your generous sharing of photos. Truly loved that ornate hanging light fixture, and especially enjoyed the top of the ornately carved building. Stunning, really. Was taken with the composition of the slightly open portal window. Always am fascinated by what catches a photographer’s eye, (fire escapes, cat silhouette, etc). It’s a bit like taking a guided tour. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  8. Some lovely architecture there, and your photos are just great. I really enjoy looking at them.

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  9. I see you’ve mentioned the Barclay Hotel! If you are a fan of history and true crime novels, check out the newly released novel titled, “The History of the Barclay Hotel: A collection of true short stories both epic and tragic.” You will get a more comprehensive knowledge of the events such as fires, suicides, murders, and mysterious accidental deaths that took place in this hotel during the 120 years it has been around. Intensive and in-depth research was conducted on this hotel. Newspaper articles, police reports, coroner’s reports and the like, were uncovered and the factual information about what really happened in this hotel has been brought to the surface in one complete collection. Available on paperback and eBook. For more details, please visit the books official website: http://www.barclayhotelhistory.com or check out the creepy yet encapsulating book trailer on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GShhnoFGNIg (WARNING EXTREMELY GRAPHIC!!!)

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  10. Hi Roslyn…. I was your docent on this tour. (That’s my arm you see in the third photo from the bottom.) The tall building with the ornate upper stories is known as the Continental Building — originally called the Braly Block when it was built in 1904 for a man named John Hyde Braly. Standing 175 feet tall, it was Los Angeles’ first skyscraper — and for decades, its *only* skyscraper, as the City began limiting the height of downtown construction in 1905.

    The building is well-known to fans of the movie “500 Days of Summer.”See:
    https://architecturebehindmovies.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/500-days-of-summer-braly-block-continental-building-by-diane-diaz-3/

    Your phoros are fantastic BTW!

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    • Thanks for the lovely tour and for the info. It’s been many a moon since I was a Conservancy docent and my memory has faded! Thanks for stopping by.

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