Page 1










“Place memory is the stabilizing persistence of place as a container of experiences that contributes so powerfully to its intrinsic memorability� - Edward Casey










Completed May 2012 by John Patangan Submitted for ARCH 492: Seminar in Architural History - Preservation and Restoration Washington State University School of Architecture and Construction Management Pullman, WA 99163 Photographs by Vanessa Patangan unless otherwise noted.

To My Sister,

Vanessa for enduring the crazy, homeless people while taking pictures for this project.

Map of the Jewelry District (Source: Google Maps, 2012)




L o s A n ge l e s i n the Twe n ti e s an d T hi r ti e s


Th e Me a n S t r eets of Dow n tow n


Th e S i t e s


Wa r n e r Br othe r s Bu i l d i n g Ov i a tt Bu i l d i n g F o x Bu i l d i n g G a r fi el d Bu i l d i n g L o s A n g el es Athl eti c C l u b P e r sh i n g Sq u ar e

9 11 13 15 17 19

R i se o f t h e Jewe l r y Di s tr i c t


B u i l d i n g H e i gh t L i m i t


A r ch i t e c t u r e as P r e s e r vati on


I n t e r ve n t i o n


Portait of Raymond Chandler at age fifty eight Photo: Los Angeles Times Publication

Intr od uc ti o n

Raymond Chandler, an American novelist and screenwriter was one of the few who influenced the image of Los Angeles during the Depression Era as perceived by his detective fiction novels, short stories, and screenplays. Chandler has lived in Chicago, London, Paris, Munich and San Francisco before he finally found his home in Los Angeles in 1913.1 He came with little money and worked around picking fruit before he landed a bookkeeping and auditing job at the Dabney Oil Syndicate. He rose to office manager and vice-president, but was fired in 1932 in the middle of the Great Depression, which he turned his career pursuits in writing. The streets and sites in Los Angeles were important influences in Chandler’s writings, including the rich, Art-Deco styled Los Angeles Athletic Club and the Oviatt Building.2 What connection does this create between him and the Jewelry District? Aside from the Los Angeles Athletic Club and the Oviatt Building’s location within the boundaries of the Jewelry District, Chandler is an important symbol of the perceived Angeleno – from his migration, struggles, and success. Not only did he embody the quintessential dreamer of coming to Los Angeles and “making it big,” he painted a picture of Los Angeles through his writings and screenplays. The buildings in the Jewelry District should represent Los Angeles as imagined in the movies and literature.


A promotional beauty contest at the beach in 1915. (Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)

Los A ng el es i n t h e T w e n ti e s and T hi rt ie s

In the 1920s Los Angeles became one of the major oil fields in the world, which lead to an increase of high-income residents. For example, in the early days, people in the East and Mid-west had been offered a deed to a silver of land in Huntington Beach with each and every encyclopedia they purchased. Unfortunately as it turned out, the buyers of what were known as the “encyclopedia” lots learned their land wasn’t quite as close to the ocean as the book agents had promised. That was the bad news. The good news was that the land turned out to be saturated with oil.3 If sudden wealth could befall someone silly enough to buy an encyclopedia, it could happen to anybody. Morals were not generally appreciated in Los Angeles where good times were the order of the day, and good times don’t require morals. Morals are the result of reflection, and times were passing much too fast for that in Los Angeles. In the 1920s and 30s, there were no less than six major daily newspapers being published from which flowed an endless stream of gossip, rumor, comment and even, occasionally, news which was incomprehensible by any one person on a daily basis.3 Life moved fast even if traffic did not.


Clifton’s Brookdale Cafeteria on Broadway in the 1920s

The Cafeteria taken in May 2012, in the process of restoration

The Mean Streets of Downtown

To Chandler, Los Angeles in the 1930s was society gone wrong. The city was a paradise of fakers, laden with services of Clairvoyance and Spiritual Psychology. Behind its placid façade, he saw the place to be populated by dope thieves, smug peddlers, schemers in low places and high, crooked cops and politicians.*** Though the sun might shine and the warm breezes blow, Los Angeles was haunted by corruption, and not infrequently, death. Death, be it accidental or by design, was what he called The Big Sleep. In his first full-length novel titled so, Chandler introduced the detective hero intent on doing battle with the vices of Los Angeles. Chandler felt that it wasn’t the role of the police to solve crimes in this place. Where were they? Chandler wrote, “the law is where you buy it in this town.”*** (Selected letters of Raymond Chandler). In the depths of the depression, the police stations were struggling. Money was scarce and morals got pushed. For a fifty-dollar bribe you could buy a job as a sergeant. You could be a detective for a hundred twenty five, and a captain for two hundred and fifty. In 1936, Clifford Clinton, helped put an eventual end to the city’s graft and corruption after publicizing his initial findings of the County Hospital’s food budget.*** He owned and operated Los Angeles’s largest and only cafeteria


The Jewelry District on Seventh Street, framing the Warner Brothers Downtown Building


The Jewelry District overlaps the Historic Core of Los Angeles on its eastern end. The Historic Core was the heart of the city before World War II. After the war, all of the financial institutions moved several blocks west where they ended up on Figueroa Street, Flower Street, And Grand Avenue. It left this city center center suffering from blight. Many of the buildings remained after its historic designation and what was once considered the Wall Street of the West – Spring Street – is now a designated historic financial district. There are six sites that create a solid character and personality of the district: The Warner Brothers Theater, Oviatt Building, Fox Building, Garfield Building, and the Los Angeles Athletic Club, and Pershing Square.


Warner Brothers Building in the 1920s, showing the rounded corner and surmounted dome

Warner brothers downtown building

The Warner Brothers Building, designed by renowned theater architect, B. Marcus Priteca, opened in August 1920 as the Pantages Theater. It reopened to its latter name in 1929, with the premier showing of Gold Diggers of Broadway, the top grossing film since 1929 and lasting ten years encapsulating the pre-great depression flapper era. Around the late 20s and early thirties, the theater experimented with widescreen cinematography and projection as developed by the Warner Brothers technical department, successfully running the process with the movie “A Soldier’s Plaything.”4 The theater closed in 1975 and was converted into a church for a while the lobby area was used for retail space for jewelry stalls.


The Oviatt Building on 617 South Olive Street had an Art Deco apartment on the roof for Mr. Oviatt’s use.

the oviatt building

On Olive Street lies another historic building listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. This Art Deco high-rise, called the Oviatt Building, was named after James Zera Oviatt, a Salt Lake City native who moved to Los Angeles as a window dresser and became a prominent international buyer and retailer for Los Angeles. This Walker & Eisen-designed building housed Oviatt’s collections – Alexander & Oviatt Haberdashery.5 French artists direct from Paris were commissioned to bring life to the store with Art Deco elements. The store was highly regarded in its early days until its closure in the sixties. It was restored in the 1970s and is currently used as a party venue with a nightclub on the ground floor and the Cicada Restaurant at its storefront.


The William Fox Building presents a mild, Art Deco style . Inside, it offers a vivid black and gold lobby.

William Fox Building

Another prominent Art Deco high-rise designed by Samuel Norton is the William Fox Commercial Building on 608 Hill Street. William Fox had significant influence over Los Angeles in that he was the first county engineer and urban planner, serving the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission from 1926 to 1948.1 Affectionately known as “the General” in his later years, he was also a Marine Corps brigadier and war hero, recalling to military service after the Pearl Harbor attacks. Fox was credited with planning area roads and sewer systems in the 1940s that remain part of the county’s infrastructure today and are designed to last into the next century. Fox also supervised the construction of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal and served as its commanding officer. His building, still yet to be listed on the National Registry, now stands as the Fox Jewelry Plaza with most of the plasterwork still intact.


The vacant Garfield Building, as seen on Eighth Street, designe by Claude Beelman

Garfield Building

Art Deco decadence continued to sprawl in the late 1920s such as the Garfield Building on 403 West 8th Street. Designed by architect Claud Beelman, this thirteen-story high-rise earned a spot on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in June 1982 after extensive renovations and restoration of its opulent marble lobby, gold-leaf stylings, and terra-cotta exterior. Above the entrance hovers a grillwork laden with floral patterns. The lobby’s twenty-foot ceiling has a low bas-relief pattern. The office building still stands vacant since its most recent sale in 1991, although it is occasionally used for filming events.


The Los Angeles Athletic Club on Olive and 7th Streets, designed by John Parkinson and Edwin Bergstrom

The Los Angeles Athletic Club

The Los Angeles Athletic Club Building, as made famous by Raymond Chandler, along with the Oviatt is another site listed under the Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. It is the only building in the district that has not been converted from its original purpose. The building, built in 1912 houses the first athletic club and private social club established in Los Angeles. It was also the first building in California to have a swimming pool in the upper floor. As Los Angeles developed, so did the club, until World War II when financial burdens skyrocketed and suburban growth exploded thereafter. During the 1932 Los Angeles Olympiad, the club had garnered over 90 medals, about 50 of which are gold. Its membership over 60 years had reflected Los Angeles societies and early Hollywood, especially with its star-studded member list.


Current wiew of Pershing Square on 6th and Olive with the International Jewelry Center designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill

Pershing Square

Perhaps the most historic place within the district is not actually a building, but a park. Settlers outside Pueblo de Los Angeles used Pershing Square, founded in the 1850s, as a camp in the 1850s. It sits on the northwest end of the district. It was dedicated as a public square in the 1860s and was named La Plaza Abaja at the time. A German beer garden owner nearby by the name of George Lehman planted small native Monterey cypress trees, fruit trees, and flowering shrubs around the park and maintained them until his death in 1882. When Loyola Marymount University, then St. Vincent’s College, was located across the park, it informally became known as St. Vincent’s Park. It was followed by 6th Street Park with a redesigned official park plan by Frederick Eaton, later the mayor of Los Angeles. In the 1890s it became known as Central Park, which lasted for decades. It became a popular outdoor destination in the city providing a lush, subtropical oasis. It was the central venue of La Fiesta de Los Angeles, a citywide celebration. What is believed to be the oldest public work of art also sits at the park, commemorating twenty dead Californians who fought during the SpanishAmerican War.


During World War II, the park was heavily used for rallies and recruitment, but after the war the park’s popularity and intensity of use began to decline as suburbanization increased. In 1954 a cigar store-owning, Hungarian immigrant by the name of Kelly Roth, donated $30,000 as a thank you for the opportunities it provided him.5 The park was demolished and rebuilt to accommodate an underground parking garage. It fell into unsafe use and became an eyesore to the city in the late sixties. The park’s problems were acknowledged during John F. Kennedy’s visit during the 1960 Democratic National Convention at the park-facing Biltmore Hotel. Before the 1984 Summer Olympics, the park underwent a one million dollar temporary renovation, followed by a more extensive fifteen million dollar redesign and renovation. These six sites have created significant contributions in Los Angeles’s history and some of these sites had been listen in the National Registry of Historic Places with the efforts of Los Angeles Conservancy. The history, culture, and architecture of these aforementioned buildings will help redefine the rest of the buildings within the boundaries of the Jewelry district and help reimagine the place with much more character than a place to sell jewelry. The distinction of this district, after all, did not emerge until its singular unity as a place to sell jewelry. The district’s emergence came as an opportunity to reoccupy the buildings after years of vacancy and blight.

Listening post and air raid lights positioned in Perishing Square in 1941. Photo: Los Angeles Times Publication


Rise of the Jewelry District

The influx of jewelry stores in the area did not come about until after the 1960s when gold became in demand for investments. This demand was a result of the red scare when at the height of communist fright. The influx of jewelry stores in the area did not come about until after the 1960s when gold became in demand for investments rather than holding on to their dollars.9 Before this surge, the California Jewelry Mart dominated the local industry with its establishment on S. 607 Hill Street.10 The district became even more popular with the opening of Saint Vincent Jewelry Center, which is still housed in a large 1923 building complex with a european-inspired alley of restaurants. Across the street from St. Vincent’s is the State Theater Building, a twelve-story red brick office building and theater, designed by Charles Peter Weeks and William Day in 1921. Right across Loew’s Theatre was another office building which accommodated a drug store in the early twentieth century.11 Behind Loews, along 7th street, is the Speckels building – an office building turned garment manufacturing center – and the Provident Loan Association, a not-for-profit organization that provided short term loans for gold and jewelry.12 It was the last remaining of the many not-for-profit loan societies of the late 19th and early 20th century.13 Another building on 728 S. Hill Street is the Jasper building, a 14-story office Italianate building built in 1928, which was converted to accommodate another jewelry manufacturing center.14 One particular historic site in process of restoration is Clifton’s Cafeteria on 648 South Broadway, whose original 1904 façade has been restored after 50 years of a grate-like, modern aluminum covering. This 1963 remodeling effort was an attempt to compete with the newer restaurants in the city suburbs.15 It was once home to Boos Brothers Cafeteria until Clifton purchased the lease in 1935.16


The I. N. Van Nuys Building on Spring Street and 7th Street. This Beaux Arts tradition’s architectural has been restored and converted into a senior home.

Architecture as Preservation Architectural preservation is the focus in retaining this district. Edward Casey’s article ‘Place Memory and Urban Preservation’ read, “Architectural preservation is usually less concerned with accountability and more expensive than community based public history, but it does assert its visual presence in the spaces of the city.” The language of Art Deco and Beaux Arts style communicate well with Los Angeles’ image as an imagined place in motion pictures. The sculptural elements of these styles reflect the elaborate lifestyle that celebrities embrace in the city. The eclecticism of Art Deco as a marriage of neoclassical and modernist elements also responds to the decorative pursuits of the city yet approached in a relaxed manner. Even today, Los Angeles is still perceived in this lifestyle.

Adaptive Reuse Ordinance The high vacancy rate of the many buildings downtown helped shape and pass the conversion of these buildings through the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance. The ordinance passed in 1999, only applying to downtown Los Angeles but was later expanded into various other parts of the city in 2003. “[The Ordinance] provides for an expedited approval process and ensures that older and historic building are not subjected to the same zoning and code requirements that apply to new construction,” as read on the city’s Office of Historic Resources site. While inquiries may wonder whether historic buildings are threatened or damaged by conversions, the interventions are often thought of with respect to historical significance of the buildings. This could often refer to the exterior façade of the building, and the lobby, or any crucial place where historical events have occurred.


A jewelry maker working inside the Ville de Paris Building on Olive and Seventh Streets


What really sets the tone of place in Los Angeles is Hollywood. But in the nineteen twenties, Los Angeles frequently pointed out that there was no Hollywood – that it had long ago dis-incorporated, and was now only a neighborhood. Long-time Times columnist Lee Shippery wrote, “Hollywood is the bunk. There’s no such place – it is a state of mind. Culver City and Burbank and Malibu Beach are all ‘Hollywood’ and yet none of them is Hollywood.”3 The films have created such a disconnected image of Los Angeles that it becomes an imagined place, so different from the tangibility one absorbs from experiencing the place in reality. The hope of running into celebrities and visiting theme parks shaped the extensive influx of tourism in Los Angeles. This is the critical part of what shapes the transition of this place as a dream to reality, and the interventions for the Jewelry District will aim at retaining that state of dream, of motion picture perception to come alive. Los Angeles, like many American cities, faces the need to redefine its decaying downtown during this postindustrial time. As the information age eclipses an era of industrial production, many of those who have historically lived and worked downtown are unequipped to succeed in the new economy. As a result, the Jewelry District and downtown core has developed a split personality: a daytime population of nine-to-five commuters and a professionally, educationally, and economically disadvantaged resident base.


Relative to the age of older cities, Los Angeles has barely reached its youth, yet the urban spread has long surpassed the more older, established cities from all over the world. Architectural styles have made significant marks in the city creating almost a comical, dream-like rhythm. The dream had at times, in the growth of the region, stimulated a host of social experiments, including the establishment of various, utopian planned communities. Communities were also formed by political refugees, social reformers, extended families, religious groups, professional colleagues, and enlightened developers. The buildings in the Jewelry District should abandon its function as a center for jewelry retail and manufacturing and should embody the image that Los Angeles is painted through motion pictures and literature. It should create a symbolic oasis that embodies the history of Los Angeles, both the good and bad. Art History professor Christiane Hertel of Bryn Mawr College would agree to this as she wrote, “Whether their object is exploited, corrupted, commodified, rejected, or criticized, local claims to authenticity, even as they differ and compete, demand respect by virtue of being based in local knowledge and experience.�17

This ad is found wrapping the sidewalks across the Ville de Paris on Seventh Street and Olive Street


As Raymond Chandler would have observed, Los Angeles is devoid of self-doubt, possessed of inexhaustible reserves of the go-get-itness, and the kind of man his peers and the press loved to call a dreamer, who first dreamed of the possibilities of Hollywood. The void left in downtown by the loss of industrial jobs and wages, declining infrastructure, and decreased land value has generated a mood of abandonment and despair. Without a lifeline, this condition will only worse as more new immigrants and low-income families continue to concentrate and converge in downtown Los Angeles.



Richard Rayner, A bright and guilty place : murder, corruption, and L.A.’s scandalous coming of age, (New York: Doubleday, 2009), 65-84.


2 Raymond Chandler, Tom Hiney, Frank MacShane, The Raymond Chandler papers : selected letters and non-fiction, 1909-1959,(London: Hamish Hamilton, 2000), 154-165. 3 Bruce Hensetell, Sunshine and Wealth: Los Angeles in the Twenties and Thirties, (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 45-72 4 David Gebhard, Harriette Von Breton, Los Angeles in the Thirties, 1931 – 1941, (Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, Inc., 1989) 5 John Weaver, Los Angeles: The Enormous Village, 1781-1981, (Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1980), 55-67. 6 Sam Kaplan, Los Angeles, Lost & Found: An Architectural History of Los Angeles (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1987), 79-80

Los Angeles County, “Office of the Assessor: Property Search.” Accessed March 14, 2012.


8 Jeremiah Axelrod, “Keep The “L” Out of Los Angeles,” Journal of Urban History, 34, no. 1 (2007): 7.

9 John Caskey, Fringe Banking: Check-Cashing Outlets, Pawnshops and the Poor, (New York: Russel Sage, 1996), 65.

St. Vincent Jewelry Center, “District History.” Accessed March 14, 2012.


Alfred Knopf, Los Angeles: A History, (New York: Rosebud Books, 1980), 118.


12 USC Libraries, “The Loew’s State building, Provident Loan Association, Thrifty Drug Store, Owl Drug Company, New York Millinery, and Ritz Millinery on Seventh Street.” Accessed March 14, 2012.

13John Caskey, Fringe Banking: Check-Cashing Outlets, Pawnshops and the Poor, (New York: Russel Sage, 1996), 24. 14M&M Holding LLC, “Jasper Building.” Last modified 2008. Accessed March 14, 2012. 15Pool, “Clifton’s Cafeteria reveals original facade, hidden for fifty years,” Los Angeles Times, 2, no. 12 (2012) 16Los Angeles Conservancy, “Clifton’s Cafeteria reveals original facade, hidden for 50 years.” Accessed March 14, 2012. 17 Christiane Hertel, Beyond In/Authenticity: Dresden’s Frauenkirche, 46


Art Center College of Design, L.A. Now: Volume 2, (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011) Janet Abu-Lughod, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles: America’s Global Cities, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999) Reyner Banham, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, (New York: Haper & Row Publishers, 1971), 122. Dana Cuff, The Provisional City: Los Angeles Stories of Architecture and Urbanism (Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2000) Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles, (Los Angeles: Verso Publishers, 2006) Michael J. Dear, The Postmodern Urban Condition (Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 2000) Paul Gleye, The Architecture of Los Angeles, (Los Angeles: The Knapp Press, 1981) Robert Mayer, Chronological & Documentary History of Los Angeles: 1542-1976, (New York: Oceana Publications, 1978) Tom Sitton, William Deverell, Metropolis In The Making, (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997) Maggie Toy, World Cities: Los Angeles, (London: Academy Editions, 1994)

Transforming The Jewelry District  

Preservation Project for ARCH 492 at Washington State University. So now we try and preserve the buildings that sit on the jewelry distric...

Transforming The Jewelry District  

Preservation Project for ARCH 492 at Washington State University. So now we try and preserve the buildings that sit on the jewelry distric...