Between 1920 and 1940, the number of residents in Los Angeles jumped from 0.5 million to 1.5 million people. This vigorous population growth was matched by a ton of new construction, as all these new residents needed places to live, shop, dine and be entertained. More often than not, buildings from this era were designed and built in the then- current Moderne style (now known as Art Deco). These Art Deco buildings are part of Los Angeles’ striking, diverse architectural landscape.
Two of these Art Deco structures, the Eastern Columbia and The Wiltern, are especially dear to me. When the light is right, the turquoise terra cotta covering both these structures looks just like blue-green magic.
Eastern Columbia Building (849 S. Broadway, 90014)
This building opened in 1930 to house the Eastern Outfitting Company and the Columbia Outfitting Company. Respectively furniture and clothing stores, both were owned by the Polish immigrant Adolph Sieroty (who started this retail empire with a small clock store).
The designer of this landmark building was noted Los Angeles architect Claud Beelman. The 30 million dollar remodeling and conversion to condos of this structure (completed in 2007) has helped to keep the building in good shape, but it has also means that the building is only accessible to residents. The view from the street is still worth the trip.
Wiltern Theater (3790 Wilshire Boulevard, 90010)
This 1931 building was designed by the famous Stiles O. Clements of architecture firm Morgan, Walls and Clements. The place opened as a vaudeville theater, although it was quickly put to use showing movies as part of the Warner Brothers theater chain.
In the 50s, Warner Brothers sold the building to the Franklin Life Insurance Company, but by the 1970s the theater had been neglected and was on the verge of being demolished. Thankfully, this lovely building was spared such an ignominious fate; its preservation was an important early victory for the LA Conservancy. The site was remodeled in the early 1980s and then again in 2003.
The theater is now owned by Live Nation and serves as a music venue with roughly 2,000 seats. Also within the larger Wiltern Center is a Denny’s, the Novel Cafe, the bar 37sixty, and various offices in the Pellissier Building. Across the street is the Wilshire-Western subway station (Purple Line).