Through the Viewfinder: Northwest from Broadway and 6th, Los Angeles, 1910s

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Today’s “Through the Viewfinder” entry is a negative from the Homestead’s collection that shows a nice panoramic view looking northwest from about the intersection of Broadway and 6th Street in downtown Los Angeles about the 1910s.

The image shows many commercial structures, including, at the bottom left corner, a sliver of Silverwood’s clothing store, long a fixture at the northeast corner of Broadway and 6th.  Adjacent is an ornamental brass and iron works company.

Thanks to painted billboards on the side of buildings, a few businesses along the west side of Broadway are identifiable, including Mackie-Fredericks Company, a furniture store that opened at that location in December 1903.  Two buildings north had the Angelus photography studio, specializing in fine portraits, as a tenant.

A single-story structure next to the photo studio included J.C. Fleming’s jewelry store and optician’s establishment, as well as Ernst’s millinery (or maker of women’s hats.)  The five-story building north of these included the haberdashery (men’s hats) and tailor shop of the perfectly named George P. Taylor and a tailor’s shop for women called “Dirmer Cie.,” the latter meaning “company” in German.

Next to Silverwood’s, on the east side of Broadway, is Green-Marshall Company, which sold paint, varnishes, oils and related supplies and materials.  A few buildings north was a restaurant, though only a bit of the advertisement on the side of the building is visible.

Negative Of Downtown Los Angeles 2010.227.1.2
This scan of an original negative from the Homestead’s collection shows a panoramic view from 6th Street just east of Broadway and looking to the northwest past Pershing Square and the Auditorium towards Bunker Hill.

Behind the Mackie-Fredericks building are a number of tall trees signifying the location of what was still then called Central Park, but renamed Pershing Square by the end of the decade.  Behind the park at the upper left of the photo is a large ornate structure with a conical tower that was built in the late 1880s as the Normal School, a state-affiliated teacher’s training college.

A recent post on Aletha Maxey Gilbert, a Los Angeles Police Department employee who worked with women and girls on moral matters, noted that she occupied offices in that building after the school, which morphed into U.C.L.A., vacated the structure.  In 1926, the Los Angeles Central Public Library was completed on that site.

Above the Mackie-Fredericks rooftop sign is “The Auditorium,” a theater at the northeast corner of 5th and Olive that was the site of Hazard’s Pavilion, an early entertainment venue from the late 1880s.  The Auditorium was finished in 1906 and was known as the “Temple Auditorium” initially because the Temple Baptist Church used the facility for Sunday services.

Mackie-Fredericks opening Herald 6Dec03
The 6 December 1903 edition of the Los Angeles Herald covered the grand opening of the Mackie-Fredericks department store on Broadway, which is visible in the image.

Costing $350,000 and having the distinction of being the first reinforced concrete building in the city, it was said to be the largest theater west of Chicago upon completion, the venue boasted two halls that could seat nearly 1,000 people each, retail stores on the ground floor, offices in upper levels,  and a banquet hall in the basement, in addition to the main auditorium, which seated well over 2,000.

From 1914 it was “Clune’s Auditorium” or “Clune’s Theatre Beautiful,” but in the 1920s, when the Los Angeles Philharmonic took over, it was called the “Philharmonic Auditorium.  The building had a Streamline Moderne makeover in the late 1930s, but hosted nearly three decades of Philharmonic seasons, before the orchestra moved to the Music Center in the mid-Sixties.  In 1985, the structure was leveled and has long been a parking lot.

Barthelmess Broken Blossoms Herald 13Oct19
This photo of actor Richard Barthelmess accompanied an article in the 13 October 1919 issue of the Herald about the showing of D.W. Griffith’s classic silent film, “Broken Blossoms,” at Clune’s Auditorium.

Finally, in the background is Bunker Hill, largely developed in the 1880s with many large Victorian-era mansions that, by the time the photo was taken, were starting to show their age, especially as the well-heeled were mainly moving west away from downtown.  The tall thin tower that marked the location of Angels Flight stands out amongst the older residences, many of which were being converted to apartments.

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this view of a section of downtown Los Angeles from a century and more years ago and check back for the next installment of “Through the Viewfinder”, focusing on a 1920s-era photograph from the region.

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