Still Another Bird’s Eye View of Downtown Los Angeles, 10 February 1925

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Following on posts from this date in previous years, we offer tonight’s featured object from the museum’s holdings comprising the third of a trio of great Spence Air Photos aerial views of downtown Los Angeles taken on 10 February 1925. This one, however, is much closer to the ground, so we get more details, specifically with rooftop signs of those painted on the sides of commercial structures, along with a few other landmarks of note.

On the reverse is in the inscription “7th & Broadway—our busiest corner—at lower left” and “6th St. at right—Part of Pershing Square at middle right.” With the first designation, Broadway was probably best known for its palatial theaters, for both showing films and, for a little while longer, live vaudeville acts. 7th Street, on the other hand was largely known for being a shopping district and one major feature was, at the northwest corner, of those two key thoroughfares, Bullock’s department store.

The massive rooftop sign is easily visible, atop the section with a few extra stories, but to the left, or south, on the roof the five-story portion of the structure is a garden available to the public as well as for employees. Some of the history of Bullock’s, which was directly connected to Arthur Letts’ The Broadway, has been covered in previous posts on this blog, but it was definitely one of the largest and best known of the big department stores in the Angel City at the time. In fact, an early 1920s addition cost somewhere in the vicinity of $2 million.

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This detail shows the Bullock’s store building, The Dyas/Ville de Paris store, the Pantages Theatre, the Los Angels Athletic Club and other structures along Seventh from near Spring to points west.

In fact, another photo featured in our “Through the Viewfinder” series of historic photos from the Homestead’s holdings shows Seventh west from Broadway with the photographer actually standing on that Bullock’s rooftop garden. One of the signs noticed on both views is that of the Ville de Paris, the store owned by B.H. Dyas and Company, and which was located on the southeast corner of 7th and Olive Street (the building was recent home of the L.A. Jewelry Mart.) Bernal H. Dyas began selling sporting goods at Main and 3rd streets in 1905, but, in 1919, purchased the Ville de Paris, which opened in 1893 by Auguste Fusenot and was sold a little more than two decades later to the owners of San Francisco’s Emporium. The site later was occupied by the Los Angeles Jewelry Mart.

Meanwhile, the substantial building across from Bullock’s on the southwest corner of Broadway and 7th was completed in 1921 as the Loew’s State Theatre Building, featuring one of those movie palaces that lined the former street. The structure that is below the department store and on the northeast corner is the Haas Building, constructed in 1915 by Abraham Haas, an owner of Haas, Baruch and Company forerunner of today’s Smart and Final warehouse grocery chain.

Just above, or west, of Bullock’s is a structure with a distinctive curved corner and a dome on the roof at that location, this being the Pantages Theatre at Seventh and Hill, built by Alexander Pantages, of whom a post on his sexual assault trial has appeared here, at a cost of about $1.5 million. The theater later became a Warner Brothers venue and has lately been a jewelry mart.

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This section is west of Broadway and south of Seventh and includes the First Methodist Episcopal and First Congregational churches on Hope and 8th and south, as well as the Simpson Tabernacle/Auditorium on Hope between 7th and 8th.

Towards the bottom right corner are two more well-known stores, including Myer Siegel and Company, on the west side of Broadway south of Sixth, and Bedell of New York on the southwest corner of those two thoroughfares. Siegel opened his first store in 1886 on Spring and 2nd and it focused on children’s clothing. A decade later he married the daughter of San Francisco merchant Isaac Magnin and Siegel managed an Angel City store for him, but this later became known under Siegel’s name. In the early Twenties, Siegel opened in the building shown in this photo in what had been the Central Department Store, but, in 1933, moved to Seventh and Olive when the Ville de Paris/Dyas store closed.

Bedell of New York made its entre into the Los Angeles mercantile world in 1920 with the long-term lease of a portion of the Morton Building, formerly leased to the Owl Drug Company, which had many branches in greater Los Angeles at the time. Owl retained the corner store location, but the rest of the ground floor and the upper stories were occupied by Bedell, which, however, went bankrupt in 1931 as the Great Depression worsened. At the lower right and across from the Bedell building is the Walter P. Story Building at the southeast corner of Broadway and 6th and which long housed the popular men’s clothier, Mullen and Bluett.

On the middle of the right margin is the southern end of Pershing Square and just to the left of that is the Detwiler Building, completed in 1914 and known as the Baker-Detwiler Building and which, at 14 stories containing 324 offices, was the tallest structure in the Angel City. Abram K. Detwiler came to Los Angeles in 1910 from Toledo, Ohio, and owned a realty firm and the company that operated his building. Because of its location overlooking Pershing Square, the building is known now as the Park Central. Above Pershing Square on 6th and between Hill and Grand is the Pacific Mutual Building complex, while above the Detwiler and across from the Pacific Mutual is the Heron Building, completed in 1921.

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Pershing Square is at the lower right of this detail, with the Detwiler, Pacific Mutual, Heron and other buildings nearby, while the Pantages Theatre and Los Angeles Athletic Club are at the bottom left and the Union Oil Building towards the left center. Wilshire Boulevard, then ending at Figueroa is at the top center with 7th at the left and 6th at the right.

Left, or south, of the Detwiler and at just about the center of the photo is the Los Angeles Athletic Club, one of the earliest private clubs in town when it was established in 1880. It became one of the most popular institutions for powerful elite men in the Angel City and, in 1912, the clubhouse was completed at the northwest corner of Olive and 7th and made a splash by having a massive swimming pool built on an upper floor.

The further removed from the photographer, the harder is to make out any painted signs, though the one for the Union Oil Building at the northeast corner of 7th and Hope is big enough to stand out. The structure was completed in summer 1923 for the firm, which began in Santa Paula in Ventura County, but which grew very rapidly in the early 20th century and relocated to Los Angeles, occupying quarters from 1911 in the A.G. Bartlett Building , situated at Spring and 7th below where the photographer of this photo was positioned.

Left (south) of the Union Oil Building, behind what looks like a smokestack to the west of Olive Street is the Simpson’s Tabernacle with a tower at its northwest corner and the octagonal shaped auditorium on the east side of Hope between 7th and 8th streets. While the structure was demolished in 1973, the Third Church of Christ, Scientist located in a brick addition, remains today. It was always strange parking at Joe’s Auto Parks next to the parking lot where the Simpson once stood and then to walk by the quaint Christian Science church and reading room and church on the way to the Central Public Library a couple of blocks to the north.

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Towards the upper left corner are two church buildings on Hope, with the First United Methodist Episcopal at the southwest corner at 8th and with its corner tower and three large arched windows along Hope easily discernible. The church started in a saloon in the 1850s and was later in a Gothic Revival structure on Fort Street (Broadway) before moving to the spot formerly occupied by Abbot Kinney’s Abbotsford Inn with the structure completed in 1923.

At the edge of the photo is the First Congregational Church (this was the denomination F.P.F. Temple was affiliated with in his native Massachusetts, but he converted to Roman Catholicism and was baptized immediately before marrying Antonia Margarita Workman in 1845) and this fourth site of the church (the others were on New High Street, at Hill and Third and then Hill and Sixth—the site of this latter is at the bottom right of this photo where the tall building is next to the park at the northeast corner) was finished in 1903 and operated until 1932.

In addition to the main numbered streets, with 6th at the right, 7th at the center and angling to the left toward the top, and 8th at the left and curving to the left, a brief stretch of Wilshire Boulevard is at the top between 6th and 7th, though it then stopped at Figueroa and was not extended to Grand until some years later.

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While there are undoubtedly many other structures in this photo that could be pointed out and discussed, hopefully some of the highlights have been pointed out here. While the trio of Spence aerials taken on 10 February 1925 have all now been featured in this blog, there are photos from the set of 13 that were acquired together that will be shared in future posts, so please look for those.

2 thoughts

  1. so cool to see our past as we would go downtown to the biltmore and light opera. also the pershing square forcliftons snf vbook dstores

  2. Hi Daniel, we’re glad you enjoyed the photo and post and we’re looking forward to sharing more of these photos in future posts. Thanks!

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