Take a walk through historic Broadway

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I worked for nearly 20 years in downtown Los Angeles. From 1977 to 1996 I commuted to Second and Spring streets. During those years, I never really understood the scope of the historic architectural treasures that stood on Broadway, just blocks from where I worked.

Yes, I visited the Bradbury Building and Grand Central Market, but Angels Flight was still in storage and Broadway was a gritty enclave of homelessness and cheap electronics stores.

As gentrification moves to Broadway many of the beautiful old buildings, many built before 1930, are being lovingly restored and repurposed.

There is a rebirth going on now in this historic core of Los Angeles. Now is the time to take a walk down Broadway (with a few detours) to see the magnificent movie palaces (and a select few other remarkable buildings) that at one time drew generations of residents to the city center.

Getting There

You can drive to downtown. There are many parking garages on Broadway that offer parking for $15 for the entire day, and that’s on a weekday. My favorite way to travel is to take the Metrolink Antelope Valley Line from any of the Santa Clarita Valley stations — Newhall, Santa Clarita or Via Princessa. Visit the Metrolink website for fares and schedules. https://metrolinktrains.com

From Union Station, cross Alameda Street and visit Olvera Street, known as “the birthplace of Los Angeles.” Walk down Main Street past the Pico House (1870). Make a right onto 1st Street, then a left on Broadway. Your tour begins here.

Los Angeles Times

202 West 1st Street

Year of Completion: 1935

Architectural Style: Late Art Deco

The former home of the Los Angeles Times has been converted to office space.

Grand Central Market

317 S. Broadway

Year of Completion: 1896

Architectural Style: Beaux Arts

It was the first fireproofed, reinforced concrete building in L.A. and the first west of Chicago to have concrete floors. The building’s first tenant was the Ville de Paris Department Store. The market opened in 1917 and currently features mostly gourmet eateries and a few product vendors.

Million Dollar Theatre

307 S. Broadway

Year of Completion: 1918

Architectural Style: Spanish Churrigueresque

One of the earliest and largest movie palaces in the country, boasting 2,345 seats. The theater opened Feb. 1, 1918 with the premiere of “The Silent Man” accompanied by a 30-piece orchestra. Guests included Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin. In the 1940s, the theater hosted jazz and big band stars such as Billie Holiday, Artie Shaw and Lionel Hampton.

Roxie Theatre

518 S. Broadway

Year of Completion: 1931

Architectural Style: Art Deco

The last theater built on Broadway. Noted for its stepped roofline, tower, decorative chevrons and highly stylized geometric forms. Seated 1,600 and designed for film presentation. The lobby was converted to retail use in the late 1980s.

Cameo Theatre

528 S. Broadway

Year of Completion: 1910

Architectural Style: Classical Revival

Opened in 1910 as Clune’s Broadway Theatre to screen first-run films, the 900-seat theatre was one of the country’s first theatres built to show movies. The modest Neo-classical design was considered quite elegant for a movie theatre at the time. It is now a retail store.

Arcade Theater

534 S. Broadway

Year of Completion: 1910

Architectural Style: Beaux Arts

The Pantages Theatre (renamed the Arcade in 1928) was built to house vaudeville and seated 1,400. It hosted opening-night performers including Sophie Tucker, appearing on her first West Coast tour. Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy) performed here in 1919. The lobby area was converted to retail use in 1993.

Broadway-Spring Arcade Building

541 S. Spring St.

Year of Completion: 1924

Architectural Style: Beaux Arts, Spanish Baroque

Built in 1924, the three-level, glass-roofed shopping arcade connects two 12-story office towers. Twisted and beaded columns shape the delicate arches that traverse the basement level. The arcade originally housed 61 shops. It is covered with a glass-roofed skylight in imitation of the Burlington Arcade in London.

Walter P. Story Building

610 S. Broadway

Year of Completion: 1909

Architectural Style: Beaux Arts

The building houses offices and jewelry businesses. The lobby, with its compact marble staircase, wide bannisters and two-story newel posts, is clad in lightly-veined white marble and features a Tiffany-style stained glass skylight.

Los Angeles Theatre

615 S. Broadway

Year of Completion: 1931

Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival

The most lavish and last built of Broadway’s great movie palaces. Patterned after the celebrated Fox theatre in San Francisco, it recalls the glories of the French Baroque. It is a popular filming and special-event location.

Palace Theatre

630 S. Broadway

Year of Completion: 1911

Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival

Opened as the third home of the Orpheum vaudeville circuit in L.A. It is one of the oldest theatres in L.A. and the oldest remaining original Orpheum theater in the U.S. It hosted many stars including Harry Houdini, Will Rogers, Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth.

State Theatre and Building

703 S. Broadway

Year of Completion: 1921

Architectural Style: Beaux Arts

The State Theatre is a 12-story structure with a brick façade, one of the largest brick-clad buildings in L.A. It opened Nov. 12, 1921 with a vaudeville show and the premiere of the film “A Trip to Paradise.” In the mid-2000s, it became Universal Church of Christ.

Globe Theatre/Garland Building

744 S. Broadway

Year of Completion: 1913

Architectural Style: Beaux Arts

Built as a combination office tower and theater venue, it was unusual in that it accommodated not only vaudeville, but also full-scale dramatic productions. The current marquee dates back to the 1940s when the theater began showing newsreels and its name was changed to “The Globe.” It is now a nightclub and live entertainment venue.

Hamburgers/May Company Department Store

801 S. Broadway

Years of Completion: 1906, 1908, 1923, 1929

Architectural Style: Beaux Arts

An enormous structure erected in 1906 that once boasted it was the largest department store on the Pacific Coast. It is clad in white-glazed terra-cotta.

Founded in 1881 as “The People’s Store,” A. Hamburger and Sons eventually became known as Hamburgers and then became the May Company, when the May family took it over. In the late 1980s, the May Company closed this location. In 2014, the building was sold to create a venue for creative office, retail and hotel use.

The Tower Theater

800 S. Broadway

Year of Completion: 1927

Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival

It opened in 1927 with the silent film “The Gingham Girl.” It was the first film house in L.A. to be wired for talking pictures and it was the location of the sneak preview and Los Angeles premiere of the revolutionary talkie “The Jazz Singer” (1927), starring Al Jolson. During the 1990s, it was a popular location for film production, including the film “Mambo Kings.” In 2018, Apple announced plans to reuse The Tower Theatre as a retail operation.

Quinn’s Rialto Theatre

812 S. Broadway

Year of Completion: 1917

One of the first theaters to have stadium-style seating and features the longest neon marquee in the Broadway National Register Historic Theatre District.

Orpheum Theatre and Loft Building

842 S Broadway

Year of Completion: 1926

Architectural Style: Beaux Arts

This opulent theater and 12-story office building were built as the fourth and final home of the famed Orpheum vaudeville circuit in L.A. Prominent signage includes the original electric rooftop sign illuminated by incandescent bulbs, a neon blade sign dating from the 1930s and the 1941 theater marquee.

Eastern Columbia Lofts

849 S. Broadway

Year of Completion: 1930

Architectural Style: Art Deco

From its spectacular clock tower — emblazoned with the name Eastern in neon — down to its multi-colored terrazzo sidewalks, this 1930 downtown landmark was one of the largest buildings constructed in downtown until after WWII. This downtown landmark underwent a $30 million conversion in 2006 into 140 luxury condominiums.

Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles and The Theatre at Ace Hotel

933 S. Broadway

Year of Completion: 1927

Architectural Style: Spanish Gothic

The flagship for United Artist’s West Coast operations. In 2012, the building was converted into the boutique Ace Hotel, and the theater was restored as an event and performance space.

For a complete description of many of the properties on this tour visit: https://www.laconservancy.org/events/broadway-historic-theatre-and-commercial-district-walking-tour

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