Home Architectural Travel Historic Los Angeles City Walk

Historic Los Angeles City Walk

written by Penny Sadler
the million dollar theater, from Historic Los Angeles City Walk

The Million Dollar Theater

On my recent trip to Los Angeles, I walked the historic downtown area – a fascinating neighborhood packed with a wonderful mix of modern and historic buildings that tell the history of Los Angeles from 1890s to the present. 

I was surprised to learn that there is a huge theater district built mostly in the 1920s and 30s and it contains the largest concentration of theaters located within on city block in the nation. Take a walk down Broadway St. – from beaux arts to art deco, it’s an architect’s dream come true.

Exploring Historic Downtown LA

The whole area was once the center of art and culture in Los Angeles, but was mostly abandoned by the 1990s. However there is a movement to revitalize the area, and funding has been approved to install a downtown streetcar. There are rumours of big name retailers like Urban Outfitters moving into the area as well. Many of the buildings are already being converted into lofts, however there are still a lot of buildings that look only partially refurbished – it looks like a very long term project.

Starting your Los Angeles City Walk: Broadway & 3rd

Detail of the facade on the Million Dollar Theater, los angeles historic district

Detail, Million Dollar Theater

A great place to start your walk is at the corner of Broadway and 3rd. On one side is the Million Dollar Theater and the Grand Central Market, and across the street is the famous Bradbury Building. The Bradbury is the oldest commercial building in Los Angeles, and it is working building so you can only visit the first floor. The beautiful French wrought iron, five story atrium, and wood and terra cotta details of the interior, were inspired by a futuristic novel from 1887 called, “Looking Backward,” by Edward Bellamy. Interesting anecdote, parts of the building were used in the science fiction film, Blade Runner.

the Bradbury building LA

Interior: The Bradbury Building

Next Up: Grand Central Market

Adjacent to the Million Dollar Theater is Grand Central Market, the oldest open air market in Los Angeles and it’s still a hopping place. You can find everything from tacos to fresh fruit smoothies here.

grand central market, los angeles city walk

Grand Central Market

Continue your Los Angeles city walk through Grand Central Market to the other side and across the street you will see the world’s shortest railroad, Angels Flight, a funicular built in 1901. Ride it to the top for just 50 cents and experience a bit of L.A. history.

Angels flight, world's shortest railroad, los angeles @PennySadler 2013

Angels Flight

Go back to Broadway to continue your tour.

Continue your Los Angeles city walk through the theater district: 

The Los Angeles Theater, Historic Los Angeles Architecture walk @PennySadler 2013

Historic Los Angeles Architecture Walk

The Los Angeles Theater was built in 1931 at a cost of 2,000,000 dollars! The owner went in the hole pretty quickly and Fox took over the theater until the 1980s. 

The Tower Theater @PennySadler 2013

The Tower Theater

Orpheum palace theater, downtown Los Angeles

The Palace Theater, Broadway St.

The Palace Theater was built in 1911 and was one of the first of the Orpheum Vaudeville Theaters.

There are many other buildings of historical significance aside from the theaters.

If you can plan in advance (I did not), the Los Angeles Conservancy offers tours of the various neighborhoods and styles of architecture for only $10.00. Some include the interiors which I’d love to see!

Main St. downtown Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles, California

I like the above photograph for the color and variety of textures and architecture. The streetlamp you see on the left side of the photograph is a style from the early 1900s and were placed throughout the neighborhood in the 1920s. I think they add a lot of charm and character. This photograph was taken on Main Street, across from the Cathedral of St. Vibiana, another historic landmark of downtown Los Angeles.

the chester williams building, Los Angeles

The Chester Williams Building

Broadway St. los Angeles @PennySadler 2013

Broadway St. Theater

Explore historic downtown Los Angeles with Adventures of a Carry-On's architecture-based city walk.

All materials ©PennySadler 2013

If You Liked This Article Check Out Another!


Cool Building: Union Station, Los Angeles - Adventures of a Carry-on | Adventures of a Carry-on September 3, 2013 at 11:37 pm

[…] If you enjoy historic walks read my post on Historic Downtown Los Angeles. […]

Lesley Peterson August 1, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Great post, Penny! I’ll be printing it off in the hopes I’ll get to Los Angeles soon.

Penny Sadler August 4, 2013 at 9:07 am

Thanks Leslie. I hope you do too! Be sure to check out the LA Conservancy for a walking tour.

Beautiful Amazing World June 7, 2013 at 5:00 am

You take some really amazing pictures 🙂

Managed to see a few of these places last time I was in L.A. and this post is really making me want to go back!

Penny June 7, 2013 at 8:37 am

What a nice comment. Thank you! I want to go back too and visit the interiors. I’d also like to take the tour with the LA Conservancy.

Dale June 2, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I’m really looking forward to the day I make it to Los Angeles. I love to see Art Deco pieces of which I’ve not seen enough to date.

Especially going to try the Art Deco tour that you pointed out, such a shame you didn’t get to.

Penny June 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm

The good news is, I go to LA often so I can do it next time. 🙂

Island Traveler May 31, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I lived in California for about 4 years but never ventured to such amazing places and historic treasures. Now you inspired me to go back…even for a week of Summer break. Thanks. Awesome post!

Penny May 31, 2013 at 4:52 pm

LA has a lot to offer that seems to go unnoticed!

Kathryn May 30, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Love the architecture and embellishments. Bet they are gorgeous inside to. Really brings back the romance of the times they were built.

flashpackerfamily May 30, 2013 at 4:13 am

Great pictures! I never really thought about doing this kind of tour in LA. I was more focussed on star spotting!

Penny May 30, 2013 at 8:26 am

Haha. You know I’ve never seen a “star” in LA aside from the ones on Hollywood Blvd. 🙂

Larissa Milne May 29, 2013 at 10:43 am

Wonderful to see that these old gems still exist, especially in Southern California, where so much is brand new!

Penny May 29, 2013 at 8:36 pm

I know you have an art deco theaters board on Pinterest – next time you’re in LA I think this is a must do for you. 🙂

paulkristoff May 29, 2013 at 7:10 am

Great set of photos. Just goes to show how important it is for “newer” cities to protect their history. It might not be as old as things in other cities around the world but it’s still fascinating and full of history.

Penny May 29, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Thanks Paul. I’m always amazed at what I find, even in Dallas. It’s great when it’s all concentrated in a small area like this though.
It’s also very close to Union Station and Olvera St. Lots of history to visit in lA.

Paul May 29, 2013 at 7:08 am

Great post and photos. A perfect example of why cities need to protect their heritage.

wanderingeducators May 28, 2013 at 5:34 pm

love these photos!

Micki & Charles (@BarefootNomads) May 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Oh, interesting! I love LA, if you dig deeply it’s definitely not the cultural wasteland that everyone thinks it is…

Penny May 28, 2013 at 10:15 pm

You don’t really have to dig that deep. There’s plenty of culture in LA. It’s one of the oldest cities in the US!

Sandra Foyt May 27, 2013 at 8:49 pm

As often as I’ve visited Southern California, I’ve never seen this historic side of LA. Thanks for sharing!

Penny May 28, 2013 at 10:17 pm

That’s great Sandra. Glad I was able to share something new. 🙂

Tales and Travels of the Tin Man May 27, 2013 at 8:33 am

Love the old theaters! We have several in San Antonio that are still in operation and the ornate beauty is just marvelous.

Penny May 27, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Hey Tin Man, how are things in SA? I went to one of those old theaters once, near the Riverwalk, can’t remember the name, but it was really beautiful. Take some pics! 🙂


Leave a Comment