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
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.
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.
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.
Go back to Broadway to continue your tour.
Continue your Los Angeles city walk through the theater district:
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 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!
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.
All materials ©PennySadler 2013