Monday, April 19, 2010

Too Many Los Angeles Buildings Have Died In Vain

There are so many heartbreaking tales of historic buildings torn down to make room for something else in Los Angeles that it's hard to remember them all.

But the most depressing of the bunch, of course, are the buildings that are torn down to make room for new development -- but then that new development never comes.

As a result, that empty land stays barren for decades. And those buildings died in vain.

On the Miracle Mile, for example, a condo building was finally recently erected where the art deco Coulter's Department Store once stood. Coulter's was torn down around 1980, and a large, empty pit wound up sitting there FOR 29 YEARS as a result.

And then there's the sad case of downtown's Philharmonic Auditorium, also known as "Trinity Auditorium" and "Clune's Auditorium." (Above, in its early years; and below, after a later makeover.)

Built in 1906, the one-time home to the L.A. Philharmonic was torn down in 1985 to make room for... well, no one seems to even remember anymore, but it was likely for a office building that was never built. Here's some background from Wikipedia:

In 1906, Hazard's Pavilion was demolished to make way for a new Temple Auditorium. The architect, Charles E. Whittlesey, and civil engineer, C. R. Harris, created a building with a Spanish Gothic exterior and a vast auditorium with a simplified Art-Nouveau interior influenced by Louis Sullivan's Chicago Auditorium. This was the largest reinforced concrete structure with the only cantilevered balcony in the world. It had the largest stage west of New York when it was completed, and it seated 2,600 people. A nine story office block and retail shops were part of the complex.

For a number of years during the 1910s, Billy Clune would show silent films in the auditorium, then called, "Clune's Auditorium." The landmark film, Birth of a Nation, had its world premiere at Clune's Auditorium on its way to becoming a massive blockbuster.

When the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra began its second season in 1920, it adopted Clune's Auditorium as its home, which became known as, "Philharmonic Auditorium." The Orchestra played there for many decades before the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was built in 1963.

So now, for the past 25 years, rather than getting a view of some cool old art deco building, folks facing that direction from Pershing Square get an eyeful of... parking lot.

The new "Park Fifth" development was finally, finally going to right that wrong and at least bring something *other* than a parking lot to the site. But the recession has now put those plans on hold... and so the years keep ticking by.

The L.A. Times writes about several more empty lots and vacant buildings in Los Angeles, as the economic downturn puts plans on hold:

Scattered around town are some surprisingly valuable vacant lots disguised by weeds or broken blacktop or the remains of an unwanted building -- and many have quietly come to market, thanks to the real estate collapse.

Billions of dollars were lost by developers who bought land to build high-profile projects but weren't able to get their plans off the ground, even after spending lavishly on architectural designs and other measures to get their buildings approved by local officials. As the real estate cycle plays out, the pained exit of ambitious builders has created an unusual abundance of opportunities to buy expensive eyesores.

Read more at the L.A. Times here.

(Just a few weeks ago we wrote about the empty pit across the street from City Hall, where the California State Building once stood. But at least that structure was torn down because of earthquake damage, not some misguided attempt to replace the old with the new.)

Photos via and

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Also the Jensen's Palace Grand & Egyptian Cafe in Glendale on Brand & Wilson. Beautiful skylight roof like the Bradbury Building, with the old 1920s cafe completely intact upstairs. It's been an empty lot next to the building with Olive Garden, etc. for ages. Gee, thanks Glendale Redevilopment Agency.

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