Wednesday, May 26, 2010

(500) Days of Summer Tour @ Downtown LA

I've always been fascinated with the old pre-war buildings in downtown, so for Jennio's birthday we decided to do a self-guided tour of sites from (500) Days of Summer (what other recent movie has celebrated the architecture of this area?).  So, here's the route we took along with some details (and pictures from moi) from the tour guide provided by Los Angeles Conservancy:

San Fernando Building
Green Chair
Nook in Old Bank DVD (video & record store in film)
I loved the DVD store.  It was really kitchy and had all these plants in old tins and a cute little dog running around.  I would definitely rent from here if I lived nearby. 
Location:  400 South Main Street (at Fourth Street)
  • Designed in the Renaissance Revival style 
  • Achieved local attention in 1910, when a series of police raids occurred on the sixth floor due to illegal gambling in the rooms
  • Redeveloped by Gilmore Associates; reopened in 2000 as seventy loft-style apartments - one of the early projects that sparked downtown’s current renaissance
Old Bank DVD located on 1st floor of San Fernando Building

Barclay Hotel
It's a shame they don't seem to have enough money for the upkeep of the exterior and interior because you can tell how beautiful it once was. 
Location: 103 W. Fourth Street
    Barclay Hotel exterior
  • In the film, the lobby serves as the hangout for Tom and his buddies
  • Designed in the Beaux-Arts style with Romanesque features (which are less detailed and ornate than the more formal Beaux-Arts style)
  • Look up to the top of the building to see "The Van Nuys Hotel" (commercial venture by Isaac Newton Van Nuys, one of L.A.'s wealthiest businessmen and landowners)
  • Opened in 1897 as the Van Nuys Hotel, one of the finest in the city with the latest amentities (first hotel to provide phone and electric service in every room)
  • Fourth Street lobby has many original elements, including ceiling decorations, columns, arched doorways, stained-glass windows with old-fashioned scenes
  • Oldest continuously operating hotel in Los Angeles, now a low-income residential hotel

Continental Building
Continental BuildingAs much as I love fire escapes, I was a little scared of stepping out on the 12th floor fire escape just thinking about how old it might be.  The 2nd floor Continental Library was very cute.
Location:  408 S. Spring Street
  • In the film, this is one of Tom's favorite buildings, as viewed from Tom's bench; identified by him as "L.A.'s first skyscraper."
  • One of the first examples of the Beaux-Arts business block
  • At 175 feet, considered the city's first skyscraper
  • First floor has been altered, but the second story retains its stone block design
  • Notice the row of lion heads on the projecting cornice made of pressed galvanized tin
  • Served as office space and later housed many banks
  • Now owned by Gilmore Associates, which converted it into 56 loft-style apartments, which opened in 2001

Bradbury Building
Hydraulic elevators originally powered by steam-derived boilers in basement
One of my favorite buildings in DTLA.  I always thought it odd that the exterior was so plain, but the interior was so ornate. I've always felt there was a steampunk feel to the place.
Location:  304 S. Broadway
  • In the film, this is the site for an important meeting for Tom
  • Built in the Victorian Romanesque style
  • Simple sandstone and brown brick exterior gives way to 5-story interior court willed with light from the glass roof, cast-iron railings, and open cage elevators
  • Oldest commercial building in the center city
  • Has long been a popular filming location, probably best known for the 1982 sci-fi epic Blade Runner

Million Dollar Theatre
IMG_1661It's sad that the halls of the apartments look like modern day offices and don't resemble anything like the elaborate exterior.  I was disappointed the theater lobby was closed, so I didn't get a chance to see any of the original detailing (at least I HOPE there is still some vintage decor). 
Location:  307 S. Broadway
Longhorn skull over apartment entrance
  • Sid Grauman's first L.A. theatre
  • One of the earliest movie palaces in the U.S. and, with 2300 seats (originally), one of the largest
  • Designed in the ornate Churrigueresque style
  • Lavish exterior terra-cotta ornamentation by Mora includes bison heads, longhorn skulls, and allegorical figures representing the arts
  • The name Million Dollar comes from the combined original costs of the land and building
  • Originally had a 2-story exterior foyer/lobby; has been altered over the years, though some details such as murals remain underneath
  • Upper stories originally housed office space; now apartments

Grand Central Market
This was the perfect precursor to the end of the tour.  We grabbed a banana split from Jose's Ice Cream Corner.
Location:  315 S. Broadway
  • This was the site of a deleted scene from the film in which Tom and Summer are shopping for fruit
  • The city's first fireproofed and steel-reinforced structure
  • Market opened in 1917
  • Today has over 50 vending stalls, each privately owned and operated
  • Project removed a tile facade added in the 1960s to reveal the 2nd-story windows and many of the original Beaux-Arts details

Angels Knoll
I've driven past this park so many times and have always wanted to visit and check out the view.  It's surprisingly nice.  Too bad there are a few ugly parking structures and unattractive buildings. Still, it's a very peaceful spot.  I've always had the same sentiment as Tom about the streets being kind of unappealing, but surrounded by towering beautiful old architecture.
Location:  Hill Street and Fourth Street, go all the way up the 100+ steps
  • In the film, this is Tom's favorite L.A. spot, offering a great view of (mostly) pre-war buildings.  As Tom shows Summer the architecture, he says words along the lines of, "There's so much beauty here.  Sure the street level isn't much to look at, but if you look up, there's some exciting stuff going on.  If it were up to me, I'd get people to notice!"

We did a driveby of the rest of these places: 

Fenton Building (aka Roseland dance hall)
Location:  833-835 S. Spring Street, between Eighth and Ninth Streets
Fact:  In the film, this is where Tom works as a copywriter for a greeting card company

Fine Arts Building
I only got a quick glance at it, but it looks like it would be amazing.  What other building in DTLA has reclining figures on the exterior?!  I must return because I think the lobby will be just as impressive as the exterior.  
Location:  811 W. Seventh Street
Fact:  This is one of Tom's favorite buildings; he singles out architects Walker and Eisen

Eastern Columbia Building
Definitely one of my favorite buildings in city.  It looks absolutely gorgeous and my dream is to one day live there.  I'm still trying to find the time to visit and explore the building
Location:  849 S. Broadway, across from The Orpheum Theatre
Fact:  Another one of Tom's favorites

Map of some key sites from the movie

View Los Angeles in (500) days of Summer in a larger map