Week 136: Downtown Civic Center

July 01, 2018

Walking L.A. #33, Downtown Civic Center: Revitalization in the Works, 3 miles

Every time Barbara and I hike downtown L.A. we learn something new. We decided to begin this particular hike in the middle to end with a treat. During the week downtown L.A. is a tangle of traffic, but early Sunday morning we had the historic, civic, and cultural landmarks—old and new—all to ourselves. First stop, the 1893 Bradbury Building on Broadway. The oldest commercial building in central L.A. isn't much from the outside but the skylight and open-cage elevators inside are design wonders. Designed by apprentice architect George Wyman who consulted a Ouija board to decide whether or not to take the job, a paragraph from a novel inspired his dynamic Bradbury Building interior. From there we walked up Broadway, stopping to study the detailed bas relief of Los Angeles colonization on the side of the L.A. Times parking structure, then on to L.A. Historic-Cultural monument St. Vibiana Church. This 1876 cathedral was home to the L.A. Catholic see for over 100 years until the 1994 earthquake forced a move. Main St. led us to one of my favorites: the 1929 L.A. City Hall, a 32-floor Classical/Art Deco beauty. Love this City Hall fact: its concrete is composed from sand from each of California's 58 counties and water from each of CA's 21 missions. Facing City Hall, the new (2009) LAPD headquarters with a helipad on top, a cigar patio, an auditorium on the ground floor, and a memorial park for slain officers on the restaurant roof. Across the street, the former (as of last month) HQ of the Los Angeles Times, built in 1935, now destined by building's new owners for residential units & retail. It's disheartening to see all the new construction overshadowing L.A.'s gorgeous 19th and 20th-century architecture but...progress. Yet so many of the new buildings are awe-inspiring. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels (St. Vib's replacement as home of the Catholic L.A. Archdiocese) is breathtaking within and without. Frank Gehry's 2003 Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the L.A. Philharmonic, is an "architectural masterpiece." Across from Disney Hall at Grand and 2nd, the new (2015) Broad Contemporary Museum's veil-facade is truly dazzling to see. And the MOCA holds its own in contemporary culture, daring you to judge the sculpture made out of discarded airplane junk on the plaza. From MOCA, Barbara and I headed straight to the L.A. cultural star built in 1901 to carry passengers to/fro Bunker Hill, climbed aboard the 298-ft. Angels Flight funicular railroad, and rode down to Hill St. for our big finale—mochas and avocado toast across the street at Grand Central Market. In operation since 1917, Grand Central Market is one of the most popular eating spots in the city,  once called "the jazz age version of Whole Foods." The crowds and the wide variety of food offerings inside live up to its fame. A mouth-watering ending to a blue-sky, Sunday morning walk through L.A. history.

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