The Coca Cola Building in Downtown Los Angeles is a Beautiful example of Streamline Moderne. I’ve seen photos of this building online for years, and finally made the trek into the industrial area of downtown LA to see it for myself. There are so many beautiful details that I discovered in person. One surprise was the color of the building. I’d assumed it was bright white, however, in person it was a soft tan color with the striking red and black stripe along the bottom.
Built in 1939 by architect Robert V. Derrah, who also built Crossroads of the World in Hollywood – considered to be America’s first outdoor mall, the permanently moored streamliner features beautiful porthole windows, a catwalk and a bridge. It was declared a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument in 1975, number 138. I absolutely love the attention to details with the rivets around the windows, and along the top of the building. And that lone door near the rear is pretty amazing too.
I would love to see inside one of these days, but tours are not allowed inside the building. I recommend checking it out on a quiet Saturday or Sunday to avoid heavy traffic along Central Avenue, 1414 S. Central Avenue to be exact. Oh, and in case you wondering… yes, they still produce Coca Cola at this location and it’s surrounding buildings. Maybe that’s why there aren’t any tours, Trade Secrets!
The Laramie State Bank Building in Chicago is a feast for the eyes. Whether or not you’re a lover of Art Deco, you can’t help but notice this gem while driving by. The butterscotch colored terra cotta, created by the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company, is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
What started out as a one-story addition and remodel of a modest 1909 building, grew into a massive overhaul which was completed by 1929. Architects Meyer & Cook were responsible for the Deco makeover that features such details as: coins, squirrels, beehives, men at work, and the american eagle sinking it’s talons into the entire globe, all of which are symbols of industry and thrift. The moral of the story appears to be hard work and savings. The building resides at 5200 W. Chicago Avenue, on the corner of Laramie, in the community of Austin.
I found this building quite by accident, while driving to Oak Park to see all of the Frank Lloyd Wright homes and his personal studio last summer. It looked to be a short drive from the friends home that I was staying at. I dipped out early that Sunday morning while my friends slept, using google maps to find my way to Oak Park. The map looked simple, take a left anywhere, turn right at Chicago Avenue, and follow it all the way to Oak Park. As I rolled through the neighborhood, it appeared to be quite run down, and to be honest… downright scary. I saw the ‘Golden Arches’ of McDonald’s on my left and beelined it into the drive-thru for a quick bite. While waiting in line, I started observing the goings on in the parking lot…. hmmm. Drug deals, prostitution, it was very sketchy and I couldn’t get out of there quick enough. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw the amazing deco building sitting caddy corner and made a mental note to stop on my way back from Oak Park. If you’ve read previous posts on my blog, then you’ll see some of the other great buildings from my visit there, and I still have a few more to post.
Anyway, as I drove back from Oak Park, I parked my Jeep in the driveway of a different quick service restaurant, hopped out, and took a ton of photos in about 10 minutes. Yes, I was the only middle aged white guy with silver hair in the hood, so I sorta stood out. I simply smiled and said hello to those who looked at me, got my images and then bolted. When I got back to my friends house, I told her about my adventure. She said What! You went where?! Oh my god, don’t ever go there again, especially at night. You know when a fine looking black woman tells you to stay out of the hood, you’d better listen. I know I’m no Anderson Cooper covering some war torn country abroad, but I did feel like a bit of a rebel for being willing to get my blog photos. That said, so often these old buildings are in parts of town that are less than desirable. So you just have to throw on your best New York attitude and go for it. It’s always so rewarding when you come away with so many amazing images. I hope you like them as much as I do.
Chicago’s Carbide and Carbon Building is an extraordinary example of 1920’s Art Deco. I remember seeing this gorgeous building on my last visit to Chicago in 2004, but strangely enough, I couldn’t remember going inside of it. As it turns out, the building underwent over $106 Million worth of renovations and updates from 2001 – 2004 and was closed to the public during that time. No wonder my UCLA art history teacher who was hosting our trip didn’t take us inside. But you know me, if I see a stunner like this one, I’ll do my best to step inside and experience the glory of a by gone era.
One of the things that I love about the renovations done by the Hard Rock Hotel, is that their signage doesn’t interfere with the striking polished black marble exterior on the lower portion of the building. The upper portion of the building is dark green terra cotta, not black as I’d originally thought. I’d assumed this building was like LA’s very rare gold and black terra cotta art deco buildings, however I was wrong. And can you believe the gold color on the tower is 24k gold. Even though it’s only one five-thousandths of an inch thick, it’s actual gold. Elegant bronze trim extends from the tip of the spire to the ground, leading some to believe that the building was built to look like a champagne bottle.
The entrance at 230 N. Michigan Avenue sports a bronze grill over the massive doorway, something that beckons any seasoned deco enthusiast to enter. And once you’ve stepped inside the lobby, the exquisite deco elevator doors will practically take your breath away, They’re every bit as beautiful as the ones at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
The Carbide and Carbon Company developed the first dry cell battery and commissioned the Burnham Brothers to create their home base, which was completed in 1929. There were plans for a sister building, however, the stock market crash of 1929 put an end to that. Zoning laws in 1923 limited the height of skyscrapers, allowing for towers as long as they didn’t take up more than one quarter of the lot size. Therefore, this building has a 23 story base and a 15 story tower. There’s something so elegant about the proportions of buildings from the 20’a and 30’s. They’re more human in scale and have so easily stood the test of time. Hooray for the Hard Rock Hotel for reinvesting in this gem of a building and bringing it up to date.
If you’d like to book a room at the Chicago Hard Rock Hotel, click HERE.
Clocks. They represent the many faces of time. And what could be more elegant than these Art Deco clocks seen throughout the interior of the former Bullocks Wilshire department store. While these six stood out for me, research indicates that at least 30 of them were custom made for the many nuanced theme rooms in this cutting edge modernist masterpiece built over 85 years ago.
Yes, 1929 was an entirely different world. A world that didn’t include iphones or apple watches. It was a time when the automobile was the newest and most remarkable invention, along with the idea of air travel. Everything had to be done with great style. It was a bold new world that celebrated the joyous movement of speed. Remember as a kid how the comic strips made cars look like they were moving fast by drawing a couple of parallel lines behind the bumper? That in essence is what inspired the graphics of this particular era. While the 50’s and 60’s had the boomerang shape to represent the atomic age and the art nouveau era had its sinewy lines of curling opium smoke to thank for it’s graphic inspirations, the deco era of the 20’s and 30’s was rich with parallel lines representing speed. It translated beautifully to graphics like the clocks above, as well as large scale design lines on building exteriors. I’m constantly spotting hidden gems around Los Angeles that go completely unnoticed, desperately in need of good period paint jobs and some TLC. Streamline modern is so easy on the eyes because it’s all about scale, balance and simplicity. A little one story building can look sleek and magnificent, while something much bigger and spacious can look clunky and heavy. There was nothing cookie cutter about this era. Everything was a ‘total work of art’ born out of pride of craftsmanship, with an emphasis on beauty.
When I look at these clocks, I become lost in time, quite literally. Studying the curve of each number and the thickness or thinness of each line, I wonder what the artisans sketches and drawings might have looked like with each incarnation. I’m so thrilled that these little masterpieces still exist, and I hope their artistry inspires future generations.
The Deco Building in Los Angeles’s Miracle Mile is one of only three black and gold terra cotta buildings built in the City of Angels. Of the three, this is in the most pristine shape. As I wrote in my previous post, the one in Korea Town on 3rd and Western is horribly run down, and the Richfield Oil Building was destroyed, or rather replaced, in 1969. Built by Morgan, Walls and Clements in 1929, this building was known as Security First National Bank until 1970. Afterwards it was used as a restaurant/nightclub, and then later as a Christian Center. It’s currently a short and long term creative office space that is also available for special events.
I’ve driven by this building for years, and would sometimes just stop and peer in the windows late at night… you know, as an architectural stalker. The spectacular Zig-Zag Modern Deco details are so hard not to notice when you’re whizzing by. So, once again on one of these nights a few years ago, when there was a for sale sign on the building, I made another stop. I was a little shocked to meet the new owner of the building who’d just closed escrow on it. I was happy for him, but very sad for me, (not that I could have afforded the building) but because it would have made the most brilliant hair salon. The new owner was so cool, and invited me to come inside. He happily threw on the lights and gave me a tour. I was speechless and like a kid in a candy store as I walked through this luscious and sacred art deco interior.
Last week I decided to do another drive by and take a few exterior shots for my previous blog post, and voila! There he was again, the owner. Even though he was busy loading up his truck, he told me to go inside and look around. I mentioned that we’d met before, and he seemed to remember. This time I took full advantage of his offer, climbing the stairs to the second floor, snapping away with my iphone. He came in and once again turned on the lights for me and let me take as many photos as I wanted. Notice that gorgeous glass ceiling? That’s not one solid piece of glass, but rather individual pieces. I guess that makes sense to minimize potential damage, but the owner said it’s a massive job when it’s time to clean it. He also mentioned that he’s had a lot of interest from foreign investors who’d like to buy the building, not because they love the architecture, but because they want the valuable land. I’m so glad the owner is a much of a purist as I am, and sees the value in maintaining such remarkable craftsmanship. Its been lovingly restored, and I’m so thankful to the owner for his passion and his kindness.