TRAVEL: The faded grandeur architecture of the Broadway Theatre District in downtown LA
High on my wish list of architectural gem destinations,
for a jolly long time,
has been the Broadway Theatre District of Los Angeles.
Since way back in Architectural History class,
these gracious and grandiose gals have intrigued me,
because they are a snapshot of another time,
when buildings screamed glamour in ornamental facades
influenced by all the imaginative minds of the Golden Age of cinema.
So when we decided to take a family holiday to NYC last month,
I couldn't resist a little stopover to LA to see this heritage listed area.
And it didn't disappoint.
In short, I was absolutely blown away by the incredible detail
and sheer scale
of these once-grand buildings.
Centred on South Broadway, and stretching for 6 blocks
(from 3rd to 9th streets),
the official Broadway Theatre District includes no less
than 12 ornamental theatres,
all built between 1910 and 1931.
And because that time slot coincided with the international fashion
for Art Deco, many of the buildings have a curious mix
of traditional Art Deco, local Spanish influence &
of course all the fantastical elements dreamt up by an
industry which traded in fantasy and imagination.
No wonder they are a heady mix of architectural styles!
As well as the theatres, around and in between are equally ornamental
commercial & retail buildings,
some of which have been converted into apartments.
There are so many of these extraordinary buildings,
each with an air of faded grandeur about them,
that it feels as if one is walking on a movie set,
or at least, as if one has just popped in via a time machine.
Because after WWII,
people stopped going to the cinema in this Downtown area,
as the suburbs became the exciting places to be,
and the area fell into disrepair.
Many of the movie theatres closed.
Some were abandoned, some turned into cheap retail outlets.
Some became venues for Spanish language films,
and that is what saved the area from being totally lifeless.
But slowly, slowly, this area is regenerating,
and according to the people we spoke with,
in the last 5 years it has started to come back to life,
with buildings being re-imagined into new uses,
like the amazing Ace Hotel (converted from the United Artists building)
where we stayed.
But that, as they say, is another story.....
stay tuned for Part II: my review of the Ace Hotel, LA, to follow shortly