Posted by: Brad Nixon | July 16, 2018

Los Angeles Times Building; Time Runs Out, Even for Icons

I moved to Los Angeles 25 years ago. I became not just a city dweller, but a resident in the 17th largest metropolitan area in the world. Almost everything was new to me, including living next to an ocean, within an hour’s drive of tall mountains covered in dense forest and two hours’ drive from a large desert. Becoming a westerner has changed my life, and this blog documents many of my travels and discoveries here.

One of the many interesting aspects of my new surroundings was the presence of a large, metropolitan daily newspaper, the Los Angeles Times. The Counselor and I subscribed to the Sunday edition (in a day when I could still look for jobs in the classifieds), and I often invested the 25 cents to buy the daily edition. A lifelong fan of newspapers, I was delighted to have The Times (LAT) as my daily paper. I’d grown up admiring the work of one of the LAT’s many noted writers: sports columnist Jim Murray, whose syndicated column appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

I still read some portions of the LAT almost every day — online now. The newspaper has been published continuously since 1881, and is the 4th-largest daily paper in the U.S. by circulation. The paper and its staff have won 41 Pulitzer Prizes, and the LAT has had a remarkable and influential history. The publication, its owners and publishers have played major roles in some of the most important developments in the history of both the city and California. It’s worth noting that when publisher Harry Chandler ordered the construction of a new headquarters in the early 1930s, he chose a site diagonally across the intersection of First and Spring Streets from the recently constructed City Hall.

Los Angeles City Hall Brad Nixon 0044 640

The monumental structure, designed by Los Angeles architect, Gordon B. Kaufmann in Art Deco style, opened in 1935. It still stands there.

Los Angeles Times Brad Nixon 0039 cr 640

The First Street facade features sculpture by Robert Merrell Gage.

Los Angeles Times Brad Nixon 0037 640

Depending on where you stand to view the building, it can appear as massive as the Great Pyramid, or represent the dynamism and flow of streamlined Art Deco at its best.

Los Angeles Times Brad Nixon 0027 640

The First Street entrance takes you into a notable space: the Globe Lobby.

Los Angeles Times Brad Nixon 0030 640

There, a 5-1/2-foot diameter aluminum globe dominates the center of the room. On the far wall, you can see one of several murals,10 feet tall, depicting scenes from Los Angeles history and the newspaper industry. The artist was Hugo Ballin, also known for decorating the rotunda of L.A.’s Griffith Observatory. Less known is his work in an entrance vestibule I featured in a blog post about the immense L.A. County/USC Medical Building of the same era.

In 25 years, I’ve seen the Times building on innumerable occasions. Not once have I found an opportunity simply to stand and look at it, and this post contains the first photographs I’ve ever shot of it. I had a particular motivation to do this. After occupying the building and three later additions to the complex, a new owner of the LAT has announced a decision to relocate the entire operation 17 miles south to a suburb of Los Angeles.

The notion of downtown Los Angeles — which is currently enjoying a significant revival of its fortunes — without its flagship publication is rather shocking. For the staff, it must seem like being exiled to the Antarctic. There’s an obvious first cause, stemming from the fact that the publication itself no longer owns the complex: It’s a tenant. The LAT has, like newspapers everywhere, reduced the scale of its operation considerably, and much of the complex is vacant. The building’s owners have determined the site represents significant value for redevelopment as combined retail and residential space. According to reports, the owners informed the LAT their monthly rent would increase by $1 million. Rather than pay the higher rent, the Times’ owner determined to move out.

In addition to not photographing the building, I’ve failed to take advantage of the tours of the building that have been offered throughout my 25 years here. Now I might miss the opportunity entirely. It’s likely the building will be preserved to some degree, but it’s at least as likely that it will be altered significantly. The city has yet to approve redevelopment plans submitted by the owners, and one can expect a dispute about the fate of the mighty Times building.

Los Angeles Times Brad Nixon 0036 640

Everything changes; everything has its time. Another reminder to pay attention to what’s around us. Nothing lasts forever.

Exterior photographs of the Times building and City Hall in this post, and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Shutterstock.com. Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2018. Some information retrieved from the Los Angeles Conservancy website on July 15, 2018.


Responses

  1. Thanks for doing your part for historic preservation. I still say you need to publish a book of your California travels.

    Like

    • Thank you. Perhaps that day will dawn.

      Like

  2. Whew! I was fearful for a moment that the BUILDING was going to be torn down for a more valuable parking lot or something.
    Still, sad they didn’t own their own building. Are they off to Duckburg, or somewhere even smaller?

    Like

    • To a place actually near and dear to the hearts of the Counselor and me: El Segundo. Known locally as “Mayberry,” although it’s become a center of new business in the past 10 years (despite the fact that my own employer departed).
      And, just to be clear, there are no guarantees that the owners would NOT tear down the building — or any number of the 4 structures in the complex. The Times, of course, once did own it all. I don’t know at one point they sold it off.

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  3. Nice photos, I really like the lobby with the globe!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I regret that I couldn’t go in there, but that’s not a public entrance, and shot through the doors. If I can take the tour before the Times moves out, I’ll have more. Check today’s Los Angeles Times for a story about the Globe Lobby.

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  4. My favorite detail among many in the photos is the simple but impressive declaration on the side of the building: “THE TIMES.” There’s a solidity to that that seems reassuring, and that is less and less often experienced today.

    The redevelopment discussions no doubt will be interesting. Here in Houston, the poor Astrodome has lingered for years, falling apart while the forces of “Tear the danged thing down” battled with the forces of “But it’s an icon.” There was an actual vote to tear it down, but the Commissioners got around that by having the state historical commission designate it as a landmark, making it untouchable — or at least non-destructible. I hope things go better for your building.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Many Angelenos are invested with enormous regard for that building, and the battle will, indeed be interesting. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of sentiment in favor of declaring it a landmark. We have an extremely proactive LA Conservancy organization I’ve mentioned numerous times here, and I expect them to be engaged.
      Yes, that enormous name on the side of the building fulfills the publisher’s goal of producing a “monumental building.” An LA landmark.
      I hadn’t heard about what was happening with the Astrodome. I did see a baseball game there. It was a wonder in its day.

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  5. Matt Pearce, national correspondent for the LAT, is live tweeting the move to El Segundo. His timeline’s full of fascinating tidbits, nostalgia from staffers, and great photos. The most interesting (apart from what happened to the rosewood table, and where the globe is going) is that if you search for -30- online, Google will primly inform you that there aren’t any results for that term. There are some photos of people standing below the entrance with -30- inscribed above them. Shoot, it makes me sad, and I only read the paper from time to time.

    His feed is here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a question I’ve raised before in the blog, since I write a lot about buildings, some with historic, cultural or emotional significance. On the one hand, it’s just a building. In the case of the Time, too much building. They built an enormous complex in a day when they were dedicated to printing extensive paper editions, with a large staff to make everything happen. They intentionally built a “monument” to themselves, and, naturally, the people who were proud to work there and the city that was pleased to have a world-class publication identify with it. Buildings wear out, and enterprises change. Good news today: the city council will consider action to declare the site a historically significant monument. Thanks for the link to Pearce’s feed.

      Liked by 1 person


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