Broadway (Fort St.)

Broadway was originally called Calle del Fortín, Fort Street. In 1890 the name was changed to its present one. Broadway is now famous as the “historic business and entertainment district” of the city, but that role only dates back to around 1905.

The business district started out around the Los Angeles Plaza (the square at the south end of Olvera Street). By the late 1880s, the business district was centered around 1st and Spring. In the mid-1890s, the Bradbury Building was erected at what was then the far southwestern edge of the business district, at 3rd and Broadway.

The more upscale retail stores moved further and further south along Broadway (and thus out of the area of coverage of this website), opening larger and larger department stores, as far south as 9th Street. The Broadway, Bullock’s and May Co. grew to around a million square feet each, the size of a small mall today, and occupy nearly an entire city block. Movie palaces opened as well, creating the district we now call the “Historic Core”.

200 block of N. Broadway

NW corner of Temple and Broadway

The three-story Women’s Christian Temperance Union or W.C.T.U. Building, nicknamed the Temperance Temple, sat at the northwest corner of Temple and Broadway, erected in 1888 for $45,000.  In view, a cable car of the Temple Street Cable Railway. Demolished to make way for the 1957 Los Angeles County Central Heating and Refrigeration Plant, which still stands here. See map below.

100 block of N. Broadway

100 block of N. Broadway, between Temple (at top) and 1st St. (at bottom). Baist map from 1921. Key buildings on the map from north to south are the W.C.T.U. building a.k.a. Temperance Temple at the NW corner of Temple; the 1891 Red Sandstone Courthouse and the 1911 Hall of Records on Pound Cake Hill; and the Tajo and L. A. Times buildings.

East side of the 100 block of N. Broadway

Pound Cake Hill

Pound Cake Hill was a hill bounded by Broadway on the west, New High St. on the east, Temple on the north, and Franklin (north of 1st St.) on the south. It was home to the first high school, which made way for the 1891 Red Sandstone Courthouse and 1911 Hall of Records. Then the hill was leveled in the mid-20th century and today sits immediately across the realigned Spring Street and the current City Hall, and is the site of the Clara Shortridge Foltz courthouse and part of Grand Park.

Los Angeles High School on Pound Cake Hill, 1870s
“Red Stone” Courthouse and Post Office on Pound Cake Hill (1891–1936). Current site of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, home of the L.A. County Grand Jury.
The 1911 Hall of Records, south of the Red Sandstone Courthouse. Demolished in 1973. Currently the site of part of Grand Park.

NE corner of 1st and Broadway

Los Angeles Times HQ (1886–1910), NE corner of 1st & Broadway
The 1912 Los Angeles Times building which replaced the 1886 building which was damaged in a bombing. It stood until 1938, when it was demolished and created an open space in front of the 1931 California State Building. Currently a vacant lot.
California State Building (1931–1975/6) stretched from the NE corner of 1st & Broadway to the NW corner of 1st and Spring. Architect John C. Austin, PWA Moderne style. Currently a vacant lot.
To its right, seen from Spring St.: the 1911 Hall of Records, the Red Sandstone Courthouse, and the Hall of Records. Photo from between 1931 and 1936.

West side of 100 block of N. Broadway

NW corner of 1st & Broadway

The Tajo Building (opened 1896, demolished mid-20th century), at the northwest corner of 1st & Broadway, looking northeast from the south side of 1st Street. This is now the site of the L.A. County Law Library.

100 block of S. Broadway

1921 Baist map of the 100 block of S. Broadway. Notable sites include the Chamber of Commerce, Mason Opera House, and the Frost and Hellman buildings.
Looking south along Broadway from First Street, 1904-5. At right, from left to right: C.H. Frost Building (#145), 141-3, the turreted Roanoke Bldg (#137-9), Newell & Gammon Bldg. (#131-5), Mason Opera House (#125-9)At left Chamber of Commerce (#128), 1888 City Hall (#228-238). (Click for full size image 2392×1538)

East side, 100 block of S. Broadway

SE corner of 1st & Broadway was once home to the Culver Building, a relatively nondescript retail and commercial block. Today: the Pereira Addition of Times Mirror Square, architect William Pereira, 1973
Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Building, also known as the Southwest Building, 128–130 S. Broadway, opened February 12, 1904, a landmark at the time featured on postcards and in books. 6 stories, 4 floors. Ground floor offices included those of the Los Angeles Herald and Consolidated Bank.

Northeast corner of 2nd & Broadway

The 2nd & Broadway Hellman Block — there were several Hellman Blocks across the city centers, opened 1897, demolished 1959. Photo from 1918. Site is now a parking structure in the Times Mirror Square complex.

West side, 100 block of S. Broadway

West side of Broadway looking south from First Street, 1904-5. At center, the C.H. Frost Building (#145); to its right the turreted Roanoke Bldg. (#137-9), Newell & Gammon Bldg. (#131-5), Mason Opera House (#125-9). Image 1443×1534.
Just south of the southwest corner of 1st & Broadway was the Mason Theatre, 127 S. Broadway. Opened in 1903 as the Mason Opera House, 1,600 seats. Benjamin Marshall of the Chicago firm Marshall & Wilson designed the building in association with John Parkinson. Marshall is known for designing the Iroquois Theatre in Chicago. Remodeled in 1924 by Meyer & Holler. Later, as the Mason Theatre, it showed Spanish-language films. Demolished 1955.

Northwest corner of 2nd & Broadway

 C. H. Frost Building, later known as the Haig M. Prince Building. Built 1898, 145 S. Broadway.  Now the entire block is the location of the New Los Angeles US Courthouse built in 2016. Below, a picture from 1959. Below right, the building is being demolished in 1960.

200 block of S. Broadway

1920 Baist map of the 200 block of S. Broadway. On the map is the old City Hall built in 1888. The block’s era in the 1890s as the city’s upscale shopping district was already long past.

East side, 200 block of S. Broadway

Looking north along Broadway at its east side between 1st and 3rd streets. From top left: The L.A. Times Bldg. with castle-like turret at the NE corner of 1st & Broadway, with the 1911 Hall of Records behind it. The Chamber of Commerce Bldg. at #128 S. Broadway. Drugstore in the Hellman Bldg. (#144–6) at the NE corner of 2nd Street. Dentist in the Nolan, Smith and Bridge Bldg. (#200–4) at the SE corner of 2nd. New King Hotel in the Gordon Bldg. (#206–10). Victor Clothing in its location from 1926–1964 in the Crocker Bldg. (#212–6). Pig ‘n Whistle in the Copp Bldg. (#218–224). 1888 City Hall at far right.

Southeast corner of 2nd & Broadway

The southeast corner of 2nd and Broadway was the site of 

  • The First Presbyterian Church was located here in 1894.[49] The church was replaced sometime before 1906 by the:
  • Nolan, Smith and Bridge Building, #200-4 S. Broadway, stores and a restaurant.[50]
  • Now the corner is the site of the Historic Broadway underground light rail station, under construction.

Adjacent to the south were:

The City Hall from 1888–1928, 228–238 S. Broadway. Architect Solomon Irscher Haas. Romanesque Revival style. Site now part of the 213 S. Spring parking garage.
Looking north along Broadway and its east side, 200 block (2nd to 3rd), some time between 1898 and 1904. At back, the Tower of the 1891 Red Sandstone Courthouse. Dominating the photo at center, the 1888 City Hall. At right, the Rindge Block at the NE corner of 3rd/Broadway — still standing, home to fast food restaurants and retail, but the upper floors were removed for earthquake safety.

Northeast corner of 3rd & Broadway

At #260, the northeast corner of 3rd and Broadway, one floor of the Rindge Block is still standing, home to fast food restaurants and small retail. The upper floors were removed for earthquake safety.

West side, 200 block of S. Broadway

Sanborn 1906 map showing the west side of the 200 block of S. Broadway, at this time still part of the city’s upscale retail district. J. W. Robinson’s Boston Dry Goods store moved from here to Seventh St. in 1915 and Coulter’s moved there in 1917.

Southwest corner of 2nd & Broadway

SW corner of 2nd & Broadway: American National Bank (later California Bank) Building (1878-1911), at corner, opened 1890. To the viewer’s left (south) are the turret and two gables of the YMCA Building (1889), then the Potomac Block (1890).

On the southwest corner of 2nd and Broadway was Judge O’Melveny’s house, built in 1870. This was replaced by the American National Bank (later California Bank) Building, which one turn was replaced by the California Building in 1911. Nos. 201-213 Broadway are now known named the Broadway Media Center.

The YMCA Building (#207–209–211), Romanesque Revival architecture, opened in July 1889, demolished in 1903.The YMCA operated here at #207 from 1889 until 1903. The City of London department store opened here in August 1891, run by Messrs. Hiles and Niccolls, who came from the City of Paris department store. It carried curtains, window shades, comforters, and the like.[55] It operated here until August 1895, when it moved next door to the Potomac Block at #213.[56]
West side of Broadway from #229 (at left) to #207 (at right, SW corner of 2nd St.) sometime after 1894. From left to right: Bicknell Block with the Los Angeles Furniture Co.; Potomac Block with Ville de Paris and City of London stores, the YMCA building with its turret and two gables, and the American National Bank building.
The YMCA Building was demolished to make way for the Merchants Trust Co. Building
The Potomac Block, 213–223 S. Broadway, was later (1905–1917) known as the B. F. Coulter Building. It was originally developed by lumberyard and mill owner J. M. Griffith. It was designed in 1888 by Block, Curlett and Eisen in Romanesque architectural style[61] and opened on July 17, 1890.[62]

Tenants included the Ville de Paris department store (at 221–223, from 1893 through 1906),[61] City of London Dry Goods Co., which moved here from next door at #211 in August 1895 and advertised for this location through August 1899.[56] It was the first time major retail stores opened on South Broadway, in what would be a shift of the upmarket shopping district from 1890 to 1905 from around First and Spring to South Broadway.

In 1904, Coulter’s bought the Potomac Block, and combined it with the Bicknell block to create its new 157,000 sq ft (14,600 m2) store in June, 1905, the city’s most impressive upscale department store at the time.

After Coulter’s moved: 215 continued as a branch of Coulter’s through 1927. Then, 215-217 was home to the Pacific Furniture House in the 1940s. 219 housed Fisch’s Department Store in the 1940s.

The building was demolished in 1953 and is still the site of a parking lot.[63] The block was demolished in 1953.
The Bicknell Block (or Bicknell Building) at 225–229 S. Broadway, with back entrances at 224–228 S. Hill Street. was part of Coulter’s from 1905 from 1917. After Coulter’s moved in 1917, it housed the Western Shoe Co. (through 1922), later known as the Western Department Store (1922-1928). Lettering covered the face of the building from top to bottom through the end of the 1950s: “THE LARGEST SHOE DEPT. IN THE WEST”.[64] Photo c.1920 (source: Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection).
At left, the Boston Dry Goods Building (237–241 S. Broadway; completed 1895, demolished, architects Theodore Eisen and Sumner Hunt, designer of the Bradbury Building)[65][66] The building was home to J. W. Robinson’s “Boston Dry Goods” store from 1895–1915, Scott’s Department Store (239–241, 1920s), Third Street Store (237-241, 1950s-60s). Demolished, currently the site of a parking lot.

At right, the Harris Newmark Building (231–5 S. Broadway, opened 1899, architect Abram Edelman), Bartlett Music Co. (#233), annex to J. W. Robinson’s (#235); Goodwill Industries store (#233-235, 1950s-60s). The building still stands, but all floors except the ground floor have been removed.

The corner is home to one of the oldest buildings outside the Plaza area, the 1895 Irvine Byrne Block or Byrne Block; now called the Pan American Lofts. The architect was Sumner Hunt. It was built in a hybrid Spanish Colonial Revival/Beaux-Arts style. 

The building was home to the renowned I. Magnin clothing store that opened here on January 2, 1899;[76] on June 19, 1904, I. Magnin announced that the Los Angeles store would henceforth be known as Myer Siegel.[77] After a fire at the Irvine Byrne Building destroyed its store on February 16, 1911, Myer Siegel moved further south on Broadway.

It was modernized and converted to lofts in 2007 and given its present name. The halls and staircase have appeared in many of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, Brad Pitt’s “Se7en”, “Fight Club”,”Blade Runner”, and other tv shows and commercials.[78]

300 block of S. Broadway

Broadway at center; Hill St. to the left, Spring St. to the right. Baist map, 1920. Click to view a larger version.
View from Bunker Hill to Bradbury Building and the Stimson Block at 3rd & Spring. The Pan American Lofts had not yet been built on the NW corner of 3rd & Broadway. Around 1894-5.

West side

East side

Southeast corner of 3rd & Broadway

Bradbury Building, 2005