Los Angeles City Hall studies

By Levi Clancy for לוי on

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LA City Hall

Dedication program

An original program from the opening-day dedication for the new LA City Hall, dated 1928 Apr 26. I was able to photograph some of it in a display case in the hall leading to the Board of Public Works chamber at Los Angeles City Hall.


The Spirit of the dedication of this white monumental monolith which is the new City Hall is the spirit of Los Angles -- the spirit of a foward-looking people, determined to win a happy community Destiny. This monument symbolizes the soul of a struggling, fighting, building people, never knowing defeat and always climbing upward, until today it may be said of them:

"This is their City. They have created it; they have transformed it from a sleepy Spanish-California pueblo to one of the mightiest communities of a continent."

The new City Hall, a truly great edifice, symbolical of unyielding strength, is dedicated to many.

Not alone is it dedicated to its builders, those who planned and those who builded, but to the peoples of each generation who made this great city possible.

It is dedicated to those hardy pioneers of another day who set their faces resolutely westward, with oxen and covered wagons, taking all they possessed, and fighting their way undaunted by danger and hardship, until they had traversed plains and mountains, deserts and forests, and came here to build a home.

It is dedicated to the men of action who aroused the drowsing pueblo from its peaceful laziness, said "Let us build here a city!" and created a surge of ambition that in the brief span of three-quarters of a century the little town of 1600 souls became a mighty metropolis of nearly one and one-half millions of people.

It is dedicated to those men who relentlessly urged onward the tide of progress, even when it seemed to be at top speed, the men who could not be satisfied, but said:

"Yes, we have a great City now, but let's make it greater. Let's bring in more industries. Let's get more commerce."

It is dedicated to Felipe De Neve, who arrived here on September 4th, 1781, with 11 families -- our first pioneers -- established the plaza for protection and community building and supplanted the ancient Indian village of Yang-na.

It is dedicated to loyal public officials who have served the City only to make it a greater city, who forgot personal aims to strive for civic betterment and for progress and prosperity for a community.

But most of all it is dedicated to the citizens of Los Angeles today -- the citizens who demonstrated their civic pride in voting the moneys with which to build this building as an expression of community faith and to the citizens who will use it during many decades to come.

The City Hall is dedicated in Faith, Determination, Progress and Justice!

The Architectural Forum, July 1928

Available to Pasadena Central Library. Article includes some pleasant photos and architectural drawings. Purchase here: bibliopolis.com, ioba.org





Located in a section of the city in which, up to a generation ago, its comercial and social activities were largely centered, the new City Hall is a conspicuous landmark in the area about to be transformed into a civic center, comprising practically all important city, county, state and federal buildings. It is more noticeable owing to the fact that the height limit of all privately constructed buildings is 150 feet, and special legislation had to be enacted to enable the city to exceed this height. The legislation referred to developed a point interesting to all architects,--that a municipality is not governed by its own ordinances; therefore, public buildings can be built to any height, while privately owned buildings cannot exceed the height established.

In their preliminary consideration of the problem, the architects determined not to confine themselves to any particular style of architecture in the general design of the building, and the completed structure shows that this determination was carried into effect. Grecian detail was adopted for the main entrance, while Romanesque was used in the arcades of the forecourt, rotunda, council chamber and the Board of Public Works room. The tower and the flanking wings may be regarded as "modern American", influenced by the present-day setback style so widely adopted in other parts of the country.

The building consits of three apparently separate and distinct units, the first of which may properly be termed the sub-structure, extended from the street grade to and including the second story; the second is the central tower, and the third the wings flanking it on the north and south, Native California light gray granite has been used for the facing of all exterior walls of the sub-structure from the sidewalk grades to the tops of the parapet walls surrounding its flat roof. It extends through the forecourt and on that portion of the tower fronting the court to the top of the large central window in the third story. All columns in the court are monolithic with richly carved capitals. All other exterior walls, to the very apex of the pyramid roof of the tower, are faced with dull or matt glazed terra cotta, harmonizing with the granite so perfectly that the difference between them is scarcely discernible. The walls of the four interior light courts are faced with a delicate buff brick laid in white mortar. The roof of the sub-structure is of composition, while the flanking wings of the tower are roofed with clay tile of vari-color,--fire-flashed reds, browns, and old golds.

The front arcade is flanked by plain, massive pylons, which will serve as a substantial background for the statuary proposed to be placed on the large granite buttresses at some time in the future. The large panel over the arcade is intendd to be sculptured by an internationally known sculptor to represent local historical events or celebrated personages, whenever the necessary funds become available. Special attention is directed to the main entrance, which is monumental in character and Grecian in detail, with broad moulded and carved architrave and moulding supported on carved consoles. The pediment is rich in carved ornament, and directly below it the frieze is intended to be sculptured in low relief in harmony with the large panel over the front of the "forecourt" arcade just mentioned. The doors are cast bronze of verde antique finish. Each door has three panels of equal size containing bas-reliefs by Henry Lion, a local sculptor, depicting notable events in connection with the early history and settlement of southern California, and, more particularly, of Los Angeles. These doors open into a spacious vestibule with a high vaulted ceiling and walls faced with a cream colored French limestone to the spring line of the vault. Niches provided in the walls are large enough to receive statuary of heroic size. The floor is of marble in pleasing colors and geometrical designs, while the paneled and coffered ceiling is suitable decorated. The vestibule communicates, through arched openings, with the rotunda, the chief interior feature of the building, which extends up through three stories and is surmounted by a domed ceiling.

In plan the rotunda is square, except for the splayed interior angles, and is completely surrounded by generous passages connecting with the main longitudinal corridors, the elevator lobby, and secondary passages to the angle stairways and adjacent light courts. The floor is laid with colored marble forming geometrical patterns of great variety. The central circle contains a "caravel" of cast bronze inserted in the marble, which is made to represent the sky and the ocean. The modeling is beautifully and artistically executed. All openings are triple-arched, and the supports of monolithic marble columns of different kinds, generally of dark colors, with carved capitals of light colored marble. The archivolts, also of dark marble, support the second floor galleries, which are protected with balustrades of perforated marble tracery elaborately carved. The large arched openings on four sides with the pendentives growing out of, or emerging from the splayed angles, develop naturally into the dome itself, the surface of which is decorated with highly colored glazed tile, forming geometrical patterns, on a background of acoustical tile of harmonizing tan color. The main corridors have barrel-vaulted ceilings 24 feet high to the crown, and the walls are wainscoted to the spring line of hte vault with St. Genevieve marble framed in Napoleon Gray between Botticino pilasters directly below plain projecting ribs of ceiling. The floor is of pink Tennessee marble and the base of Belgian black. From the main corridor on the south a wide passage connects directly with the council chamber fronting on Spring Street and abutting the southwest court and is well lighted by the 13 large windows and the small clerestory windows above. The council chamber has wide aisles formed by the arcades paralleling the sides. The arcades are supported by highly polished imported marble columns, of which there are six on either side, and each one is of a different variety, yet they harmonize perfectly. They are monoliths resting on solid single-piece moulded green marble bases and surmounted by carved capitals of Champville marble in typical Romanesque designs. Each of the four faces of every cap contains an emblem characteristic of one of the states of the Union. For instance, California is represented by the grizzly bear, Texas by the star, and Massachusetts by the codfish. The ventilation is thermostatically controlled, so that fresh air is kept constantly in circulation without the necessity of opening the windows. The latter are of the inward-opening casement type, constructed of rolled steel sections, and are protected with permanent heavy steel and iron grilles of conventional design painted a deep green to relieve the whiteness of the granite exterior. All glass is obscured and of amber color. Artificial lighting is effected by two lines of seven lanterns suspended from the ceiling at points several feet distant from and opposite the centers of the arcade openings. They are enclosed with amber colored glass, producing a soft, subdued glow. The furniture, which was designed by the architects, is conservatively modern and substantially constructed.

Next in importance, from the standpoint of architectural treatment, is the mayor's suite at the southeast corner of the first floor. This consists of a large reception room off a public lobby or ante-room, approached directly from a wide corridor extended southward from the east lobby. From this anteroom another corridor extends southward to an outer hall, which connects directly with the private office. Adjoining this is the retiring room, then a toilet room, equipped with shower, and beyond are the offices of the mayor's secretary and assistant secretary. The selection of the location of the mayor's office was influenced by the attractive outlook over the park or garden, on the south, the exposure to many hours of sunshine and to cooling summer breezes rendering its occupancy pleasant and comfortable at all seasons of the year.

The landings, treads and risers of the main stairways are of pink Tennessee marble with solid balustrades of a deep pink Kasota stone, while the adjacent walls are wainscoted with French and Pink Tennessee marble to the level of the first floor and finished with a moulded cap. Adjacent piers and pilasters are of Botticino marble. The main corridor extends through the building, on the longitudinal axis, from street to street, with secondary corridors along the north, south and west sides, parallel with those walls and a connecting corridor, on the transverse axis extending, at right angles, from the westerly corridor to the east lobby, to provide direct access to the elevators and stairways. The latter run from the basement to the third floor. These corridors have a segmented vaulted ceiling, the floors are tiled with marble, and walls are wainscoted with the same material to a height of 3 feet. The only other room treated more or less pretentiously from an architectural standpont, is that occupying the entire area on the 25th floor where, by means of well protected balconies, reached through double doorways on each of the four sides, one can enjoy an unobstructed panoramic view of the city and surroundings, reaching from the Sierra Madre range of mountains to Santa Catalina Island and the sea, and to Mt. San Jacinto on the east.

Here are a few interesting facts connected with the building of the Los Angeles City Hall:

Bond issue of $7,500,000 was authorized June 5, 1923

Architects commissioned August 17, 1925.

Preliminary sketches approved September 16, 1925.

Ground broken March 4, 1926.

Foundations started May 7, 1926.

Tower foundation poured June 14 and June 15, 1926.

Erection of steel framework commenced July 24, 1926.

General Contractors' operations started July 2, 1926;

Cornerstone laid June 22, 1927.

Building first occupied (by Superior Court of Los Angeles County) January 2, 1928.

Building dedicated by Los Angeles April 26, 1928.

Floor space, 20 acres; volume 12,000,000 cubic feet; dead weight, 95,000 tons.

Structural steel, 8,167 tons; 900,000 rivets; 400 columns; total length of drilled holes, 12 miles.

Elevent elevators; 5-ton ice machine; 129 miles of wire; largest lighting and power switchboard on the Pacific coast; telephone switchboard with ultimate capacity of 2,000 telephones.

Total investment, $9,000,000, of which the building cost $5,000,000; the site $3,500,000; the decorations, equipment and furnishings $500,000.

Editor's Note. From these statistics it can easily be appreciated what remarkable efficiency in management and superintendence was furnished by the architects of this great building. The handling of this undertaking quite as much as the design of the strcture and the working out of all the intricate and interesting details in construction and design reflects great credit upon the architects, who planned it.