Bullock’s Wilshire Building
1929 – John and Donald Parkinson
3050 Wilshire Boulevard – map
By the time Bullock’s Wilshire opened in September of 1929, John Bullock had been running (if not owning) Bullock’s at Seventh and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles for more than twenty years. After a boatload of expansions to that store and the death of owner Arthur Letts, Bullock made the decision to build an even bigger, more luxurious flagship store – out in the suburbs.
Bullock and the vice president of Bullock's Inc., Percy Winnett, anticipated the westward expansion of the city’s population and chose for their new store a location on the other side of Westlake (now MacArthur) Park.
The new, two-million dollar Art Deco department store on the elite Wilshire Boulevard was designed by the father and son architect team of John and Donald Parkinson. The men had already partly or completely designed the downtown Bullock’s and more than a few L.A. landmarks, including the Los Angeles Athletic Club (No. 69), City Hall (No. 150), and the Security Trust and Saving Buildings in Hollywood (No. 334) and Highland Park (No. 575). They’d go on to design Union Station (No. 101).
The building was originally to reach ten stories, but made it to just five.
The interior design was handled by Jock Peters.
This design on the Wilshire Boulevard side was created by George Stanley, who originally sculpted the Oscar statuette.
The Wilshire Boulevard facade.
So while the Wilshire side is often considered the front of the store, the true entrance is on the south side.
A shot of the motor court/porte cochere through which shoppers in their cars would arrive (from the right).
The ceiling of the motor court is this mural by Herman Sachs called Spirit of Transportation.
Bullock's Wilshire hasn't been a department store for about fifteen years (more on that later). It's now part of Southwestern Law School, so if you're looking at these pictures wondering where the shoppers are, now you know. (They've gone to Betson's!)
The banks of elevators you see when entering the building.
Now the Julian C. Dixon Courtroom and Advocacy Center, this space held the Accessories Department back in the day.
The old Sportswear Department bears this mural, The Spirit of the Sports, by Gjura Stojano.
A remnant of the Saddle Shop.
The room below once held the Menswear Department. The design was a tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright.
There were thirty clocks designed for Bullock's Wilshire. Here's one of them.
Moving onto the second floor, there's Irene's Salon, named for Irene (Gibbons). Models would sashay out and show off dresses created by the MGM costume designer.
Second floor, Ladies' Lingerie.
Here's the Louis XVI Period Room, used for viewing more designer dresses.
This was the Coco Chanel Room, where Chanel displayed her dresses. It's now the Chanel Conference Room.
The third and fourth floors (not pictured) were originally dedicated to college and high school girls (floor 3) and children (floor 4).
Above is the oak-paneled office of the Dean of Southwestern Law School, formerly the office of John Bullock. The Dean's Office opens onto a terrace from which you get great views of not only downtown L.A., but also of that 241-foot tower and a close-up of the building's copper.
In February of 1944, Bullock's Inc. merged with the I. Magnin & Co. retail chain. Twenty years later, the company sold out to Federated Department Stores Inc. Then, in 1988, Federated got chopped up, with the Bullock's and Magnin parts going to Macy's, who shut down the 64-year-old landmark in 1993.
The store's first floor received its fair share of damage in the 1992 riots.
The Salle Moderne, once a dining room.
You can see Bullock's Wilshire in Topper, Bugsy, and Family Plot, among other movies. A couple of episodes of Murder, She Wrote were filmed here - the show's star, Angela Lansbury, worked as a sales clerk at the store in the early 1940s.
Check out the original flooring.
In 1994, Southwestern Law School stepped in and bought not only the building, but also the land it stood on (the plot had been owned by CalTech - go figure). Southwestern began what was figured to be an eventual $20 million restoration process. Ronald Altoon served as restoration architect.
This is the famous Tea Room, where you dined while, again, viewing models in designer dresses.
More Tea Room.
The Team Room Alcove.
A little conference room on the other side of the Tea Room Alcove.
A big hats off to Southwestern Law School. They've been opening up the school once a year for special "Tea and Tours". During this past tour, in July, the school couldn't have been more welcoming, especially to those who wanted to take tons of pictures (and there were many of us). It was a great afternoon. Thanks.
Maybe my favorite room in the building: a space used for more private viewing of - sigh - models in designer dresses.
Of course, I got a lot of this information from the tour itself, but the real comprehensive source for all things Bullock's Wilshire is the insanely comprehensive Bullocks Wilshire by Margaret Leslie Davis, published in 1996 and now out of print.
The Bullock's Wilshire Building is also on the list of National Register of Historic Places.
Up next: Second Church of Christ Scientist of Los Angeles