Young’s Market Building
1924 – Charles F. Plummer
1602 West Seventh Street – map
Considering the state of the building after being looted and torched during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, it’s remarkable the former headquarter of the Young’s Market grocery chain is standing at all. (For a picture of the building at its nadir, go to page 186 in McGrew and Julian’s Landmarks of Los Angeles.)
Young’s was founded in the late 1880s by John G. Young, the oldest of a set of grocery-minded brothers. By the time the Seventh and Union market formally opened on February 23, 1925, Young’s Markets had grown to a string of more than forty stores. By then, there were five brothers in the business: W.G. was president; George F., J.G., and C.T. were vice presidents; and P.M. was secretary and treasurer. It was P.M. who oversaw the construction of this city landmark.
The Union Avenue side.
Charles F. Plummer designed the five-story, 126,000-square-foot building to headquarter the executive offices of the chain and house the company’s central retail market and distribution center. The exterior north and east sides still boast thirty-foot tall, 42,000-pound Corinthian columns of granite as well as a wrap-around bronze grill. You really need to look up next to you pass by to take in the della Robbia-style “ceramic polychrome” frieze just below the cornice. Fruits of the earth and all that.
I reckon the picture below is not of the same section as above, but close enough for government work.
Speaking of opening day, get this: this massive Young’s Market was open twelve hours that first day – not for business per se, but for inspection only. In other words, prospective customers (women, mainly) could come in, check out the place, get all pumped up about the mother of all grocery stores, but would have to return the next day if they wanted to buy anything. Can you imagine going to Ralph’s on opening day and being told you weren’t allowed to purchase anything, but you were encouraged to look around?
The main theme of the interior’s ground floor/mezzanine was of a Pompeian marketplace. On the mezzanine, there was the household goods department and a large writing room for the ladies. Of special note were the stenciled concrete supports crossing the ceiling. You can still see the faded remnants of these today.
Someone, at some point, mustered enough energy to give a bit of restoration a stab:
The rest of the building contained rooms dedicated to coffee roasting (with a capacity of 10,000 pounds of imported-only coffee), flour blending, flour mixing (holding five carloads of flour), pastry-making, as well as a dough room and a sweet dough room (“No, no, no. This is the room for regular dough. The room for sweet dough is down the hall. This is 4B. You want 4D.”) The market’s bakery had enough gas ovens to bake either 900 loaves of bread hourly or 1,000 loaves every forty-five minutes, depending on which source you choose to believe (the even hour of the former appeals to me, but I like the round number of 1,000, so I’m torn). There was a floor for the offices, and the second floor was the vast order-filling department – so vast, in fact, the Southern California Telephone company had its largest order up to that time – seventy trunk lines – to accommodate the operators. Finally, 125 carloads of merchandise could fit comfortably into the basement.
At the time of the 1992 riots, the building was occupied by the Andrew Hardware and Metal Company. Today, the old Young’s Market Building is home to Michael’s Furniture and the 44-unit CityView Lofts. CityView has a pretty good website with pictures and a brief video tour which kicks off with the penthouse (under "Filming Available").
The stenciled concrete beams were blackened out in the corner section.
Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 113, Young’s Market Building, is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Market Ready the First of the Year” Los Angeles Times; Nov 2, 1924, p. E10
“Young’s Food Emporium” Los Angeles Times; Jan 1, 1925, p. 36
“Youngs in a New Marketplace” Los Angeles Times; Feb 22, 1925, p. B3
The black and white photographs are via the Los Angeles Public Library photo archive.
Up next: Wilshire United Methodist Church