Friday, March 21, 2008
Fine Arts Building
1926 – Albert Walker and Percy Eisen
811 West Seventh Street – map
The lobby of the Fine Arts Building is amazing in its ornamentation. However, I was stopped from taking any pictures because, naturally, indoor photography isn’t allowed. When I asked him why that is, a security guard came up with, “Building policy.” Well, that answers that. I knew there had to be a good reason.
Built for artists and craftsmen to develop their works, the twelve-story monument was designed by the firm of Albert Walker and Percy Eisen in the Romanesque Style. It’s been known as a few titles in its eighty-year history – the Fine Arts, Signal Oil, and Havenstrite Buildings, and then, beginning in 1969, the Global Marine House. In the early 1980s, at the cost of $17 million, Ratkovich, Bowers Inc. purchased and, with the help of Brenda Levin Associates and Gensler & Associates, restored the landmark just like they had done for the Oviatt Building downtown and were doing for the Pellissier Building. Also, the owners switched the name back to the Fine Arts Building upon its reopening in 1983.
The terra cotta was provided by, as for the Pellissier and Garfield landmarks, the Gladding, McBean & Company. The stunning 3,000 square-foot lobby features murals by A.B. Heinsbergen and is encircled by seventeen display cases, originally for showing tenants’ artwork but holding photos of old L.A. when I was there (I mean when I was there at the Fine Arts Building, not when I was there in old L.A.). Bordering on over-the-top in decorative artwork from floor to ceiling, the lobby is slathered in tilework by Ernest Batchelder.
Builders Edwards and Wildey hired one of Southern California’s best-known sculptors, Burt William Johnson, to decorate their building. Johnson went on to create two hefty statues, a pair of large outdoor panels, and a bunch of smaller pieces for the building before dying of a heart attack. His two sculpts, “Architectvre” and “ Scvlptvre”, can be seen lounging outside the ninth floor. Here's "Scvlptvre", and try not to get a crick in your neck looking.
Los Angeles Times obituary, on the day he passed away he was working on one of the Hermae statues for the Fine Arts Building, modeling it on his daughter, Cynthia Mae. He also used the girl as the basis for a pair of bronze sculptures in the lobby’s fountain. Those bronzes, cast by the Gorham Company, can be seen in this shot from the Los Angeles Department of City Planning website (they're the smaller ones at either end of the pool):
Seriously. If you’ve never poked your head inside the Fine Arts Building, you owe it to yourself to do so. But, please, for the sake of humanity, don’t take any pictures.
Oh. And, sadly, the Fine Arts Building is no longer home to either the Cap 'N Quill or the Pig ‘N Whistle restaurants.
“Sculptor Wins in Life Fight” Los Angeles Times; Dec 12, 1926, p. B9
Francis D. Duncan “Burt W. Johnson” Los Angeles Times; Mar 29, 1927, p. A4
Evelyn De Wolfe “Landmark Renovated” Los Angeles Times; Oct 9, 1983, p. I1
Up next: Shakespeare Bridge