Downtown Los Angeles’ Historic Core neighborhood is located between 1st, 9th, Main, and Hill Streets and boasts many of the sites and attractions that put LA on the map, like historic architecture, ornate movie palaces, delicious restaurants, and abundant art galleries.
From the early 1900s to the 1950s, what’s now the Historic Core was LA’s central business district, with many businesses, like now-landmark movie theaters AKA “picture palaces”, establishing roots in the area and drawing more people to it. But the district began to decline in the 1950s as people increasingly used their own cars rather than streetcar lines, allowing them to live further away from downtown, instead shopping, dining, and movie-going in the suburbs thanks to the proliferation of suburban retail after World War II.
However, despite many businesses and people moving away from the district during the 1950s, it was around this time that the Historic Core started to become the city’s epicenter of Latino retail and entertainment. Due in part to the general White Flight that occurred throughout LA in the ‘50s and partly because a variety of the area's theaters, like the Million Dollar Theatre, showcased some of the biggest names in Spanish-language entertainment, the neighborhood became a major center of LA Latino life.
Fast forward to today, and the area’s Latin influence remains strong, with many of the older buildings featuring retailers that cater to the Latino immigrant working class. Mixed in with these retailers, you’ll also find a bevy of contemporary art, food, and shopping destinations that are largely the result of the area's major redevelopment efforts in the 1990s.
In 1999, the Los Angeles City Council passed an Adaptive Re-Use Ordinance that allowed developers to convert old office buildings into apartments and lofts. This ordinance paved the way for developers to purchase century-old buildings and transform them into contemporary residences, ultimately drawing an increasing number young professionals and creatives to the area, resulting in the eclectic neighborhood’s present form.
And while the new retailers, trendy bars and restaurants, and art galleries are great reasons to visit the Historic Core, it’s the district’s historic architecture that truly sets it apart. Many of the area’s most impressive buildings were once the picture palaces that popularized the district.
Million Dollar Theatre
The Million Dollar Theatre was among the first grand movie palaces constructed in the area, paving the way for the many others that would sprout up along Broadway and make the Historic Core the center of the moving picture industry until Hollywood moved west in the 1930s.
Constructed in 1931, the Roxie Theatre was the last of the picture palaces built on Broadway. It’s also the only Broadway theater that was built in Art Deco style, featuring the decorative chevrons, stylized geometric forms, and stepped rooflines characteristic of the architectural style.
Eastern Columbia Building
The Eastern Columbia Building, now called the Eastern Columbia Lofts, opened in 1930 as the headquarters for the Eastern-Columbia Department Store. Designed by Claud Beelman and also built in art deco style, the thirteen story building has been referred to as the benchmark of art deco style buildings, and the "Jewel of Downtown."
Los Angeles Times Building
The Los Angeles Times building is another Art Deco treasure in the neighborhood. Built in 1935, the newspaper’s headquarters was designed by architect Gordon B. Kaufmann who won a gold model for the design at the 1937 Paris Exposition.
Commissioned by gold-mining millionaire Lewis L. Bradbury, the eponymous Bradbury Building was built in 1893 and is the city’s oldest official landmark building. Bradbury initially asked architect Sumner Hunt to design it but ultimately chose one of Hunt's draftsman, George Wyman, to finish it instead. Legend has it that Wyman agreed to finish it after talking to his deceased brother through a Ouija board.
Thanks to striking details, like marble stairs, ornate iron railings, and open-cage elevators, the building is among the most photographed in the city and has been featured in many films, such as Blade Runner and 500 Days of Summer.
If you'd like the opportunity to live in one of these or the many other historic buildings in LA's Historic Core, check out all active lofts and condos for sale in Historic Core.