Best of Blog: L.A.’s 1920s Architecture

This post originally appeared in April 2012.

Sowden House, 1926, Lloyd Wright, HOLLYWOOD TOUR, photo courtesy of Architecture Tours L.A.

Awhile ago, a friend from London and I were meeting in L.A. and we discovered fabulous Architecture Tours L.A. We loved owner/operator Laura Massino’s tours so much we took two! With a Master’s degree in Architectural History, Laura had the innovative idea of offering historic architectural tours in Los Angeles. I was delighted to catch up with Laura again and ask her about two of my favorite topics: 20s and Architecture.

Mary: It seems like Art Deco’s experimentation with geometric style fits 20s ingenuity perfectly. I know the term Art Deco comes from the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Were L.A.’s 20s architects inspired by the 1925 Paris Exposition?

Laura: Yes, the architects/designers in Los Angeles were inspired by the exposition in Paris. This was considered an international design style and some of the architects of the day might have traveled to Europe in the 20s and they may also have seen publications, magazines, books, etc. on the subject. Moreover, there was a general fascination with machinery, mechanization, movement, modernity and speed and this was also an influence.

Mary: When we were on your downtown L.A. tour, we saw beautiful Art Deco buildings. I remember Cicada, the restaurant featured in two movies: The Artist and Pretty Woman. Does downtown have the most Art Deco style architecture in L.A.?

Laura: I would say it may be a “toss-up” between the Miracle Mile and Downtown, although I’ve never done an actual count of buildings. There are also other Art Deco style buildings in other places-The Pantages Theater on Hollywood Blvd., just east of Vine Street, The Sunset Tower Hotel ( on Sunset Blvd. on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood is one of the best in the area and of course, the Bullock’s Wilshire Department Store on Wilshire Blvd. in Koreatown is also in the Top 5 in the area.

Mary: Do you have a favorite amidst the 20s Art Deco theaters built for the emerging motion picture industry in L.A.?

Laura: Yes, the Tower Theater ( on Broadway from 1927 is my favorite and the first one that could accommodate “talkies”! I especially LOVE the vertical “pre-neon” sign that is made of individual lightbulbs and the recessed panels near the top on the side of the structure that would have had painted-on advertisements.

Mary: Looking at 20s L.A. Architecture, what would be your choice for best illuminating Art Deco Style? And feel free to make more than one choice!

Laura: OK, here’s my Top 5 in no particular order:

-The Oviatt Building on Olive Street
-The Coca-Cola Building on Central Avenue
-The Eastern Columbia Building on Broadway
-The Sunset Tower Building on Broadway
-Bullock’s Wilshire Department Store (now Southwestern Law School) on Wilshire Blvd.

Mary: If you could live in the 20s, where would you live and why?

Laura: If I could live in the 20s I would definitely live in Hollywood. It would have been VERY glamourous with the film industry in full swing, fashionable people living there and lots of open spaces in the Hollywood Hills, in particular.

For someone especially interested in 20s L.A., do you recommend any of your tours in particular?

Laura: Yes, the DOWNTOWN tour and the HANCOCK PARK/MIRACLE MILE tour are the best for seeing excellent examples of architecture from the 1920s.

Mary: I know that you’re also a prodigious author! Among your books, do you recommend one in particular for showcasing 20s L.A. Art Deco style?

Laura: Also, the same books that go with the tours mentioned above,ARCHITECTURE TOURS L.A. GUIDEBOOK – DOWNTOWN, but in particular the ARCHITECTURE TOURS L.A.GUIDEBOOK – HANCOCK PARK/MIRACLE MILE would be best for the Art Deco style.

Click on the image above to see Architecture Tours L.A.’s Miracle Mile book on Amazon.
Thank you Laura! I hope to be enjoying one of your tours again soon:)

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

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44 Responses to Best of Blog: L.A.’s 1920s Architecture

  1. Jen Rodrigues says:

    Wow how awesome are these homes. Thanks for sharing. I love looking at different architectures of homes from the past. What an amazing blast from the past.

  2. Zoey says:

    I would love to take an architectural tour of a city. Thanks for sharing!

  3. decsnblog says:

    beautifully made video

  4. Brenda Goldberg says:

    I live in Los Angeles County but plan to take this tour with my husband this summer. Looks like a great, interesting tour!

  5. Tammie Browning says:

    Thank you for the great picture’s. I love seeing where people are, have been and where stories come from. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Jodi Hunter says:

    WOW! So Beautiful.

  7. Kathy Newcomer says:

    Wow! Amazing architecture!!

  8. Della Williamson says:

    Would love to go on Architecture Tours. Did one in Seattle back in the 70’s. Loved it. Rarely visit cities though. We usually go camping. But the few times we have gone to a city, or any community. We did historical tours, museums, etc. But that tour in L.A.? It’s gotta be done in person

  9. Casey Garvey says:

    There are some beautiful places that were built in the 1800s to 1900s. I would love to explore the worlds treasured architecture one day!

  10. Christy Peeples DuBois says:

    As the others have stated this is so interesting. I also enjoyed the video. I have liked this type architecture for a long time but never really thought about when it was from or what it was called. Therefore I learned a lot. Thanks for informing me.

  11. Lorena says:

    Thank you so much!! kisses

  12. Amber Terry says:

    I love this. Looking at anything historical is always interesting and those buildings were gorgeous 🙂

  13. Carol Cat Trochelman says:

    I really enjoyed reading this and watching the videos. Very interesting and wonderful architecture.

  14. Heather Snyder says:

    Love it!❤

  15. Heidi Robbins says:

    I love architecture!

  16. Lisla says:

    Love it! Thanks for sharing

  17. Michelle Elizondo says:

    I want to take a tour like this.

  18. Barrie says:

    Wonderful article. I love architect and it’s one of my favorite things when traveling!

  19. Suz Reads says:

    Love the pictures – especially the Sowden House! Thanks for this awesome post!

  20. Nicole Kirsche Stoll says:

    I f you ust love the Deco -achitecture look Miami is another community with strong art deco/1920 influences!

  21. Maria Dalmau says:

    Thanks for the great article and video!

  22. Edgar Gerik says:


  23. Sharon Greene says:

    Thanks for the article and video! They were great!

  24. Fee Roberts says:

    There’s a lot of coll buildings in the video. Great post.

  25. Jay Jackson says:

    Interesting post, thanks for sharing.

  26. Debbie P says:

    I love learning about architecture. Especially in other cities. It’s a great way to learn about other places.

  27. Nancy Burgess says:

    I loved your video, excellent post!

  28. Caryl Kane says:


  29. Michelle L says:


  30. M says:


  31. Dale Wilken says:

    Great post loved the pics.

  32. Candy Voisine says:

    It’s impressive the things they thought of before our time. I have always loved architecture and hope someday to see some of the older plantation homes in the Southeast half of the U.S.

  33. Melissa Breusch says:

    Such unique architecture. Thanks 4 posting.

  34. Abigail Gibson says:

    I love this article. Great video too!

  35. Deborah Caudill says:

    Thanks for sharing this article and photos. I would love to go on the tour, but living in North Carolina doesn’t give me access and I am not able to travel right now.

  36. Betsy Barnes says:

    Such an interesting article! This architecture is so beautiful!

  37. Diana Corlett says:

    Amazing architecture! So much better than the run of the mill skyscraper or plebian storefront. Would love to see more!

  38. Rita Wray says:

    I enjoyed the post.

  39. Sandra Watts says:

    Thanks for sharing the video. I have never been and probably never will so I enjoyed it.

  40. Lori Smanski says:

    oh wow, how fascinating. the architectures must have had real fun.

  41. Kris Meldgaard says:

    I also love the architecture of the 20’s! I live in San Diego so next time Im up in LA Ill definitely have to look up this Tour!!It looks
    like a fun tour! 💋 Thank you for the post!

  42. Richard Brandt says:

    Love L.A.’s Deco architecture. I saw the film LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF and it was a real eye-opener.

  43. Judy Thomas says:

    Such beautiful buildings! I will have to put it on my bucket list to visit there.

  44. Victoria says:

    This is a really great post, I loved your video. Thanks for sharing 🙂