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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