The 1920s and '30s were decades for flappers and flamboyance. It was an era of creativity--and among the most enduring examples from that period are art and architecture known as Art Deco.
Joyce Colton, president of the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, has traveled extensively and documented examples of Art Deco from Scotland to Romania to China. She proudly points to Los Angeles as being home to some of the finest examples.
"We are riding a crest right now of Art Deco revival in every aspect of our lives," Colton says, "from fashion to interior design to architecture."
The shift from the Victorian Era look to the highly stylized yet simple geometric lines of Art Deco can be most easily seen in Southern California in the magnificent buildings designed by architects of that period.
Although Colton found it difficult to list only 10 examples of Los Angeles' Art Deco architecture, she does recommend (for starters) the buildings listed here:
Bullocks Wilshire, 3050 Wilshire Blvd. This outstanding Art Deco building was designed and built in 1929 by John and Donald B. Parkinson. Its many fine artistic features include tan terra cotta tiles, many fine bronze architectural details, a mural of Los Angeles and a ziggurat (terraced) exterior design. The building was originally designed so that its roof could provide a landing site for the airships of the period.
Wiltern Theatre, 3780 Wilshire Blvd. Built in 1931, the theater is a fine example of a polychromatic tile Art Deco building. It has been recently renovated, and the theater was reopened to the public.
Eastern-Columbia Building, 849 S. Broadway. Probably the No. 1 Art Deco building in Downtown Los Angeles, this structure was designed by architect Claude Beelman and built in 1929. Not only is it one of the best examples of a polychromatic terra cotta tile building, it is also noteworthy for its clock tower, which is adorned with bronze castings and spandrels.
Oviatt Building, 617 S. Olive St. Beautifully constructed ironwork, facade and illuminated decorative panels adorn this building, which was designed by Albert Walker and Percy A. Eisen in 1928. It is home to the famous Rex Ristorante restaurant, which still contains the original Lalique glass appointments.
Park Plaza Hotel, 607 Park View St., on the west side of MacArthur Park. This hotel's exterior is crowned with giant sculptures, and inside is a magnificent lobby with classic ceiling paintings and hand-wrought bronze and copper chandeliers.
Max Factor Building, 1666 Highland Ave., Hollywood. Designed by S. Charles Lee in 1936, this building is one of the world's leading examples of Art Deco, Regency style. A special bonus is the photo collection maintained at the building by Robert Salvatore, curator of the Max Factor Museum. (Museum is open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Telephone (213) 463-6668.)
Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Designed in 1929 by B. Marcus Priteca, the theater opened in the 1930s and was hailed as one of the "most lavish" theaters of the period. Its interior features specially decorated stairwells, lavish restrooms, vaulted ceilings and glazed silver leaf with Egyptian-stylized chevrons and airplanes of the period.
Catalina Casino, Catalina Island. Built and originally owned by William Wrigley Jr., this casino is adorned with bigger-than-life fresco treatments that represent some of the most notable Art Deco architecture of the period.
Design Center of Los Angeles, 433 S. Spring St. This building features intricate tile work and hand-wrought gates along with a magnificent ballroom that was designed to be an exhibition hall for artists. (Other fine Art Deco buildings located on historic Spring Street include the Premier Towers, the Banks Huntley building and the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange building.)
Selig Building, 3rd Street at Western Avenue. Designed in 1931 by Arthur E. Harvey, this structure, now listed as a city monument, is one of the few remaining examples of the incredible black-and-gold terra cotta tile buildings of the period. Another such black-and-gold terra cotta structure still stands on Wilshire Boulevard between Sycamore and La Brea avenues, at the end of a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard between Fairfax and La Brea avenues that has recently been nominated as a historic district in Los Angeles.
For more information regarding the Art Deco Society, write P.O. Box 8171, Van Nuys, Calif. 91409, or call (818) 368-4139.