Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

SOCAL PAST

Eternally Elegant

As Haute Couture Gives Way to Legal Briefs, L.A.'s Premier Department Store Is Celebrated in Pictures

June 16, 1996|Mary Melton

Fall, 1996, shortly before midnight. The first-year law student ascends the library ladder to reach an antiquated volume on international copyright infringement. But as he opens it, he doesn't smell the musty scent of an old text. Instead, he whiffs Chanel, circa 1943. Is this the normal sleep-deprivation fantasy of an aspiring attorney? Perhaps. But how fitting, as he hovers above what was Bullock's Wilshire's ladies lingerie department, which once shared the second floor of this Art Deco masterpiece with the Salon of Beauty and the Louis XVI Period Room. In August, after Southwestern University School of Law finishes moving its library across the street to the longtime department store building it acquired in 1994, 370,000 volumes of legalese will reign where Maidenform once held sway. * The birth and death of L.A.'s premier department store came amid turmoil. It opened in 1929, a month before Black Tuesday, and closed a year after the riots in 1992 wreaked nearly $15 million in damage. But in its heyday, as seen here in images from "Bullock's Wilshire," by Margaret Leslie Davis and recently published by Balcony Press, a certain elegance ruled, as sales clerks paraded designer fashions by Mae West's limo for approval and John Wayne frequented the Tea Room. * Southwestern's purchase saved the 10-story building, with its copper crown and porte-cochere, from decay or destruction. Preservationists call it "adaptive reuse of historic buildings." In addition to ladies lingerie housing international and comparative law, women's sportswear will become the main reference room, and the menswear department, with its Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired decorative touches, will house the California law collection. Eventually, other areas will be converted for administrative offices, maybe even classrooms. No final word yet on whether the L.A. Conservancy will be allowed to resume tours of the building, or if the trustees plan to reopen the famed Tea Room to an outside vendor. ("Pinot Bullock's Wilshire" has a nice ring. Just a suggestion.) No matter. The images survive to provide a stolen glimpse of the glamour that was L.A.'s "Cathedral of Commerce."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|