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Williams, the man behind L.A.'s 'futuristic' images

May 01, 2003|David Colker

If you have a picture in your mind of Southern California in the 1950s and early 1960s, you are quite likely picturing a building created by Paul Williams.

Born in Los Angeles in 1894 and orphaned four years later, Williams was the only black student in his elementary school class. He so excelled in art that a local builder encouraged him to be an architect, a goal he achieved with his certification in 1915.

Williams won awards for his designs almost from the start of his career, and he designed homes for numerous show business luminaries, but it was not until after World War II that he designed the buildings for which he is most remembered. They included the "futuristic" centerpiece restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport, the Los Angeles County Courthouse, famed additions to the Beverly Hills Hotel that gave it its distinctive look and the redesign of both Perino's Restaurant and the Ambassador Hotel. He also designed homes for Frank Sinatra and for Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. His own home, where his granddaughter, Karen Hudson, lives, was built in 1951.

Williams retired in 1973 and died seven years later, at age 85.

-- David Colker

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