LA’s Historic Downtown
We spent the Tuesday before Christmas in historic downtown Los Angeles. It wasn’t what I expected. In downtown LA I expected tall gleaming modern buildings, like in the opening scenes from “LA Law” (remember that show?).
Actually, downtown LA feels more retro than futuristic. Daniel explained to me that Los Angeles is “polycentric” – practically speaking it has multiple downtowns. (Danny goes to graduate school and is into urban policy stuff.) Those gleaming modern skyscrapers can be found, but mostly elsewhere.
We decided to take the subway, partly because Daniel is a big transit nerd. Yes, Los Angeles has a subway. It’s fairly new and has a futuristic feel.
I liked the murals they had at the North Hollywood station (UPDATE: actually, this was the Universal City station).
For our first stop we visited Keith, an old High School friend who now lives in Los Angeles. We met him at his office, which is located in the old Bradbury Building.
The Bradbury is LA’s oldest commercial building still standing. It was the setting for the movie Blade Runner.
Keith took us all to the Grand Central Market for lunch. The Market, which has been operating since 1917, is a lively and bustling collection of vendors selling all kinds of produce and prepared food.
We went to a popular taco place where the lines were long, the service fast, and the tacos piled high with toppings.
After lunch we wandered around the Market. Before leaving Daniel bought some mole paste to take back to Chicago, though he cooked some for our Christmas dinner.
After saying goodbye to Keith, we walked towards Los Angeles City Hall, mainly because we were told there were stupendous views from the top.
The City Hall tower was modeled after a mausoleum designed by the ancient Greeks. The building is supposed to be able to withstand a magnitude 8.2 earthquake, which I suppose is comforting.
On the way in we passed a memorial to Frank Putnam Flint. Flint was a politician and banker who was pivotal in creating LA’s aqueduct system. The new water made LA’s explosive growth possible. Flint’s memorial had a fountain, which had been turned off due to a water shortage. Ironic, eh?
We found our way to the top of City Hall after getting some directions from some very friendly and obliging city employees.
Another view, this one including the concert hall designed by Frank Gehry.
And here are some of those sleek modern skyscrapers I mentioned earlier.
On the way to see the views we passed a gallery of mayoral portraits. Not sure who this guy was, but I like his style.
Before leaving we checked out the third floor where the City Council chambers are found. There were nice mosaics on the walls and ceiling.
After we left City Hall we walked to Little Tokyo, which is fairly close by. We visited the Japanese American National Museum, which is definitely worth seeing. Then we headed over to Union Station, which was built in 1939 and is considered the last of the great train stations in the USA.
Last stop of the day was The Last Bookstore, which has a massive selection of mostly used books. This is a must for book lovers visiting LA.
Despite its size, The Last Bookstore has an informal, even playful atmosphere. Books are stacked in arches.
Also, the crime section is in an actual bank vault.
We all bought at least two paperbacks each – it was hard to resist as most were priced at $5.
At this point it was getting late. This was an unusually intensive day of sightseeing by our standards. We headed back to the Pershing Square subway station, and then home.