Los Angeles is a city that is constantly changing, with few buildings ever reaching their centennial. Now over 90 years old, L.A.’s City Hall stands out, not just in its architecture but in its permanence. Here’s a rundown of interesting factoids about the structure that will make anyone appreciate the DTLA landmark, one of the most recognizable buildings in the city.
Commissioned in 1925 as a joint project between accomplished L.A. architects John Parkinson, Albert C. Martin, and John C. Austin, the structure, with its 27 floors and three tiers, is peak Art Deco, a style that Austin referred to as “Modern American.” Before the skyscraper opened, city officials had convened in a much smaller, Romanesque-style building on Broadway. And before that, they’d met in a rental house, and, back in the 1850s, a hotel room.
Bodrum, Turkey’s Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, inspired the rooftop design of City Hall. (The destroyed tomb of the 3rd century BC governor, Mausolus, is actually the root for the word “mausoleum.”)
When City Hall opened its doors, the 454-foot building was the tallest structure to ever be built in California, and remained the tallest for four decades, thanks to a municipal ordinance prohibiting new construction from surpassing it. The ordinance was overturned in 1958, and, a decade later, the 516-foot Union Bank building at Fifth and Figueroa dethroned City Hall.
It’s not uncommon for the outside of City Hall to be lit in various hues to commemorate major events. The building shone in gold in 2018 to celebrate what would have been late Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold’s 58th birthday, and has been blanketed with rainbow colors in honor of Pride Month. The building was lit up with the colors of the Italian flag to show solidarity after the 2016 earthquake in Italy, and went purple to honor the memory of Prince. It has also been lit various colors for New Years Eve and to celebrate victories by local sports teams like the Lakers and Dodgers.
No actor’s resume could ever compete with City Hall’s list of credits. Government business may be the primary function of City Hall, but the exterior and interior of the building has been featured in films and TV shows including movies like Speed, L.A. Confidential, Gangster’s Squad, and La La Land.
Visitors can head to the top of City Hall to take in views of DTLA free of charge when they visit the observation deck on the 27th floor, and to understand how local government works, visitors can take free docent-led tours take place at City Hall Monday through Friday from 10AM-12:30PM.
We’re continually inspired by the creative energy of Downtown Los Angeles. For local recommendations—and to hear from the diverse individuals who make DTLA what it is today—head to our Meet You Downtown blog.