Of all of Los Angeles’ historic structures to have made way for the Civic Center, the Baker Block is certainly one of the most mournful losses. Most sources agree that the three-story building was completed around 1877 by Colonel Robert S. Baker, and it appears that no account of its history has spared any details of its magnificence. At the time of its completion, it was reputedly the largest and most expensive structure to have been built south of San Francisco. Among other achievements, it is also believed to have been Los Angeles’ first steel-framed building, and its first to have tiled floors. The luxurious French Second Empire edifice housed a plethora of shops, offices, and apartments, and was an important center of social life for the city’s elite. Needless to say, it was for many years a tremendous source of pride for the growing city.
Even so, the Baker Block had lost much of its luster by the turn of the century, and by the time it was purchased by Goodwill Industries in 1919, it was all too clear that its days were numbered. As cruel fate would have it, the faded landmark was slated to give way to one of the most mundane projects in the 1930 Civic Center plan: a two-block extension of Aliso Street from Los Angeles Street to Broadway.
That is not to say though, that nobody fought to save the building. The Metropolitan Garden Association launched an effort to move the Baker Block to another location and reopen it as a public recreation center. Furthermore, a group of City Councilmen led by Arthur E. Briggs organized a fundraising initiative to convert the building into a city history museum. Nonetheless, those attempts were ultimately in vain; the city purchased the Baker Block from Goodwill in 1941 and went ahead with its demolition the following year.
1. “Baker Block’s Knell Sounds.” Los Angeles Times. 11 Oct. 1931. A1.
2. “Gay ghosts roam in doomed Baker Block.” Los Angeles Times. 20 Aug. 1933. A1.
3. “Park Project Details Given.” Los Angeles Times. 8 May 1940. A16.
4. “Plans for Civic Center record progress.” Los Angeles Times. 23 Feb. 1930. D1.
5. “Wrecking crews at work demolishing old Baker Block.” Los Angeles. 30 May 1942. A3.
Originial photo: Dick Whittington Studio. “Osaka Company, Goodwill Industries of Southern California, Philco Radio – whit-m158.” “Dick” Whittington Photography Collection. USC Digital Library. USC Libraries Special Collections. http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/assetserver/controller/view/DW-A11-2-5-ISLA.
Excellent photo and history of the Baker Block. Thank you!
Thanks to Los Angeles Past over at the skyscraperpage forum for turning me on to your site. What a kick. You’re doing a great job. Thanks, Brian.
Thanks for your support! It means a lot to me, as I’ve truly enjoyed both of your blogs as well.
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