Lined primarily by residences in the early stages of its development, Alvarado Street quickly became the Westlake District’s primary commercial corridor during the 1910s and 1920s. Completed in 1914, the Alvarado Theater was one of the first commercial buildings to be built on its block, diagonally across from Westlake Park. Designed by John C. Austin and W. C. Pennell, the small movie house originally sported the gaudy Classical Revival design pictured in the top photograph.
Much like its neighborhood, the building has undergone a number of dramatic transformations in the past century. A 1936 renovation removed the pediment and columns, rebuilding the façade in a flatter Streamline Moderne style (pictured here). After brief periods as a pornographic theater in the 1960s and 1970s, the building was gutted and rebuilt as a shopping center. Though it appears to have maintained the marquee and sidewalk design of one of its theater incarnations, the vastly deteriorated structure today offers precious few clues of its brighter past.
1. “Building Permits.” Los Angeles Times. 19 Jul. 1914. VI2.
2. Roe, Ken & William Gable. “Park Theatre.” Cinema Treasures. http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/2339.
Original photo: Luckhaus Studio. “Alvarado Theatre. 1936 – Los Angeles.” 1936. Charles E. Young Research Library. Calisphere. UCLA Special Collections. http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt1c6017px/.