As sad as it is to say, the one-story structure in the present view is all that remains of the Wilcox Building, once one of Downtown Los Angeles’ more prominent landmarks. Completed in 1896, the retail and office building originally boasted a central location at the heart of the city’s business district, then concentrated between First and Third Streets. Designed by the San Francisco firm of Pissis & Moore, its Classical Revival facade of grey sandstone would have appeared relatively austere next to its more flamboyant neighbors, the Bryson Block and Hollenbeck Hotel.
Today, the location is mostly remembered as the former home of two of the city’s oldest institutions. Its basement and top two floors were designed for the second home of the private California Club, which remained from its opening through 1904. The Wilcox Building thus became the city’s first to have two elevators: one for the public, and another for club members. Between 1915 and 1924, its upper floors housed the second location of yet another long-standing Los Angeles establishment, Southwestern Law School. The aging building avoided obsolescence in the postwar years by providing temporary space for government offices that had outgrown their existing facilities, including the Los Angeles County courts and the State Division of Highways. During the 1950s, it briefly housed a Civic Center division of the USC School of Public Policy.
Since then, however, the Wilcox Building has been largely forgotten. After extensive damage during the Sylmar Earthquake in 1971, its upper four stories were demolished, leaving only the basement and the now-unrecognizable ground floor. Two pilasters at the southern end of its Spring Street frontage appear to be the only details of the original facade that remain today.
A more complete view of the Wilcox Building, c. 1905 [USC Digital Library]
1. “Civic Center division of SC to move Sept. 18.” Los Angeles Times. 27 Aug. 1950. 22.
2. “Our business blocks” Los Angeles Times. 1 Jan. 1896. 9.
3. Rasmussen, Cecilia. “L.A.’s premier club began over a stable.” Los Angeles Times. 8 Nov. 1998. 3.
4. “State Highway Building dedicated by officials.” Los Angeles Times. 27 Aug. 1949. A7.
5. “Time waste deplored in scattered courts.” Los Angeles Times. 3 Feb. 1949. 8.
6. Townsend, Dorothy. “Southwestern: the shirtsleeve law school.” Los Angeles Times. 23 Mar. 1972. D1.
Original photo: Dick Whittington Studio. “Pacific Southwest Bank, 2nd & Spring Branch, Los Angeles, CA, 1924.” Dick Whittington Photography Collection. USC Digital Library. USC Libraries Special Collections. http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll170/id/68951.