By the early 1970s, the pack of three-story buildings at the southeast corner of Fifth and Hill Streets had become the final vestige of Pershing Square’s turn-of-the-century appearance. The oldest and most prominent structure in the original view is the A. L. Bath Building, completed at the intersection’s corner around 1898. Also known as the Hotel Willoughby, it was one of the earliest commercial buildings to rise at the edge of Pershing Square, and a rare example of a commercial block designed in Moorish Revival. As better seen this photograph, its upper-story bays were framed by tall, thin pilasters leading to a series of decorative Mughal arches beneath its cornice. The building’s rounded corner was capped with a domed turret bearing the name of its owner, A. L. Bath.
The Bath Building and its neighbors proved to be surprisingly resilient through the peak years of the Historic Core’s development. By the mid-1920s, they were largely hemmed in by the Pershing Square Building (1924) and the Fifth Street Store (1923), which towers in the background of both views. Nonetheless, the low-rise block had decayed substantially by the late 20th century. As seen in the top photograph from 1971, The Bath Building lost its elaborate cornice and turret, and its upper stories were eventually abandoned.
The entire corner was demolished during the following decade, as seen in this 1984 aerial view of Pershing Square. Between 1986 and 1993, it was used as a staging area for the Metro Red Line subway, while workers tunneled underneath central Hill Street. For the past two decades, the corner has served as the southern entrance plaza for Pershing Square Station. Its adjacent plot, also next to the International Jewelry Center, remains a surface parking lot.
Aerial view of the subway’s Hill Street staging area [Metro Library and Archive on Flickr]
1. Connell, Rich. “Metro Rail’s big day arrives, and Downtown girds for the upheaval.” Los Angeles Times. 29 Sep. 1986. B1.
2. “Fifth Street Store to start building.” Los Angeles Times. 14 Aug. 1921. V1.
3. “Fine building for Broadway.” Los Angeles Times. 17 May 1923. II1.
4. “House and lot.” Los Angeles Times. 17 Dec. 1897. 11.
Original photo: “Corner of Hill and 5th Street – LAPL00068278.” 1971. Security Pacific National Bank Collection. Los Angeles Public Library. http://photos.lapl.org/carlweb/jsp/DoSearch?&index=tw/&databaseID=968&count=10&tag=245&terms=Corner%20of%20Hill%20and%205th%20street