The top photograph, taken in 1956 by Palmer Conner, shows one of Broadway’s oldest sections in its final days. Save for one surface parking lot, the west side of the block between First and Second Streets then housed eight buildings from the turn of the century, including the culturally significant Mason Opera House (1903), Los Angeles’ preeminent playhouse up through the early 1920s. The Kodachrome slide was taken just as the buildings were to be demolished for the State Office Building, which eventually razed the entire block bounded by Broadway, First, Second, and Hill Streets.
The State Office Building, found seismically unsound in 1994 and vacated in the late 1990s, was itself torn down in 2007 . Since late 2013, the 3.6-acre lot has been under construction for a new federal courthouse. Only two buildings in the original view have survived up through the present: the 13-story Public Service Building (1928) at the photograph’s center and the E-shaped Broadway Investment Building (1911) to its left. Both towers lost their original façades during their conversion to law offices in the late 1960s.
The Mason Theatre [Historic Los Angeles Theatres]
The southwest corner of First and Broadway in better times [Los Angeles Public Library]
1. “Among real estate owners and dealers: Market active with much buying for homes.” Los Angeles Times. 15 Feb. 1903. A1.
2. “Old Mason showhouse being razed: Work will clear ground for new state building.” Los Angeles Times. 17 Jul. 1956. B1.
3. Reich, Kenneth. “State to vacate and demolish quake-threatened office building.” 17 Mar. 1997. http://articles.latimes.com/1997-03-17/local/me-39180_1_office-building
Original photo: Conner, Palmer. “Broadway south of 1st Street.” 1956. Palmer Conner Collection of Color Slides of Los Angeles. Huntington Digital Library. The Huntington Library. http://hdl.huntington.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15150coll2/id/7952/rec/21