City Hall

200 N. Spring Street

For decades the City Hall was the major visual symbol of downtown Los Angeles. Built by Austin, Parkinson, and Martin, it was completed in 1928. At 28 stories and 454 feet, it was the only building to significantly exceed 150-foot height limit maintained by the city until 1957. The builders used sand from every California county and water from each of the state's twenty-one missions. Concerns with the building's height and the terra cotta facade, which is subject to cracking under movement, were addressed in the original design. The architects had the tower constructed with a compressible joint at each floor, like a human spine, so that it could safely ride out the waves of an earthquake. In 1995 and 1996 the tower has been vacated for remodelling, hence the "black arm band" around its top. In October 1996, renovation of the top floors was completed and the armband removed. In the rotunda at the base of the monumental tower stands inscribed a motto that Los Angeles has tried to embody: "The city came into being to preserve life, it exists for the good of life."

Over the years, City Hall has been featured in many screen roles, including: police headquarters in "Dragnet" TV series; Clark Kent's Daily Planet in the old "Superman" TV series; and attacked by Martians in "War of the Worlds".

At left are 1939 and 1995 photos looking north towards City Hall from Third and Spring Street. Excepting City Hall, this part of Spring Street has undergone a complete transformation in the last several decades.

PHOTOS: G. DeVerteuil (above); 1950s postcard (left); "Dick" Whittington Collection, USC Libraries, Special Collections (bottom left 1939); M. Gainer (bottom right 1995).