History Lesson: What's the Story with the New Story Building?
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — One of the cool things about Downtown is the history you can find on the sides of buildings. Vestiges of past occupants and previous uses are still to be found in fading signs and window shades. In some cases these signs are even layered, with an older use partially visible under some newer paint. It's a fascinating glance at what this area used to be.
Looking up Broadway from 7th street you see what proclaims itself to be the "New Story Building." I was always puzzled by that. New Story? Was it a shorter building they added a single level on to? Unfortunately, no.
It involves a man named Story...
The Purchase of the Lot
In 1894 Nelson Story bought the property at 610 S. Broadway from J.B. Lankershim for $48,000. Los Angeles was in a depression at the time and Lankershim thought he was offloading useless property onto a sucker from Montana. In 1932 the LA Times would write:
Even J. B. Lankershim, one of the shrewdest real estate speculators Los Angeles has ever known, grew a bit weak-kneed in 1894. He disposed of the southwest corner of Sixth and Broadway, 120 by 165 feet, to Nelson Story, who hadn't yet discovered how badly off Los Angeles really was, for $48,000. Thus another tenderfoot and his money were parted. Story had come here from Bozeman, Mont., and was easy picking -- according to the opinion of the time. But that same lot is now valued at about $2,500,000.
(Note that the Times misplaced the lot on the southwest corner instead of having it on the southeast. More about that later.)
Two years later Story would give this lot to his fourteen year old son Walter.
Walter P. Story
Walter P. Story was born in 1882 while the family was still in Montana. His father gave him the 610 S. Broadway lot in the late 1890's, but then apparently took it back 1904. Walter took the matter to the courts in 1906 to get back his sole interest to the property.
Walter went on to have a long military career, and you can read more about that phase of his life here. He died General Walter P. Story in 1957.
The Walter P. Story Building
It seems Walter didn't manage to get back sole title to the property. A 1909 list of building contracts lists:
Nelson and Walter P. Story, marble work for ten-story, attic and basement building in course of construction on the southeast corner of Broadway and Sixth street, $77,650.
It was Walter's building, though, and opened in 1910 as the Walter P. Story Building. Its ground floor contained the largest plate glass windows west on Chicago. There were twelve of them and each cost $1000.
Mullen & Bluett
The ground floor and basement were occupied by the Mullen & Bluett clothing store. The clothing store, which occupied 28,000 sq. ft. of space, was a proud Los Angeles retailer. The Times writes that "every piece of furniture, all of the window decorations, cases and other fixtures" were made in Los Angeles.
If you look at the side of the building today you can still see the outline of the Mullen & Bluett name on the side of the building (halfway down the shot).
Above Mullen & Bluett were offices, including one for Gen. Story.
And the "New Story?"
When Gen. Story died the building was sold at auction. It was purchased for $1,500,000 by Fisher-Cooper Realty Associates of New York City. At the time of the sale the building was still referred to as the "Walter P. Story Building." A story the following year about a rennovation is the first to call the structure the "New Story Building." In the time since the building's ownership had been transfered to the "610 Broadway Co." and obviously renamed. Looking closely behind the "New Story" type, you can still see the outline of the old name.
Mullen & Bluett were still tenants in the New Story Building in 1967 and embarked at that time on a $500,000 renovation that includes facade and interior work. A Times mention of the work spoke of glazed tile brick and white ceramic glazes.
The ground floor is currently the Broadway Jewelry Center and sports a black marble look. No clue when that was done.
Getting Things Straight
One thing that interested me doing this research was the various errors I found in LA Times articles about the building.
As mentioned above, in 1932 the Times placed the building on the southwest corner of 6th and Broadway.
In 1967 the Times wrote that "[Mullen & Bluett] moved to 6th & Broadway 27 years later, in 1910, occupying the first two levels of the 12-floor Walter P. Storey Building, which had been completed in 1908." Of course we know from the quote above that the building was still under construction in 1909. And his name was definitely spelled Story.
My sources for the correct information? The Times.