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Fire Gives a Glimpse of Old Architecture

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, February 05, 2007, at 03:40PM
362 S. Broadway Post-Fire Eric Richardson [Flickr]

This morning's fire at 4th and Broadway gutted a building that from the outside looked absolutely unremarkable. It was two stories with an ugly wood-shingle facade. In the aftermath we get to see a different building, though, a classic brick structure designed by John Parkinson and erected in 1902.

As has happened so many times on Broadway, sometime over the last four decades they took the classic brick and covered it. Oh, and they also chopped at least four floors off, but who's really counting?

Next door they did the same thing, taking an ornate stone building and fronting it with the same wood shingles.

Every time this topic comes up, I'm perplexed and amazed at how someone once thought these changes were for the better. Tastes have changed over the decades, but how could it have ever been considered a positive to take a building with windows and cover them up with wood shingles?

It will be very interesting to see what happens with this corner going forward. The worst-case scenario would be to see it languish as rubble or a parking lot as the owner wrestles out some insurance case. Hopefully that outcome can be avoided and we can use this newly available site to add some off-hour life back into Broadway.

Update (4:15pm): Jen Mapes found this shot of the O.T. Johnson Building in the USC Digital Archives. You can see how the windows match up with those revealed in this shot.

Update (Tuesday): The LA Times wrote this same story today. I was a little more detailed in my history, though.

Update (Tuesday): I had identified the structure to the north of the O.T. Johnson building as Parkinson's Trustee Company Building. Either that's not correct or the Parkinson Archives has an incorrect picture. Either one's possible. The Trustee Company building was built in 1906 on the east side of the block between 3rd and 4th.

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