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Vocational Center Another Victim of 1960's Uglification Movement

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, May 27, 2008, at 04:16PM
Friedman Occupational Center Eric Richardson [Flickr]

The Abram Friedman Occupational Center at 1646 S. Olive is an odd looking building. Built in 1927, the imposing height-limit structure is completely lacking in the seemingly important category of windows.

Turns out it wasn't always this way. Like too many buildings Downtown, the Friedman Occupational Center was once a perfectly normal looking structure. Then came the 1960's and a "remodel" that turned the elegant structure into today's uglified oddity.

Groundbreaking for the Frank Wiggins Technical School was held on March 20, 1925. Wiggins had been Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, and the organization was instrumental in the creation of the school. The building cost roughly $1 million, with another $100,000 put into the equipment housed inside.

Dedication ceremonies were held at the completed structure on April 28, 1927. By October of that same year the Times called the school the "largest trade training plant in the United States."

Over time the school continued to grow. A 1950 article pegged enrollment at 7,364 students. In the mid-1950's the Board of Education approved the purchase of a nearby site, "Poly High," on Washington Blvd. We continue to know the Wiggins Trade School there by its official name, Los Angeles Trade Tech.

Even with Trade Tech's move, the Olive street structure continued in its former role. In 1968 the Board of Education opened a new school in the building, calling it the Central City Occupational Center.

It was in renovations for this reopening that the building was stripped of its looks. A Times story from August of 1967 tells of a fatal accident at the building, where a scaffolding collapse left one worker dead, one severely injured, and a third dangling 100 feet above the ground before he was rescued by firemen. The men's task: removing ornamental bricks from the building.

The same decade saw much of the now-regrettable facade work on Broadway (see also this story on history revealed by the 2007 Broadway fire).

The L.A. Times archives were used in compiling historical facts for this story.

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