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48 Years Ago: Occidental Center Topped Out at 12th and Hill

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, May 27, 2011, at 11:44AM
Occidental Center Construction Bob Lindbeck / L.A. Times (UCLA Library)

The 32-story Occidental Center tower rises behind a Standard Oil Co. derrick.



On May 27, 1963, workers lifted a 900-pound, 19-foot-long beam to the top of the 32-story Occidental Center at 12th and Hill, marking the "topping off" of what would briefly be the tallest commercial building on the west coast.

For decades, the building—known later as the Transamerica Center and today as the AT&T Center—would stand alone in the southern Downtown sky. Only in the last few years has it acquired some neighbors, first in the South Group's residential projects and more recently in the Ritz-Carlton tower at L.A. Live.

For Occidential, though, 12th and Hill was a location the company knew well. The tower and adjoining 11-story building were constructed right next to the company's existing nine-story headquarters.

When the complex was originally announced in 1961, the plan was to build the smaller building first, with the larger tower to follow years later.

Instead, work on the $16-million tower kicked off just a year later, in 1962. Occidental president Horace W. Brower explained that the completion of the Downtown freeway loop had made the site more accessible and attractive to lessees.

The tower opened in 1965, offering the public a 30th-floor observation deck and the Tower restaurant on the 32nd floor.

A 500,000-square-foot addition—now the city's Public Works building—was completed in the fall of 1970, giving the complex 1.5 million square feet in total.

The complex's auditorium, dubbed the Occidental Center Theater, played host to ballet and opera.

The Tower restaurant survived until 1999, when it was renamed Windows and the concept was switched to steaks and martinis. In 2007, the doors were shut for good and a remodel proposed to convert the building's top two floors into office space. A lessee never found, the open floors are now available for event rentals.

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