Eastern Columbia Building
History and museums
The Eastern Columbia Building, also known as the Eastern Columbia Lofts, is a thirteen-story Claud Beelman designed Art Deco building located at 849 S. Broadway in the Broadway Theater District of Downtown Los Angeles. It opened on September 12, 1930 after just nine months of construction. It was built at a cost of $1.25-million as the new headquarters and 39th store for the Eastern Outfitting Company and the Columbia Outfitting Company, furniture and clothing stores founded by Adolph Sieroty and family. At the time of construction, the City of Los Angeles enforced a height limit of 150 feet, however the decorative clock tower was granted an exemption, allowing the clock a total height of 264 feet.
The edifice is easily spotted from the Interstate 10 - Santa Monica Freeway, as well as many other sections of downtown, due to its bright "melting turquoise" terra cotta tiles and trademark four-sided clock tower, emblazoned with the word "EASTERN" in bright white neon on each face of the clock.
The building is widely considered the greatest surviving example of Art Deco architecture in the city (Jose Huizar) following the 1969 destruction of Richfield Tower. It is one of the city's most photographed structures and a world-renowned Art Deco landmark. It has been characterized as the "benchmark of deco buildings in LA".
On June 23, 2005, the long-defunct clock tower was reactivated in a ceremony with city and preservation leaders to celebrate the building's 75th anniversary. Developer KOR Group, in conjunction with Killefer Flammang Architects, completed a two-year $80-million renovation of the building in 2006, turning the property into 147 condominiums, with interior redesign completed by the firm Kelly Wearstler Interior Design These live/work lofts showcase the timeless details of the early 20th century along with modern upgrades. The project earned California Construction Magazine's Best Redevelopment in 2007, McGraw Hill’s Best Redevelopment of '07 Award, and the 2007 Multi-Housing News Adaptive Reuse Award. The Eastern Columbia Lofts earned a 2008 Los Angeles Conservancy Preservation Award. The building is a participant in the Mills Act Historic Property Contracts Program.
The building sits in the Historic Core of Downtown Los Angeles, which is rich in historic architecture, and which has largely maintained its historic integrity, due in large part to hard fought preservation efforts, the 1999 Adaptive Re-Use Ordinance, and Coucilmember Jose Huizar's "Bringing Back Broadway" initiative.
The Eastern Columbia is surrounded by a wealth of historic buildings, with four designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments as immediate neighbors. Just across the street on Broadway is the restored 1926 Orpheum Theatre, and next to it sits the Claud Beelman designed 1930 Art Deco Ninth and Broadway Building. Across 9th Street, at the southeast corner of 9th and Hill Streets, sits the 1926 May Company Garage, which was one of the nation's first parking structures (Historic-Cultural Monument No. 1001). Also across 9th Street is the 1916 Blackstone's Department Store (Historic-Cultural Monument No. 765). Across Hill Street sits the 1926 Coast Federal Savings Building (Historic-Cultural Monument No. 346). Directly to the north sits the 1906 Hamburger's/May Company Department Store (Historic-Cultural Monument No. 459), which is currently undergoing historic restoration. Only steps away is the 1927 United Artists Theater Building (Historic-Cultural Monument No. 523), which is now the Ace Hotel Los Angeles.
Retail in and around the Eastern Columbia, located at the intersection of 9th Street & Broadway, has proliferated in recent years with the opening of Acne Studios, Oak NYC, Aesop, Tanner Goods, BNKR, Austere, A.P.C., and Urban Outfitters located in the Rialto Theater (Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 472).
The Eastern Columbia was listed as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 294 in 1985. "The property meets the criteria for HCM designation because it reflects the broad cultural, economic, or social history of the nation, state, or community. It has become a visual landmark and is representative of the vitality of Los Angeles' retail and commercial core."
The Eastern Columbia Building is "one of the great grand dames of Art Deco Streamline Moderne in Los Angeles." Historian Robert Winter called the building "a shining example of Southern California's golden age of architecture." Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Hawthorne declared it "one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in the city..." Past president of the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, Rory Cunningham, referred to the building as "one of the premier Deco buildings in the country." Ken Bernstein, director of the Office of Historic Resources for the City Planning Department, has stated that "The Eastern Columbia Building is unquestionably one of the signature Art Deco buildings in all of Los Angeles" and he selected it as one of the city's most beautiful buildings. The Eastern Columbia is lovingly referred to as the "Jewel of Downtown" and the "Art Deco Jewel of the West."
The Eastern Columbia Building is built of steel-reinforced concrete and clad in glossy turquoise terra cotta trimmed with deep blue and gold trim. The building's vertical emphasis is accentuated by deeply recessed bands of paired windows and spandrels with copper panels separated by vertical columns. The façade is decorated with a wealth of motifs—sunburst patterns, geometric shapes, zigzags, chevrons and stylized animal and plant forms. The building is capped with a four-sided clock tower emblazoned with the name "Eastern" in neon and crowned with a central smokestack surrounded by four stylized flying buttresses. The sidewalks surrounding the Broadway and Ninth Street sides of the building are of multi-colored terrazzo laid in a dynamic pattern of zigzags and chevrons. The central main entrance has a spectacular recessed two-story vestibule adorned with a blue and gold terra cotta sunburst. The vestibule originally led to a pedestrian retail arcade running through the center of the building.
Over several decades, the city's airwaves chimed the jingle "Eastern Columbia, Broadway at Ninth" to advise Los Angeles shoppers of new arrivals and special offers at Downtown's flagship department store. The jingle was written by Julian M. Sieroty, son of the founder of the Eastern Columbia department store chain, Adolph Sieroty. The lilting ditty proved so popular that it was parodied regularly on television.
The building was featured prominently on the September 29, 1946 radio broadcast of "The Jack Benny Show." During the show, various cast members were asked where they had gotten specific items. Each answer was: "Eastern Columbia, Broadway at Ninth."
The Nickelodeon show iCarly used digitally altered images of the building for the exterior of Bushwell Plaza, the fictional apartment building in which all but two of the main characters lived and the iCarly web show took place.