Los Angeles Theater exterior

Los Angeles Theater 1931
Photograph by Anthony Caldwell

Eastern Columbia Building

Eastern Columbia Building 1930
Photograph by Randi Danforth

Friends of Archaeology Tour to Downtown LA Theater District Spring 2017

On March 12, 2017, Anthony Caldwell, manager of the Scholarly Innovation Lab at UCLA, took an FoA group on a tour of architectural treasures in downtown Los Angeles, focusing in particular on the old movie theaters that at one time studded the stretch of Broadway from Third Street to Ninth Street. As the heart of the entertainment capital of the world, Broadway was home to over two dozen picture palaces in various architectural styles: Beaux Arts, Art Deco, Neoclassical, Baroque and Spanish Renaissance­—and of course, some that defy labeling. This spring, Caldwell is working with UCLA students and Deidre Whitmore, Digital Archaeology Lab Manager, on a digital reconstruction project that features the Los Angeles and Tower theaters, designed by S. Charles Lee. The innovative techniques they are employing bring old buildings to life, making it possible to experience them as they once were, in virtual reality. Some of the theaters are thriving still as performance spaces and event venues.

FoA members were treated to a fascinating discourse on the background of each building, with plenty of history and a few colorful details. They came away marveling at the surprising beauty of the gems in the Downtown Core, many of which have been restored and conserved as investment in the area has stimulated appreciation for the historic heritage of Los Angeles. Using digital tools to explore and understand a building’s architecture complements a site visit, where researchers can experience the structure in its context.


Bradbury Building interior

Bradbury Building 1983
Photograph by Randi Danforth