Eastern Columbia Building

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Coordinates: 34°02′34″N 118°15′22″W / 34.042751°N 118.256226°W / 34.042751; -118.256226

Eastern Columbia Building
Eastern Columbia Tower - Los Angeles.jpg
Eastern Columbia Building
Location849 S. Broadway, Los Angeles
ArchitectClaud Beelman
Architectural style(s)Art Deco
DesignatedJune 28, 1985[1]
Reference no.294[1]

The Eastern Columbia Building, also known as the Eastern Columbia Lofts, is a thirteen story Art Deco building designed by Claud Beelman 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.[2] 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.[3][4] 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.[5][6][7]

The edifice is easily spotted from the Interstate 10 - Santa Monica Freeway, as well as many other sections of downtown,[8] due to its bright "melting turquoise"[9] terra cotta tiles[10] and trademark four-sided clock tower, emblazoned with the word "EASTERN" in bright white neon on each face of the clock.[11][12][13]

The building is widely considered the greatest surviving example of Art Deco architecture in the city. It is one of the city's most photographed structures[14] and a world-renowned Art Deco landmark.[15] It has been characterized as the "benchmark of deco buildings in LA".[16][17]

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.[18][19] 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[9][14][20][21][22][23] These live/work lofts showcase the timeless details of the early 20th century along with modern upgrades.[24] 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.[25] The Eastern Columbia Lofts earned a 2008 Los Angeles Conservancy Preservation Award.[2] The building is a participant in the Mills Act Historic Property Contracts Program.[26]

Historic Core neighborhood[edit]

Signature glossy turquoise terra cotta cladding

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,[27][28][29] the 1999 Adaptive Re-Use Ordinance,[30] and Coucilmember Jose Huizar's "Bringing Back Broadway" initiative.[31]

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,[32] and next to it sits the Claud Beelman designed 1930 Art Deco Ninth and Broadway Building.[33] 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).[34] 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.[35][36] Only steps away is the 1927 United Artists Theater Building (Historic-Cultural Monument No. 523), which is now the Ace Hotel Los Angeles.[37]

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).[13][38]

Since 2015 the building has been at the center of a political dispute over a proposed adjacent project, the 26-story Alexan Broadway project at 9th and Hill Streets, that has faced some opposition because of concerns that it would block views of the Eastern Columbia and its landmark clock.[39][40][41]

Actor Johnny Depp acquired five penthouses in 2007, totaling a combined 11,500 square feet of space.[42] In 2016, billionaire Ronald Burkle sold a three-story penthouse within the Eastern Columbia for $2.5 million, among the highest prices ever paid per square foot for a residential unit in the Historic Core district.[43]

Historic-cultural monument status[edit]

Historic Core skyline

The Eastern Columbia was listed as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 294 in 1985.[1][12][44] "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."[3]

Eastern Columbia entrance


The Eastern Columbia Building is "one of the great grand dames of Art Deco Streamline Moderne in Los Angeles."[45] Historian Robert Winter called the building "a shining example of Southern California's golden age of architecture."[9] Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Hawthorne declared it "one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in the city..."[9] 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."[9] 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"[45] and he selected it as one of the city's most beautiful buildings.[46] The Eastern Columbia is lovingly referred to as the "Jewel of Downtown" and the "Art Deco Jewel of the West."[47][48]

Building features[edit]

The Eastern Columbia Building is built of steel-reinforced concrete and clad in glossy turquoise terra cotta trimmed with deep blue and gold trim.[49] 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.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

  • 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.[50] 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 Program. During the show, various cast members were asked where they had gotten specific items. Each answer was: "Eastern Columbia, Broadway at Ninth". The line was reprised the following week, October 6, 1946, but in an absurdist way: Jack asked Dennis Day where his mother ever got his father, to which Dennis replied "Eastern Columbia, Broadway at Ninth". Jack responded with "Gee, they have everything!"
  • The finale of the two-hour 1985 pilot for the iconic series Moonlighting takes place atop the building, with Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis climbing the building's enormous clock.
  • 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.[51]
  • The Eastern Columbia Building appeared in the 1990 films 12:01 PM.[52], Predator 2 and TV series Lucifer (Season 3, Episode 16).


  1. ^ a b c Los Angeles Department of City Planning - Office of Historic Resources. "Designated Historic-Cultural Monuments".
  2. ^ a b c Los Angeles Conservancy. "Eastern Columbia Lofts".
  3. ^ a b Historic Places LA. "Eastern Columbia Building".
  4. ^ Los Angeles Times. Condos Planned for Art Deco Landmark
  5. ^ Los Angeles Times. An Art Deco Landmark Will Shine Once More as Urban Living Space
  6. ^ KCET. L.A.'s Changing Skyline: A Brief History of Skyscrapers in the City of Angels
  7. ^ Dornsife - University of Southern California. Downtown Los Angeles Walking Tour - Eastern Columbia Building
  8. ^ "Eastern Columbia Building-deco masterpiece".
  9. ^ a b c d e Los Angeles Times. "One landmark, four visions".
  10. ^ Los Angeles Times. Searching for the Age of Terra Cotta
  11. ^ Los Angeles Magazine. "CityDig: Eastern Outfitting and Downtown's Turquoise Gem".
  12. ^ a b Los Angeles Times. "1929 Landmark Recommended for Historic-Monument Status".
  13. ^ a b Jose Huizar - Councilmember District 14, City of Los Angeles. "Councilmember Huizar's Bringing Back Broadway Initiative Welcomes Acne Retail" (PDF).
  14. ^ a b The Kor Group. "Eastern Columbia".
  15. ^ GlamAmor. Out & About--Art Deco Icon Eastern Columbia Building in Downtown Los Angeles
  16. ^ LA Stories: Photographer Zane W. Levitt's Tour of Awesome Architecture in the City of Angels
  17. ^ Pacific Coast Architecture Database - University of Washington. Eastern Columbia Outfitting Company, Flagship Store #2, Los Angeles, CA (1929-1930)
  18. ^ Los Angeles Downtown News. It's About Time
  19. ^ Los Angeles Downtown News. Eastern Columbia Officials to Restart the Clock
  20. ^ Los Angeles Downtown News. Art Deco Condos? KOR Pursues Eastern Columbia Building
  21. ^ Los Angeles Downtown News. Opulence and Glamour In Downtown
  22. ^ Kimley Horn. Eastern Columbia Building
  23. ^ Andrea Reider. Eastern Columbia Building, Broadway Theater District, Downtown Los Angeles, March 2014
  24. ^ "EASTERN COLUMBIA | DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES | DTLA | Leases Sales". Grand LA Homes Group | Wilfredo Navarro. Retrieved 2016-01-29.
  25. ^ Killefer Flammang Architects. Eastern Columbia
  26. ^ Los Angeles Department of City Planning - Office of Historic Resources. Mills Act Historical Property Contract Program
  27. ^ Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources
  28. ^ Los Angeles County Historic Preservation
  29. ^ Los Angeles Conservancy
  30. ^ Los Angeles Department of City Planning - Office of Historic Resources. Adaptive Reuse Ordinance
  31. ^ Bringing Back Broadway
  32. ^ Los Angeles Conservancy. Orpheum Theatre and Loft Building
  33. ^ Los Angeles Conservancy. Ninth and Broadway Building
  34. ^ Los Angeles Conservancy. Blackstone Department Store Building
  35. ^ Los Angeles Conservancy. Hamburger's/May Company Department Store
  36. ^ ABC7. Downtown L.A.'s Broadway Trade Center to be revived to its original grandeur
  37. ^ Los Angeles Conservancy. Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles and The Theatre at Ace Hotel
  38. ^ Fashionista. Inside Downtown Los Angeles's Retail Boom
  39. ^ Alice Walton, "Newsletter", Los Angeles Times, October 2, 2015.
  40. ^ "New Downtown LA Tower Would Block Views of Historic Eastern Columbia Clock", Curbed Los Angeles, September 30, 2015.
  41. ^ Hillel Aron, "Will Three Proposed Skyscrapers Harm the Character of DTLA's Historic Core?", LA Weekly, June 1, 2016.
  42. ^ Neal J. Leitereg (October 12, 2016), Johnny Depp sells one-fifth of his penthouse collection in L.A. for $2.5 million Los Angeles Times.
  43. ^ Neal J. Leitereg (October 13, 2016), Billionaire Ron Burkle sells penthouse in downtown L.A. for $2.5 million Los Angeles Times.
  44. ^ Historic Places LA. Eastern-Columbia Building Plaque
  45. ^ a b Los Angeles Downtown News. "The Return of a Treasure".
  46. ^ TimeOut. LA architecture experts pick the city's most beautiful buildings
  47. ^ Highbeam Business. Killefer Flammang Architects, KOR Group Converts Landmark into Multifamily Complex.
  48. ^ LA Observed. Preservation awards list
  49. ^ Wurman, Richard Saul & Pietschmann, Patti Covello. Access Los Angeles. HarperCollins (2008), p. 37.
  50. ^ Los Angeles Times. Julian M. Sieroty; Retail Store Chain Former Executive
  51. ^ Bradley, Bill. "11 Things You Didn't Know About 'iCarly'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  52. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098962/

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