So you’ve got energy left. Awesome! Follow this route, the last leg of our downtown walk!
Head to the southeast end of Pershing Square (6th and Hill), where we’ll cross 6th and enter the Jewelry District. The Los Angeles Jewelry District, largest of its kind in the United States, comprises ~5000 businesses with yearly sales just under $3 billion (I bought my fiancee’s engagement ring here!). Overlapping with the Historic Core, the median building in this district is 90 years old, meaning that most buildings were built during Los Angeles’s 150 foot maximum height ordinance. And here we see the secondary reasons for the ordinance: allowing sunlight to always hit street level, avoiding awkward urban canyon effects, increasing sustainability, and avoiding over-concentration and congestion.
To enter the Jewelry District, head south on Hill. Feel free to browse in stores that grab you; the businesses may seem exclusive but they are not. One block down, at 7th Street, turn left. Half a block down, turn left again, into St. Vincent’s Court.
Originally the location of St. Vincent’s College, St. Vincent’s Court now is a quaint, quiet European inspired restaurant alley, serving ethnic French, Greek, and Middle Eastern cuisines. An off-the-beaten-path local favorite, the current state of St. Vincent’s Court is not good. Because the alley dead-ends at the Los Angeles Theater, it is an unused thoroughfare and no one cared that the restaurants covered the alley with unpermitted tables and chairs. No one except the owner of the Los Angeles Theater that is; since the alley ends at the theater’s loading bay, he wants the alley available for films and other productions loading into and out of his theater. After failed negotiations with the restaurant owners, he went to the city and they sided with him. And so, after almost thirty years, the tables and chairs disappeared. Now the Court feels like a ghost-town, with restaurant revenues dropping by a reported 70%. Hopefully a better compromise will be reached soon.
Turning around, we’ll head back to 7th, then turn left, to 7th and Broadway. We are now in the heart of the Broadway Theater District, the oldest and largest collection of historic movie palaces in the United States. The district stretches from 3rd Street (where we saw the Million Dollar Theater) to 9th, with twelve historic movie palaces along these six blocks.
This intersection, the former terminus of Route 66, is also known as Ezat Delijani Square. A real estate magnet and philanthropist, Ezat Delijani purchased and upkept four of Los Angeles’s historic theaters, including the aforementioned Los Angeles Theater. His son, the current owner, is the one at odds with the St. Vincent Court restaurant owners.
South of Ezat Delijani square, you can see several historic movie palaces. In the square, SW corner, is Loews State Theater and further down, on the east side, you can see signs for the Tower and the Orpheum. Also, if you look above the theaters, west side of the street, you’ll see a turquoise building with a Roman clock and the word ‘EASTERN’ at the top. This is the Eastern Columbia Building, built in 1930 and considered by many to be the most beautiful building in Los Angeles.
Here we reach the second half mile detour on our tour, which is simply to walk south on Broadway and check out the Eastern Columbia Building and its neighboring theaters up close. Then we’ll head north on Broadway, just past 7th, to Clifton’s Cafeteria.
Clifton’s Cafeteria was a popular Los Angeles restaurant chain in the early half of the century, and this is the sole surviving location. Opened in 1935, this was the restaurant’s second location, and currently it is the largest public cafeteria in the world. All Clifton’s Cafeterias were known for their unique themes, as well as their policy of never turning away hungry patrons who couldn’t afford to pay. At one point, in the midst of the Great Depression, Clifton’s Cafeteria served 10,000 free meals during a single 90 day span, and when Ray Bradbury was a struggling author, he often took advantage of the do-not-pay-if-you-can’t-afford-to policy. The restaurant recently reopened and even if you aren’t hungry, you should still take a peek insides.
Continuing north on Broadway, we’ll pass several more movie palaces, including the Palace, the Los Angeles Theater, the Arcade, the Cameo, and the Roxie. At 5th Street, book lovers should turn right and head to 5th and Spring, where on the NW corner stands The Last Bookstore, one of the best bookstores in the United States. Built into an old bank (with bookshelves currently lining the vaults), The Last Bookstore hosts live readings, has lots of unique decorations and artwork, and its second floor contains several art shops and a huge collection of used books, each one priced at $1.
After finishing at the bookstore, turn back on 5th and head to Broadway. One block past Broadway is the Pershing Square Red Line station, which marks the end of our walk!
If you still want more downtown goodies, there’s lots more to do. In the Fashion District, Santee Alley offers some of the best shopping and people watching in Los Angeles. The nearby Flower Market and Flower Mall are great too. 7th Street, between Hope and Figueroa, contains the historic Fine Arts Building and the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi, the Wilshire Grand Tower. There’s also more to see in Bunker Hill, including: City National Plaza, at one point the tallest twin towers in the world, and two art museums: Broad Contemporary and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Near Pueblo de Los Angeles is Chinatown (not recommended, San Francisco’s is better) and Little Tokyo is one of only three Japanese-towns in the United States. Down in South Park is LA Live and the Staples Center, home to the Lakers, Clippers, and Kings, a very expensive and commercial area that isn’t worth visiting unless you are going to a game. Finally, in addition to Clifton’s Cafeteria, downtown is filled with many other notable eateries, including two restaurants (Cole’s and Phillipe’s The Original) that claim to have invented the French dip sandwich. No one knows which restaurant was the actual inventor, but we do know the sandwich originated at one of those two eateries.
To finish out our downtown excursion, here are a couple more maps to help you on your journey. First, some recommended restaurants (and districts where all the restaurants are good):
Second, public transportation:
And finally, just for reference, a layout of the districts:
And that’s it! Three posts, filled with information, tons of fun places to explore and things to do. Enjoy!
Featured image photography by Antoine Taveneaux. CC-SA 3.0