AKA: County Los Angeles, Courthouse #2, Los Angeles, CA; Clocktower Courthouse, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: [unspecified]

Dates: constructed 1859

2 stories

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Massachusetts-born pioneer John Temple (1796-1866) migrated to Hawaii and San Diego before settling in Los Angeles in 1828. He married into the land-owning Cota Family in 1830, and bought the 27,054-acre Rancho Los Cerritos from them in 1843. He controlled it until 1866 when it was sold to the powerful Flint, Bixby and Company real estate concern. Gaining wealth from mercantile and agricultural ventures, he commissioned the construction of this substantial, commercial building in 1859. For its time, it was one of the most imposing commercial buildings in Los Angeles, made of brick and standing two stories tall. Its first floor was intended as a market, its second as the city's first theatre. Unfortunately, Temple erected the market at a bad time. First, the Panic of 1857, capped by the failure of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company on 08/24/1857, had caused East Coast banks to stop lending to new West Coast businesses. (The Panic of 1857 also inflamed differences between North and South, setting the stage for the Civil War.) Without credit, the economy in Southern CA slowed. Making things worse, an historic flood occurred in 1862 following four weeks of rain that began on Christmas Eve 1861. The overflowing Los Angeles River washed away crops and livestock, setting back the local, mostly cattle-based economy. On the other extreme, a severe drought took hold in 1862 and lasted until 1865. This drought was responsible for great changes in Southern California's economy, decimating the cattle industry and moving it toward dry farming, particularly of wheat. During this economically unstable time, the County of Los Angeles leased the Market House as its courthouse, providing the Temple Family some reliable income. John Temple passed away just after the worst of this flood-drought cycle. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County rented space here from 1861-1869, after which it purchased the building from John Temple's heirs. It functioned as Los Angeles's County Courthouse until the ambitious Richardsonian Romanesque, "Red Sandstone" Courthouse of 1891 was completed.

"Downtown" Los Angeles in 1859 did not have many two-story or brick buildings. It contained mostly one-story wood shacks with a smattering of adobe buildings. In this context, the Temple Market House would have appeared more substantial and permanent. Its main facade had 11 very narrow bays separated by pilasters. Symmetrically, the two outside bays had pilasters that extended above the parapet topped by capitals of a sort. The building's center was framed in a similar way with pilasters extending above the parapet, but the actual entrance was placed off-center. Crude castellation trimmed the parapet above the central bay. A very clumsy cupola provided space for a large clock. Apparently, the clock was an important marker in late nineteenth century Los Angeles, as its numerals were reused in the 1891 courthouse and again later in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse of 1958.


PCAD id: 10663