AKA: Ohrbach's Department Store, Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, CA; Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation, Petersen Museum #1, Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - department stores; built works - exhibition buildings - museums

Designers: Becket, Welton D., and Associates, Architects (firm); Chaix and Johnson Associates, Architects (firm); Laszlo, Paul, Designer (firm); Simpson, William, Construction Company (firm); Welton David Becket (architect); Alfred Valerian Chaix (architect); Ralph Walter Johnson (architect); Paul Laszlo (designer); William Simpson (building contractor)

Dates: constructed 1960-1961

3 stories, total floor area: 478,619 sq. ft.

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6060 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036

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This building originally functioned as a department store serving Seibu and Ohrbach's chains before being remodeled to suit a new museum devoted to automotive history conceived of and paid for by publisher Robert E. Petersen (1926–2007). The Seibu Corporation commissioned the busy Los Angeles architect Welton D. Becket, Sr., (1902-1969) "....to plan, design and engineer the entire project, inside and out...." (See "Huge Japanese Store Slated for Wilshire Blvd.," Los Angeles Times, 03/27/1960, p. F8.) The Seibu Department Store failed within the decade, and was replaced by the Southern CA retailer Ohrbach's in 1969. Orbach's operated in the space until 1986, when the store was closed. Petersen purchased the building c. 1992 and opened his museum in 1994.

Building History

Seibu Corporation, a Japanese department store chain owned by the Seibu Railway Company, announced plans to build a 100,000-square-foot, three-story department store at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in 03/1960. It would employ more than 250 people. Ground was broken on 09/22/1960 for the three-story building, with the president of the railway, Shojiro Kojima, a local Shinto priest, Taiichi Tsuyuki, and the executive in charge of the store, Arthur Y. Fujiwara, on hand to shovel dirt. (See Ground Broken for Japanese Store Project," Los Angeles Times, 09/23/1960, p. B1.)

The store's presence signaled the resurgence of the Japanese economy after World War II's decimation. According to the Times, "Its sales areas will be devoted exclusively to merchandise imported from Japan. Included in the project, which will eventually occupy the entire block, will be a multi-level parking structure for about 550 cars which will be integrated with the store. Shoppers will be able to walk directly from a parking level to a corresponding floor of the store." An unusual feature of the store designed by Becket was a rooftop Japanese restaurant and garden that was to stay open even after the department store closed. The store apparently did not live up to expectations and was closed with three years.

The store's New Formalist exterior featured eight pre-cast concrete columns, 60-feet high, the largest placed in a Los Angeles building to that time. They were connected by 14 horizontal concrete pieces, the whole looking like a 'giant jigsaw puzzle" according to the Times. It observed, "While the unique Japanese department store, designed by Welton Becket & Associates, is the first structure in Los Angeles to make use of such a facade, the forthcoming Music Center will use similar precast concrete columns stretching 90 ft. into the air around the entire perimeter of the Civic Center building." Becket and Associates also designed the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and other Music Center buildings at about the same time. The William Simpson Construction Company put these huge concrete components into place, which were manufactured by the Wailes Precast Concrete Company at its Sunland, CA, production plant and trucked to the site.(See "Construction Resembles Giant Jigsaw Puzzle," Los Angeles Times, 08/20/1961, p. I17.)

Ohrbach's Department Store moved from a location two blocks west to the Seibu Department Store and opened its new store here in 1969. It commissioned Paul Laszlo and Chaix and Johnson to redesign the interior.


When it moved in, Ohrbach's increased the size of the store and doubled the capacity of the parking garage to accommodate 1,000 cars in 1968-1969. With the additions the building contained about 450,000 sqaure feet of space. The auto museum appended tall, triangular towers in front of the pre-cast concrete columns on the front facade.


The Petersen Automobile Museum closed 10/19/2014 for a comprehensive renovation. The New York architectural firm of Kohn, Pedersen Fox (KPF) designed the radical, undulating facade of the new building. The new building was scheduled to open 12/06/2015.

Los Angeles County Assessor Number: 5086-009-014

PCAD id: 19858