AKA: Long Beach County Building, Downtown, Long Beach. CA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - courthouses

Designers: Heusel, Francis J., Architect (firm); Wing, Kenneth S., and Associates (firm); Francis Joseph Heusel (architect); Kenneth Smith Wing Sr. (architect)

Dates: constructed 1958-1960, demolished 2016

11 stories

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415 West Ocean Boulevard
Downtown, Long Beach, CA 90802

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This Modernist, curtain-walled skyscraper formed on of the original components of the post-World War II Long Beach Civic Center, erected between 1959 and 1977. It operated untl the 2010s, by which time it had become viewed as outmoded.

Building History

Designed by a collaboration of two firms, Kenneth S. Wing and Associates and Francist J. Heusel, construction of this International Style courthouse began in 1958, and was completed two years later.

The Los Angeles Conservancy.org web site described this Modernist landmark: "The rectangular-plan courthouse had curtain walls set with panels of glass and blue porcelain enamel corresponding to each floor and floor plate, while the west and east elevations featured a contrasting treatment with precast aggregate concrete panels. Other distinguishing features of the building’s design included the recessed first floor set behind the columns of the structural framing, the transparant quality of the glass-enclosed staircase of the building’s southwest section, and terrazzo paving and raised concrete planters." (See Los Angeles Conservancy.org, "Long Beach Courthouse (Demolished)," accessed 01/02/2020.)

By the end of its useful life, the courthouse was described as outmoded by the Superior Court of California's own web site. It stated: "The old Long Beach courthouse was one of the worst in the state. Built in 1959, it suffered from fundamental flaws, was overcrowded, and failed to meet accessibility requirements, making it incapable of meeting the growing demand for court services in the Long Beach area. When a project to replace the old courthouse was first planned, redevelopment in the city's Civic Center near the old courthouse made a replacement courthouse a good candidate for Performance-Based Infrastructure (PBI), an innovative delivery method that involves engaging a private team to finance, design, build, operate and maintain the court building. This courthouse is the first major civic building in the U.S. to be delivered through this unique type of public-private partnership, in which the developer makes a substantial equity investment, and the public sector makes availability payments, allowing for deductions if the infrastructure does not perform to set standards." Whether or not PBI is truly an improvement over public financing and management remains to be seen. The obvious question comes up, what happens to the public entity if the private investor goes bankrupt or sells to an another owner who renegotiates ever more costly "availability payments."

Building Notes

The Long Beach County Building was composed of two, long, thin rectangles, the longer axes stretching north-south. The rectangles were joined together, the north one lying just to the east of the south. The building's east end was windowless, while the west end had only a small wraparound fenestration on its south side. The west end also featured a truck loading dock and a protruding stack, presumably housing a stair tower. The central curtain walls facing north and south illuminated all interior spaces.The first floor was inset and supported by thin piers, providing shaded walkways for pedestrians.


The Superior Court of Los Angeles County Courts Building #1 in Long Beach was torn down in 03/2016 to make way for a new $900 million public-private development that would include a new city hall as well as apartments, retail, and restaurants. (See Roger Vincent, "Building up a downtown," Los Angeles Times, 02/17/2018, pp. C1, C4.) A new Superior Court of Los Angeles Courthouse for Long Beach was built across West Broadway at 275 Magnolia Avenue in 2013. The new courthouse was named for former CA Governor George Deukmajian.

PCAD id: 23265