AKA: Broadway-Spring Street Arcade Building, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA; Arcade Building, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - shopping arcades

Designers: Couchot and MacDonald, Architects and Engineers (firm); Maurice C. Couchot (architect); Kenneth MacDonald Jr. (architect)

Dates: constructed 1922-1924

12 stories

541 Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013-2305

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Beginning in the 1880s, developers across the US began erecting office buildings with shopping arcades laid out perpendicularly to the street; the shopping arcades were both amenities for office tenants as well as sheltered public commercial spaces, insulated from foul weather. In many cases, the main commercial row was conceived of as internal street, often linking two major arteries running parallel. Entry into the internal street was most often signaled by a huge arch on the street facade. This building type derived from examples in France and England, the Passage du Caire (1799) in Paris being the earliest. Another early glazed shopping arcade was London's Burlington Arcade (Samuel Ware, 1819). The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, Italy, (Giuseppe Mengoni, 1865-1877), whose plan was composed of two intersecting commercial streets sheltered by arched glass roofs, suggested the grandest possibilities of the type; the best-known American adaptation of this was the elaborate Cleveland Arcade (Eisenmann and Smith, 1890), constructed with development money lent by John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937), Mark Hanna (1837-1904) and others. Chicago's slightly earlier Rookery Building (Burnham and Root, 1888) was also a notable example of the genre. The Cleveland Arcade and Rookery both possessed elaborate steel and glass roofs allowing natural light to illuminate the internal street, similar to the iron and glass construction in Milan. The Broadway Arcade in Los Angeles of 1922-1924, with its three-story, sky-lit space, was a late example. It had entrances on two main thoroughfares, 524 South Broadway and 541 South Spring Street. Unlike their European predecessors, however, American architects fit the commercial arcade into huge blocks composed of rent-producing offices. Other cities, large and small, continued to build office buildings with internal arcades into the 20th century, most often without the glass roofs, such as the Spitzer Building (Toledo, OH, Bacon and Huber, 1897), Arcade Building (Saint Louis, MO, Thomas Barnett, 1913), and the Penobscot Building (Detroit, MI, Wirt C. Rowland, 1928). With the advent of electric lights, skylights became unnecessary, so valuable office space could be piled above the arcades. (For a thorough over-view of European arcade precedents, see Johann Friedrich Geist, Arcades, The History of a Building Type, [Cambridge: MIT Press, 1983].)

The Broadway Arcade Building had Spanish Renaissance detailing on the lower floors, Beaux-Arts Classicism on the higher stories. (The Beaux-Arts element was seen particularly well in the colonnade of Ionic columns on the top floor.) It was part of the Spring Street Financial Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

A renovation plan was discussed in 1972; it is unclear if this occurred;

National Register of Historic Places (May 9, 1979): 79000484 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

PCAD id: 922