Los Angeles, California
(West 3rd and Broadway)
Probably one of the most famous architectural buildings in Los Angeles is the Bradbury Building. Located in downtown Los Angeles, only a few blocks from Angels Flight, this five story office building was completed in 1893. It was the dream of a gold mining millionaire named Lewis Leonard Bradbury. He made a vast fortune with silver and gold mines down in Sinaloa, Mexico. In 1892, Bradbury was old and aging and wanted a building to be a monument to himself, and thus he commissioned the building of the Bradbury Building.
The building is best known for the interior, which opens up into a large five story atrium. The narrow fifty foot high atrium is surrounded by amazing wrought iron staircases which cast interesting and varied shadows across the atrium as the day progresses. Natural light fills the atrium from the massive skylight above, and at the time, the building featured the largest plate glass windows in Los Angeles. The atrium features ornamental cast iron, Italian marble, Mexican tile, and decorative terra cotta. There are also two open bird cage style elevators and even metal mail chutes. The staircases have geometric patterns, and consist of wrought-iron and polished oak railings. The wrought-iron in the staircases came from France, and was actually displayed at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair before finally being installed in the building.
LL Bradbury first went to well-known and local architect, Sumner Hunt, to design his namesake building. Unfortunately Bradbury was disappointed with the original plans, and ended up approaching George Wyman, a draftsman for Hunt with no prior architectural experience, to take over the project. Bradbury believed that Wyman could better understand his unique vision. Wyman, at first, refused the commission, believing that it would be unprofessional of him to take the job, since he worked for Hunt at the time. Bradbury, however, kept insisting, and so, and this is where the story gets a little weird, Wyman decided to think it over, and sought the advice of his brother, Mark, on whether he should take the job or not. Sounds pretty normal, right? Asking your brother for advice on a job offer. Except Mark had been dead for six years at the time. Spiritualism was very popular at the time, and so Wyman with his wife used what is called a planchette to contact Wyman's brother, Mark. A planchette, which is French for "little plank", is sort of the precursor to the Ouija board and usually uses a heart shaped flat piece of wood that holds a pencil to allow for spirits to write. When Wyman and his wife asked Mark for advice on what to do, the message read, "Take Bradbury you will be successful", although successful was upside down. So with the approval of his dead brother Mark, George accepted LL Bradbury's job offer and constructed the Bradbury Building.
Supposedly some of Wyman's inspiration for the building came directly from a 1888 novel by Edward Bellamy called "Looking Backwards". It was a popular science fiction novel about a utopian society. In the book a building from the future (the year 2000) was described with the passage, "a vast hall full of light received not alone from the windows on all sides, but from the dome." Regardless of Wyman's "inspiration" there is some debate about how much he actually contributed to the design of the building. There is no real evidence that Wyman really changed any of Hunt's original plans. The Bradbury Building ended up being Wyman's only real work of significance, whereas Sumner Hunt, however, went on to design many other notable buildings throughout LA.
Sadly Bradbury did not live to see the completion of his building for he passed away on July 15th, 1892. He is buried in a pyramid topped mausoleum in Mountain View Cemetery up in Oakland. His wife, Simona, oversaw the completion of the Bradbury Building. She is also buried in the same mausoleum in Oakland. The original estimate for the Bradbury building was $175,000, but the final cost was half a million!
The Bradbury Building has had a successful career in the film and movie industry. It's first on screen appearance was in 1942 in a movie called China Girl when the Bradbury played a Burmese hotel. It's most famous appearance though was in 1982 in the Harrison Ford movie, Blade Runner. All the balconies in the atrium assist with film shoots, allowing for multiple different camera angles. The height of the atrium also helps accommodate the movie equipment and lights necessary for filming. Other TV shows and movies that have featured scenes at the Bradbury include: The TV series, Bosch; the movie, 500 Days of Summer, the 1944 film noir classic, Double Indemnity; the 1950 film, D.O.A.; Jack Nicholson's publisher's office in the movie, Wolf; and Joe Pesci's dentist's office in Lethal Weapon 4. IMDB currently lists 84 credits for the location.
Despite the heavy connections the Bradbury Building has to science fiction, the building has absolutely nothing to do with Ray Bradbury, and the name similarities are just coincidence. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1977. The city of Bradbury, east of Monrovia, was founded and is named for Lewis Leonard Bradbury. Since 1996 the LA Police Department's Internal Affairs division has been headquartered in the building; they have a 50 year lease. Marvel Comics also rents space in the building.
Last Edited: 2020-05-10