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Eight Downtown Los Angeles Landmarks Hidden in Plain Sight

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This week, the city of Los Angeles and the Getty Conservation Institute launched a new website, HistoricPlacesLA, that allows users to search thousands of historically significant sites across Los Angeles, filtering results by all kinds of things, including architectural period and date. Those filters are vital because there are so many interesting, important old buildings and structures around the city that it's a little overwhelming. Just looking for city-designated Historic-Cultural Monuments in Downtown, for example, yields more than 20 sites. We've sifted through those and found some architecturally and historically intriguing sites that don't get as much attention as, say, the stunning Eastern Columbia Building, and mapped them out here so you can impress your friends next time you're walking around Downtown.


· Historic Places LA [Official site]

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1. Aoyama Tree

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119 North Central Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012

This giant tree between the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy (a former Buddhist temple and a monument itself) and the MOCA is nearly 100 years old. It serves as a symbol of the Koyosan Buddhist Temple, once one of the oldest and largest temples in LA. Somehow, in spite of "benign neglect, the lack of an irrigation system, and the graffiti and asphalt covering portions of its extensive root system," the tree has survived since about 1920.

2. Spanish-American War Memorial

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532 South Olive Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013

On the northeast side of Pershing Square, in that weird sandy litterbox area, there's a monument dating back to 1900 that serves as a reminder of the Spanish-American War and is inscribed with the names of 21 people who died fighting in it. According to Public Art in LA, this is the oldest sculpture in Los Angeles. [Image via Downtowngal / Creative Commons]

3. Los Angeles Stock Exchange Building

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639 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014

Nope, it's not the same as the building that now houses a club called Exchange LA. This stunning structure is both an excellent example of work by farmed architectural firm Morgan, Walls, & Morgan, and a solid example of the Beaux-Arts style. But it's also associated strongly with the "development of Spring Street as the 'Wall Street of the West' in the early 20th century."

4. The Original Pantry

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877 S Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 972-9279
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This restaurant, which has stayed open since 1924—even during its 1950 move to its current location—was landmarked for its contributions to the "broad cultural, economic, or social history of the nation, state, or community." And by "broad social history," they mean that everyone comes here for delicious drunk food.

5. James Oviatt Building

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617 S Olive St
Los Angeles, CA 90014

Once the home and headquarters of the "elite haberdashery" empire of Alexander & Oviatt, this building is valuable for its association with the period when Downtown was becoming a destination for high-end retail. The business closed in 1967, but the beautiful Art Deco building remains intact, and is in use as a nightclub, while its rooftop is available for special events (picturesque weddings).

6. Gray Building

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824 South Los Angeles Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014

Spanish Colonial Revival industrial architecture isn't something you see a whole lot of anymore, especially not with "rich Churrigueresque detailing on its facade." But that's what we've got here, designed by noted architecture firm Morgan, Walls & Clements.

7. Our Lady Queen of Angels - La Placita

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535 North Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

The Plaza Church next to Olvera Street is recognized as Los Angeles's oldest established church that's still in use. HistoricPlacesLA says it dates back to 1822.

8. Chinatown Gates

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954 North Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

These gates might be less visible than the giant dragon gate on Broadway, but they're way more significant. This pair (this one on Hill Street, and the east gate on Broadway) was landmarked in recognition of the "nation's first community to be wholly owned, planned, financed and controlled by its Chinese residents." The gates date back to 1938.

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1. Aoyama Tree

119 North Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012

This giant tree between the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy (a former Buddhist temple and a monument itself) and the MOCA is nearly 100 years old. It serves as a symbol of the Koyosan Buddhist Temple, once one of the oldest and largest temples in LA. Somehow, in spite of "benign neglect, the lack of an irrigation system, and the graffiti and asphalt covering portions of its extensive root system," the tree has survived since about 1920.

119 North Central Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012

2. Spanish-American War Memorial

532 South Olive Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013

On the northeast side of Pershing Square, in that weird sandy litterbox area, there's a monument dating back to 1900 that serves as a reminder of the Spanish-American War and is inscribed with the names of 21 people who died fighting in it. According to Public Art in LA, this is the oldest sculpture in Los Angeles. [Image via Downtowngal / Creative Commons]

532 South Olive Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013

3. Los Angeles Stock Exchange Building

639 South Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014

Nope, it's not the same as the building that now houses a club called Exchange LA. This stunning structure is both an excellent example of work by farmed architectural firm Morgan, Walls, & Morgan, and a solid example of the Beaux-Arts style. But it's also associated strongly with the "development of Spring Street as the 'Wall Street of the West' in the early 20th century."

639 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014

4. The Original Pantry

877 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90017

This restaurant, which has stayed open since 1924—even during its 1950 move to its current location—was landmarked for its contributions to the "broad cultural, economic, or social history of the nation, state, or community." And by "broad social history," they mean that everyone comes here for delicious drunk food.

877 S Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90017

5. James Oviatt Building

617 S Olive St, Los Angeles, CA 90014

Once the home and headquarters of the "elite haberdashery" empire of Alexander & Oviatt, this building is valuable for its association with the period when Downtown was becoming a destination for high-end retail. The business closed in 1967, but the beautiful Art Deco building remains intact, and is in use as a nightclub, while its rooftop is available for special events (picturesque weddings).

617 S Olive St
Los Angeles, CA 90014

6. Gray Building

824 South Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014

Spanish Colonial Revival industrial architecture isn't something you see a whole lot of anymore, especially not with "rich Churrigueresque detailing on its facade." But that's what we've got here, designed by noted architecture firm Morgan, Walls & Clements.

824 South Los Angeles Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014

7. Our Lady Queen of Angels - La Placita

535 North Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012

The Plaza Church next to Olvera Street is recognized as Los Angeles's oldest established church that's still in use. HistoricPlacesLA says it dates back to 1822.

535 North Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

8. Chinatown Gates

954 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012

These gates might be less visible than the giant dragon gate on Broadway, but they're way more significant. This pair (this one on Hill Street, and the east gate on Broadway) was landmarked in recognition of the "nation's first community to be wholly owned, planned, financed and controlled by its Chinese residents." The gates date back to 1938.

954 North Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012