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Romanesque Revival Architecture in Downtown Los Angeles

Oct 21, 2009 by Lisa Newton

Los Angeles–the last bastion and frontier of our Republic’s “go west” ethos–can’t tout the cultural, historical, architectural, and political underpinnings that New York City and the Commonwealth states lay first claim to posses; but we are second to none in our important, unique, and historic cultural and historical landmarks.

To understand this, all you have to do is walk around Downtown and you’ll inevitably find an overabundance of a bygone era and artistic heritage that defines our city. This history is typically found within a few blocks of any particular area of Los Angeles, which symbolizes our iconic architecture and public art.

Let's take a closer look

Our past architecture serves as a prelude to our area’s public art and extraordinary design aesthetic, which will be covered in detail in future stories.

Built in 1927, the Fine Arts Building, which is #125 on the Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmarks list, picture above–located at 811 7th Street– is an experience for the eyes, heart, and soul. Each time I looked at it, I was moved by its inherent beauty and essence. It’s an extraordinary building by any measurable standard.

Exploring the details of this special Romanesque Revival Fine Arts Building, explains and demonstrates what makes this building so special.

Romanesque Revival Architecture

Originally designed as a haven for the then local artist community, the Fine Arts Building’s upper floors were “devoted to artist studios and workshops. Here gifted tenants were granted an opportunity to create and display their products in a structure which would be, in itself, a work of art.”


On the third floor, you’ll notice two statues on each side of the building. Here, “Sculpture” overseas his domain. Designed by Burt Johnson, “Sculpture’s” companion is


Architecture.” They sit here statuesquely looking out at a city that has grown up around them. If they could speak, I wonder what they would say.

Amazingly, “while working on the artwork for the Fine Arts Building, Johnson had a heart attack. Confined to a wheelchair, he directed his assistants–Merrill Gage, his wife Annetta St. Gaudens, Hall St. Gaudens, and Gilbert Morgan to complete his vision.”

Indeed, the Los Angeles Times celebrated the opening of the Fine Arts Building in late 1926, as a “tribute to the awakening interest in art among Southern California residents and organizations. Three months later, Johnson died at age 37.” Source: PublicArtinLA

It serves as an exceptional example of Romanesque Revival architecture, in which “a style of building employed in the late 19th century, inspired by the 11th and 12th century style of architecture, served as the basis of the Fine Arts Building’s entryway.”

Up close and personal

For a top to bottom reproduction of what the entire building looked like, this photo taken in 1933 courtesy of USC via PublicArtinLA, is a defining example:

Fine Arts Building - 1933

To enjoy additional vantage point pictures and an outside tour of this building, please view the slideshow below.

Travelin’ Local is a journey into beauty, art, and indeed, history. History to this day, reigns supreme.

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Architecture, Culture, Downtown, SoCal

4 Responses to “Romanesque Revival Architecture in Downtown Los Angeles”

  1. Betsy Wuebker says:

    Hi Lisa – Simply outstanding. I always loved the very top of this building because it looks like someone plunked down a Roman villa from which to survey the view. I can’t tell from the photo, but are those rams alongside the facade at about the 10th floor? I wonder what those artist spaces look like and are used for now. Thanks for the great history lesson.
    Betsy Wuebker´s last blog ..LOCAVORES, MORE AND MORE My ComLuv Profile


    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Betsy Wuebker, I fell in love with this building as soon as I saw it. And no, those aren’t rams, but sculptures of a person. If you run the slideshow, towards the end, you’ll see to close up shots of the top sculptures.

    As far as I could find out, the building was sold last year, and it’s planned for the upper floors to be used by the new owners and they will rent out the lower floors: Attorneys Buy Fine Arts Building

    I’m so happy you enjoyed the post. :)


  2. Twitted by ToDoInLA says:

    [...] This post was Twitted by ToDoInLA [...]

  3. Photography News, Digital Camera Reviews and more » Combining Map Flickr and Flickr allows for easy Online Mapping says:

    [...] For me, I prefer to group my photos by the location where I took them– like I did with my Fine Arts Building story and [...]

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