Broadway is a special Los Angeles street. Its sidewalks are a stage for displaying the city's densest pedestrian traffic and a frame for exhibiting an unusual type of public art. Historic terrazzo patterns and designs decorate the sidewalk in front of many buildings, but three are particularly important. An ornate French inspired design graces the front of the Los Angeles Theatre at 609 S. Broadway and a zigzag and chevron design embellishes the front of the Eastern-Columbia Building at 849-859 S. Broadway.(1) The most artistically significant terrazzo, however, is in front of Clifton's Cafeteria at 648 S. Broadway. Executed by the Venetian Terrazzo and Mosaic Company in Los Angeles,(2) this design contains the restaurant's name in an Art Deco font, a multi-colored starburst and twelve medallions that together depict architectural landmarks and Los Angeles icons, such as orange groves, oil wells and beaches.(3) This historic terrazzo is enhanced by tile sidewalk sections designed by Frank Romero. These three tile sections are an important component of the Broadway Pedestrian Amenities Project, an innovative plan by the Community Redevelopment Agency to renovate Broadway from Second Street to Eleventh Street.(4)
Initiated in 1979 as a pilot project, the first section--80 feet long and constructed of 8"x 8" brown unglazed pavers in front of MacDonald's Restaurant at 330 S. Broadway--was completed in 1983.(5) Romero's second design is in a 250 feet long section installed when the Allright Shopping Arcade was constructed at Fourth Street in 1984.(6) His final design, installed in 1985 when the former Bullock's Department Store was renovated and became St. Vincent's Square, is approximately 360 feet long. This section wraps around the corner of Seventh and Broadway and extends west along Seventh for half a block. A 60 foot section Romero designed for the sidewalk in front of Victor Clothing at 242 S. Broadway was never installed.(7)
Romero incorporated cultural images from many ethnic groups that shop on Broadway, and images that relate to cut-paper pieces Romero executed early in his career.(8) Many of the images and patterns from the MacDonald segment are incorporated into both the Allright Arcade and St. Vincent's Square sections.(9) Designs from Persian carpets reflecting the Middle Eastern background of many of the building's tenants enhance the St. Vincent's Square sidewalk.
Footnotes:1 The Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles Broadway Historic Terrazzo and Decorative Sidewalk Report, no date.
2 "On Los Angeles' Busiest Street," advertisement by Universal Atlas Cement Co., no name of publication, no date (located in Community Redevelopment Agency file).
3 "Clifton's Magic Carpet Ride," Los Angeles Times Magazine, March 29, 1998, p. 6.
4 Broadway Improvement Program, Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, May, 1984.
5 Memorandum from Edward Helfeld, Administrator to Agency Commissioners re: Allright Arcade Sidewalk Improvements Located at 4th & Broadway, Century Business District Development Project, April 26, 1984.
6 "Sidewalks Spruced Up," by Todd Ackerman, Downtown News, May 15, 1984, p. 1.
7 Memorandum from Edward Helfeld, Administrator, to Agency Commissioners re: Broadway Streetscape Competition, Central Business Redevelopment Project, no date.
8 Interviews of Frank Romero by Michael Several on July 10, July 15, 1985.
9 Agreement for Design Services by and between the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, California, and Frank Romero, April 20, 1984.
The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, January 1999.
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