Fine Arts Building

Brief Historical Background

1927, Walker and Eisen, architects. 811 West 7th Street (7th east of Figueroa), Los Angeles.
The text below comes from a 1999 handout available in the lobby of the Fine Arts Building.
The Fine Arts Building dates back to the construction boom of the 1920's. The Building was envisioned as a cultural mecca for Los Angeles. The floors above the ornate exhibition hall would be devoted to artist studios and workshops. Here, gifted tenants could create and display their wares in a building which would be, in itself, a work of art.

In their commitment to excellence, the Fine Arts Building Company retained the architecture firm of Walker and Eisen, who are noted in history for their substantial contribution to Los Angeles architecture. The architects discarded original plans to face the building in stone. Terra-Cotte, they decided, owuld permit more intricte ornamentation. The building's exterior, with its ornate Romanesque entrance, arched high above decorative bronze doors was patterned after early Christian churches. The building features a magnificent two story entrance lobby of molded terra cotta and colored tile with a fountain surrounded by sculptured figures and seventeen bronze showcases.

Burt Johnson was commissioned to create the two gigantic figures on the exterior of the building as well as the beautiful bronze statues in the fountain located in the center of the lobby.

The Fine Arts Building was completed in 1927. Perhaps due to the Depression, the building was sold four years later. Through the years it has been renamed for its successive owners: The Signal Oil Building, the Havenstrite Building, and Global Marine House. Acquired in 1983 by Ratkovich Bowers and Perez, the building underwent a complete renovation, restoring the Fine Arts Building to its original beauty, while bringing the structure to modern office standards. The lobby area was refurbished under the caring eye of Tony Heinsbergen, son of the original artist, whose firm continues to specialize in the deocration and restoration of quality buildings. Brenda Levin Associates, officed in the Fine Arts Building, was design consultatnt for all the common areas of the building.

The Fine Arts building was declared a cultural historical monument in 1974. Continuing with the tradition, exhibits of various art forms are displayed in the lobby showcases.

The Fine Arts Building is on the Los Angeles Conservancy walking Tour and is a touring attraction for students from UCLA, USC and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

The Fine Arts Building has been featured in the following books:

The Architecture of Los Angeles, by Paul Glege
New Uses, Old Places (author unknown)
Remaking of America, by Barbaralee Diamonstein


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