704 S Spring Street
The location of our photo studio has a long and storied history, seen in the marble floor of the lobby, historic tube postal system, and other historic accents throughout. Known as the “Wall Street of the West”, the Spring Street Financial District was a center of commerce for all trade west of the Mississipi in the first half of the 20th Century. No building served as a greater figurehead for that fact than 704 S Spring Street, the Financial Center Building. Built in 1923 by the architectural firm Norton & Wallis (where they placed their main offices), the building was originally designed to house financial offices. Designed in the Beaux Arts style with contrasting stories of terra cotta and pressed brick, the building also features a delicate metal detailing on the façade. It’s now registered in the National Register of Historic Places.
Tilden Norton was born in Los Angeles on January 21, 1877, the son of Isaac and Bertha Norton. Isaac Norton, advantageously, was the founder of a building and loan firm. Bertha Norton-Greenbaum is thought to be the first Jewish child born in L.A., in 1851. A graduate of Los Angeles High School in 1895, S. Tilden Norton began his professional training at 18, apprenticing in New York City, and for local architect Edward Neissen. Samuel was a prominent Jewish citizen, serving as president of the Board of Trustees of Congregation B’Nai B’Rith, the first president of the Jewish Men’s Professional Club of Los Angeles, director of the Federation of Jewish Welfare Organizations, president of the Jewish Consumptive Relief, and the Nathan Straus Palestine Society.
Located nearly a mile south of the original pueblo, the area that is now Seventh Street was once agricultural land on the outskirts of Los Angeles. With the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1876, the city’s population exploded, and the rural fields began to give way to residences. As the city’s commercial center continued to expand, Seventh evolved from residential to commercial use. The street’s first major commercial building, the eight-story Lankershim Hotel, opened in 1905 at Seventh and Broadway (it was demolished in the early 1990s). In 1906, John Bullock opened his flagship department store at the corner of Seventh and Broadway. Bullock’s paved the way for Seventh Street to develop into an upscale shopping street distinct from the bustling retail on Broadway. By the end of the teens, Seventh was home to several major retailers as well as dozens of smaller stores.
The corner of Seventh and Broadway was one of the busiest intersections in Los Angeles for many years. Thousands of shoppers and theatregoers arrived daily, many on the famed Red Car trolley system. Office development took hold along Seventh in the 1920s, with thirteen large office buildings opening between 1920 and 1928. By 1929, every single plot on Seventh from Figueroa to Los Angeles Streets had been developed.
The predominant architectural style seen on Seventh Street is Beaux Arts, a formal style based on classical (mainly Greek and Roman) forms that experienced a popular revival in the early twentieth century. Most of the street had been developed by the time Art Deco reached the mainstream in the late 1920s. The street’s few Art Deco façades resulted from 1930s makeovers of Beaux Arts structures. As with many city centers, downtown gradually lost favor to postwar suburbs, which offered shopping and entertainment closer to home. Increasingly, downtown businesses closed and buildings became dormant. In the 1960s and ’70s, redevelopment incentives fostered the new commercial center on Bunker Hill, leaving Seventh Street virtually deserted. Fortunately, it was also left alone, with few historic structures demolished to make way for new construction.
More than seventy-five percent of the buildings on Seventh between Figueroa and Los Angeles Streets were built before 1929, creating an invaluable architectural trove, historic record, and filming location. Today, Seventh Street is the latest frontier in the ongoing revitalization of downtown. Renewed interest, along with incentives such as the city’s Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, have fueled the conversion of historic buildings for new uses along Broadway, Spring, Main, and Seventh Streets. Since 2003, nearly a dozen former commercial structures on Seventh have reopened as apartments or condominiums. This increase in housing is in turn drawing new restaurants, nightlife, and retail to the area. Seventh Street is a kaleidoscope of old and new, history and vibrancy, adding new layers to the story of downtown Los Angeles.
Today, Spring Street and 7th street serve as centers for the arts, industry, and commerce in Los Angeles, with many new restaurants and businesses taking advantage of the new boom of activity in this revitalized area. This area of Spring Street is also known as Gallery Row because of all the art galleries now featured there, and is the center for the incredibly popular Downtown Art Walk.