Los Angeles in Los Angeles County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
James Oviatt had set out to build a top-line haberdashery, not a temple to Art Deco. Yet his 1925 visit to the Art Deco wonders of the Paris Exposition forever altered his tastes – and, too, his vision for the building that would house Alexander & Oviatt, the most elegant men’s shop in Los Angeles.
Just as novel was the lavish use of a new, silvery metal, an alloy of nickel, zinc and copper called maillechort, the combined names of its two inventors. It was used to make the custom mailbox, the elevator doors and throughout the showrooms. Two floors and the mezzanine of the 12-story building as tall as a building could then legally be here – were given over to luxury goods against a backdrop of marble, burled wood and art glass. On the first floor were sweaters, shirts, and hats and on the second were Oviatt’s custom clothes, suits of superb European fabric and cut, as well as shoes, riding clothes and leather goods – along with what the opening day announcement called the “Outdoor California Palm Grove,” which “enhances the charm of the shop and permits the inspection of clothing in natural daylight.” The mezzanine was a “feminine paradise” of goods and gifts of “decorative art for the home.”
(The store closed its doors in 1969 and the building was declared a cultural historic monument nine years later.)
The quirkiest room in the penthouse – which is open only for private parties – has to be the replica of a Pellman-car stateroom, but even that is outdone by the two-story rooftop resort. Its three-faced neon clock was the first of its kind in the city; over the holidays, chimes played Christmas carols.
But the split level rooftop was Oviatt’s private playground. On one level was a swimming “basin,” a tennis court and gardens; the second was devoted to Oviatt’s private beach.” At a time when the ocean could still be seen from this lofty downtown altitude, Oviatt imported French sand so he could bask in the California sunlight with his wife. (Oviatt chose his wife as he did his building style – on sight. He spotted her selling clothes in his store, summoned her to the penthouse, and proposed marriage).
“The Sultan’s Power” starred stage actor turned silent film performer Hobart Bosworth, who replaced another actor who had left the Chicago-based Selig Company. Bosworth found the climate so salubrious after his recent tuberculosis attach that he persuaded Selig to move his entire operation here, thus helping to lay the groundwork for the flourishing of the industry whose future stars would patronize the clothing store that so elegantly adorned them.
Erected by The City of Los Angeles.
Location. 34° 2.875′ N, 118° 15.292′ W. Marker is in Los Angeles, California, in Los Angeles County. Marker is on South Olive Street south of 6th Street, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 617 South Olive Street, Los Angeles CA 90014, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Pershing Square (approx. 0.2 miles away); Old Ironsides (approx. 0.2 miles away); St. Vincent Court (approx. 0.2 miles away); Angel’s Flight (approx. 0.4 miles away); Spring Street (approx. 0.4 miles away); Bradbury Building (approx. 0.4 miles away); Woody Guthrie (approx. 0.4 miles away); Historical Site (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Los Angeles.
Also see . . . Angels Walk L.A. Self-guided walking tours of historic neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The Oviatt Building marker is part of the Bunker Hill walk. (Submitted on August 3, 2018, by Craig Baker of Sylmar, California.)
Categories. • Architecture •
Credits. This page was last revised on August 3, 2018. This page originally submitted on February 7, 2016, by Denise Boose of Tehachapi, California. This page has been viewed 295 times since then and 9 times this year. Last updated on August 3, 2018, by Craig Baker of Sylmar, California. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on February 7, 2016, by Denise Boose of Tehachapi, California. 7, 8. submitted on March 3, 2016, by Denise Boose of Tehachapi, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.