Empty Since 1991 and Under Attack

C.C. de Vere

C.C. de Vere

· 4 min read

Dear readers, let me tell you a story.

Picture it: an overcast autumn day in downtown Los Angeles, 2001.

A group of design students are walking down 8th Street to the Fashion District. Since the sidewalks are never really clean, they're taking care to walk around trash, suspicious puddles, and spilled food.

One student steps onto an incredible (and incredibly filthy) terrazzo starburst in the sidewalk. She stops dead in her tracks.

She's right in front of a gorgeous Art Deco skyscraper. The entrance is adorned with an elaborate wrought-iron canopy and topped with ornate open grillwork. The door is closed off by brass bars and the lobby is dark, but she is transfixed.

"Oh, wow," she thinks to herself. "What a lovely old building."

One of her classmates, slurping a latte, announces that "downtown always smells like pee". While she doesn't disagree, she's surprised her classmates didn't notice the stunning building entrance. They're all in school to learn how to create beautiful things, after all.

She has to stay with the group (half of them don't have cell phones), but keeps an eye out for that pretty building entrance every time she's walking along 8th or Hill Streets.

Dear readers, that student was me. The pretty building that made me stop dead in my tracks was 403 W. 8th Street, aka the Garfield Building, aka Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #121.

I didn't know it at the time (although the barred-off doors and dark lobby were certainly a clue), but on the day I first noticed the Garfield Building, it had already been empty for 10 years. It has now been empty for 33 years.

The Garfield Building was designed by architect Claud Beelman, perhaps best known for the Eastern Columbia Building, and built between 1928 and 1930. It was an office building.

The Garfield Building sold in 1991 and has been empty ever since. New owners (investors from San Francisco) bought the building last March, with plans to convert it into a boutique hotel.

Now, I have no objection to turning a long-empty office building into a boutique hotel. I must admit I'm disappointed that it isn't going to become lofts like so many other great Beelman buildings have (i.e. Eastern Columbia Building, Board of Trade Building, South Park Lofts - originally a parking garage! - Pacific Electric Building, and the Roosevelt Building). But I'd much rather see it become a hotel than continue to sit empty. (In fact, yet another Beelman office building - the 1955 Superior Oil Company building - became the Standard Hotel in 2002 and is now the Delphi Hotel.)

In any case, at the moment, the Garfield Building is still empty AND has now been compromised.

Just yesterday, Instagrammer @fiddygobragh sounded the alarm with this photo set. There is a wide-open door, obvious damage to the ground floor, and heavy tagging.

LADBS, 311, and the Office of Historic Resources have all been alerted. Hopefully the building will be secured before more damage can be done - and hopefully whoever broke in didn't ruin the original Art Deco lobby.

Unfortunately, I doubt this will be sorted out soon. Absentee owners might be less emotionally invested in a property than locals, and even if the new owners are gung-ho to get the hotel open ASAP, it takes time to get a building ready. Then the owners need permits, insurance, licenses, lots of inspections, staff, etc. This is all very time-consuming, and could take another year - or longer.

Hopefully it doesn't.

403 W. 8th Street, Jewelry District.

Join the discussion!

C.C. de Vere

About C.C. de Vere

C.C. is a fourth-generation Angeleno and is horrified at what greed and hubris are doing to Los Angeles.

This website was built by her preservation pals at Esotouric.

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