U. S. Courthouse, Western Division – Los Angeles CA


Constructed between 1937 and 1940, the U.S. Courthouse-Western Division is seventeen stories tall and at the time of its completion “was the largest federal building in the western United States. The post office, located on the ground and first floors, moved to another site in 1965. The expanding U.S. District Court then took over the space.

“Located on a landscaped one-acre site bounded by Spring, Main, Temple and Aliso Streets in the Los Angeles Civic Center, the courthouse is a major example of Art Moderne architecture, characterized by its stepped rectangular massing and restrained use of exterior ornamentation. Dark gray granite with pink swirls is used for the steps, retaining walls, and walkway borders. Above a polished granite base, the seventeen-story steel-frame building is clad with a pale pink matte-glazed terra-cotta veneer. It is rectangular in plan, and steps back at the fourth and sixth stories. Above this rises a slab-like tower with a central two-story penthouse. The window openings are organized in vertical strips and set back from the facades. Sandblasted aluminum spandrels separate the paired double-hung windows. The roofs are flat and concealed by tall parapets.

“The main entrance, which faces Spring Street, is three stories high and recessed behind fluted columns. Each of the five entrance doorways consists of a pair of bronze doors capped by a projecting curved hood bearing a stylized eagle. Above each doorway, an elaborate aluminum grille extends to the full height of the bay. These grilles are decorated with flowers and the seals of five U.S. Government departments: State, Treasury, War, Justice, and Post Office.

“The opposite elevation, which faces Main Street, is similar, but has an additional lower story due to the slope of the site, and three entry bays rather than five. This elevation bears the seals of five additional federal departments: Navy, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor.

“The Spring Street and Main Street lobbies have retained most of their original finishes and furnishings. These include polychrome terrazzo floors, ornamental plaster ceilings, and ornate aluminum light fixtures. The Main Street lobby has an oval plan and has walls of Tennessee brown marble with golden Sienna travertine accents and engaged columns of black and gold marble from Montana. The floor contains an inlaid, eight-pointed starburst design, in red, yellow and green terrazzo with Cardiff green marble accents. Two statues stand at opposite ends of the lobby. ‘Law,’ depicting a young woman with a tablet, is by Archibald Garner. The other titled ‘Young Lincoln’ is by James Lee Hansen. The Spring Street lobby, which originally accommodated the post office, is larger, with a rectangular plan, and has a higher ceiling than the Main Street lobby. It is similar to the Spring Street lobby in its finishes. Four murals, originally installed in this lobby, were removed when the post office moved out. Two by Lucien Labaudt (Life on the Old Spanish and Mexican Ranchos, and Aeroydynamism) and one by Edward Biberman (Los Angeles Prehistoric Spanish Colonial) have been returned.” (gsa.gov)

Source notes


http://www.gsa.gov/portal/ext/html/site/hb/category/25431/actionParameter/exploreByBuilding/buildingId/705, accessed November 14, 2014.

Originally posted in the New Deal Art Registry: http://www.newdealartregistry.org/

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Location Info

312 N. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Coordinates: 34.055056, -118.241386

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