June 16, 2012

Photo Essay: The Oviatt Building's Art Deco Legacy

Most people now know The Oviatt Building as home to the restaurant Cicada, which you can find behind an ornate, Art Deco cornice on Olive Street in Downtown LA.

But the building - which isn't itself Art Deco, but rather Italian Romanesque - once housed the Alexander & Oviatt haberdashery, which catered to the Hollywood glitterati of the late 1920s. Its front entrance still features glasswork by famed glassmaker Rene Lalique.

The facade of the elevator doors in the lobby forecourt appear to be silver, but upon closer examination, they are also the work of Lalique - some of the few original design details that have survived and remain in the building in its present condition, since many of the other design elements now are reproductions installed as part of the massive restoration and renovation that the building has undergone.

The Oviatt Building is considered an art deco masterpiece, yet its art deco elements are mere accents, particularly in the building's interior which was designed in the English Jacobean style: rich, dark wood walls, doors, columns, balconies and railings, with deep red carpeting and wall coverings. Some art deco patterns are carved into that wood...

...and some colored glass still remains, but you really have to look for it.

Related Reading:
Photo Essay: Miracle Mile
Photo Essay: The Coca-Cola Ship
Furnishing an Art Deco Apartment on a Dorm Room Budget

To become a fan on Facebook, click here.


  1. Well done, Sandi. Handsome photos!

    1. Thanks Marc! And thanks for the informative introduction to the building. I wanted to ask you - why do you think so much misinformation about the building has been so widely disseminated over the years?

  2. Difficult to say. One reason is that very little information was published about the Oviatt Building between the early 1930s and 1977, when it was purchased and restored by a developer. In the late '70s, local newspapers and magazines began to write about building's restoration ... but their research went only so far as to quote from some error-prone Los Angeles Times articles from 1928 and 1930. Then, in a 1978 piece on the building, one magazine invented the story about James Oviatt and the 1925 Exposition des Artes Decoratifs. Subsequent newspaper and magazine articles have repeated that myth.