December 30, 2021

Photo Essay: Ascending the Bradbury Building, One Floor At A Time (Or, Cocktailing the Bradbury, At Night)

The historic Bradbury Building, built in 1893, is one of the oldest commercial buildings still standing in center city Los Angeles. It's a private office building—so generally, only the ground floor businesses and lobby area are open to the public. 

 circa 2020

A few years ago, there was an architectural tour of the Bradbury Building that would take ticketholders all the way up to the roof—but I couldn't get a press pass to it and I couldn't afford the ticket. Getting to the roof—or anywhere upstairs, really—has been on my bucket list ever since.

 circa 2017

Well, thanks to its new tenant, NeueHouse, I finally got my chance to ascend the heights of the Bradbury Building. 
 circa 2011

No, not to the roof.

circa 2017

But at least to the first floor, one floor up from the lobby. 
   circa 2018

But let me back up a bit to explain why getting to explore this particular building would be such a special experience. Because it's not just its association with movies that have been filmed there, like Blade Runner and Chinatown.

circa 2018

Located on Broadway at Third Street in Downtown Los Angeles, the Bradbury Building is a stunning example of a Victorian atrium—with five stories' worth of a central courtyard illuminated during the day by a skylight. 
    circa 2017

The office building was the creation of silver- and gold-mining magnate Lewis L. ("L.L.") Bradbury, a denizen of the affluent Bunker Hill neighborhood just blocks away. Bradbury appointed George Wyman—a draftsman for architect Sumner Hunt—to create the design but died the year before its completion. 

 circa 2018

Legend has it that Wyman was so inexperienced upon being approached by Bradbury, he was inclined to refuse the job—but he was convinced to take it by a message from his long-dead brother that came through during a session with a planchette (like what you'd use on a Ouija board). 

circa 2018

And although Wyman's design was reportedly inspired by a sci-fi novel published in 1888 (Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy), perhaps supernatural (or divine) forces guided his hand—especially since he'd worked as nothing more than an architect's apprentice prior to creating the Bradbury Building. 
circa 2011

Wrought iron grillwork (made in France) adorns each floor's balcony and the cage elevator that can take you to the top. 
      circa 2011

The rest of it is all glazed brick, polished wood, marble and terracotta—a masterpiece whose success Wyman could never reproduce throughout the rest of his career. 

I'd never gotten the chance to experience it at night, since the lobby is only open during "office hours"—but NeueHouse recently opened up a cocktail bar for its members called The Wyman Bar (after George Wyman) and invited the public to come check it out by offering one-day membership passes.   

Even better, we got to ride the cage elevator up one level to get to it. 

That might've been my favorite part. (Though, when asked, the elevator operator seemed unfazed at the marvelousness of it all.)

Oh, to see that lobby from above! And at night, lit only dimly by Spanish alabaster wall sconces (and the garlands that adorned the railings for the Christmas season)!
From below, the Bradbury atrium always seemed to me to be a bit like an M.C. Escher creation—and from the first floor balcony, where you're eye-to-eye with the geometric staircases, it seems even more so. 

And what a treat to see the decorative ironwork from the backside

The Wyman Bar is in the southwest corner of the floor, with exposed brick fireplaces (as far as I could tell, non-functional), plastered walls, and exposed beam ceilings—all facing out the front of the building, towards Broadway, with the Million Dollar Theatre marquee across the street. 
The bar serves as a coffee stop/cafe/meeting room during the day and transforms into a cozy cocktail den at night...

...perfect for consuming any number of spirits. 

I vastly preferred taking our drinks out into the hallway and enjoying the darkness of the atrium, the echoes of our voices, and the solitude of the space. 

Reservations were hard to get and the bar was supposed to be only open to the public for a limited period of time, but our server said they were trying to extend the opportunity into the long term. 

I'd like to go back for another drink at least one more time. 

And I'd still like to get to some of those higher floors, or maybe even the roof. 

*All nighttime photos circa December 2021.


  1. Wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. The Bradbury was the first place I drove my father's car to after I got my license in 1970. It was a Saturday and I had the place basically to myself, so I went everywhere inside that I felt like, including going up and down in both elevators! Finally after about 20 minutes a security guard found me, but he didn't kick me out, just told me to be quieter and not use the elevators anymore. Four decades later, I visited again and everything was restricted, so I was glad to have had my self-guided tour of the whole building all those years before. :)

  3. Fabulous shots of a magical building.

  4. I worked at the LA Daily Journal a few doors down summer of 1970, most lunch breaks included a stop at the sandwich bar and an elevator ride- magical. Thank you for the marvelous photo essay!