Join Esotouric on a stroll through the National Register Broadway Theatre District, the largest collection of historic motion picture palaces in the country, on an architectural, cultural and public policy history tour of a great street that needs a lot of help. How did Broadway take shape in the early 20th Century, why did the entertainment and retail district decline, and who are the personalities who have sought to preserve, reactivate and profit from it—not always successfully?
Starting from Grand Central Market, we’ll honor the visionary developer Ira Yellin, who believed that there was a second life possible for empty early 20th century office buildings, and changed city law so that Angelenos could live in them.
Across Broadway at the Bradbury Building, Terry McKelvey turned his dad’s dull commercial real estate business into an incubator for creativity, and dreamed of a Victorian-themed Downtown Los Angeles Gaslight District, until his personal demons pulled that dream out from under him.
Down at the United Artists, obtained through a sweetheart deal involving suitcases full of cash and convenient earthquakes, offbeat preacher Dr. Gene Scott raised millions through bizarre televised sermons, for theater restoration, rare books and preservation of the iconic Jesus Saves neon sign.
And up in City Hall, ambitious councilman Jose Huizar saw Broadway as a political branding opportunity, expending civic resources to organize massive street parties with his name on every marquee, while pushing policies that encouraged speculation at the expense of Broadway’s small businesses—until the FBI came calling.
Along the way, we’ll talk about what it means to be National Register District, how the Jewelry District used old buildings in fresh new ways and how the lessons of Wilshire’s Wiltern Theatre could be used to reactivate downtown’s dark venues, while pointing out the sites of lost landmarks, hidden details, ghost signs and magic carpets of terrazzo that make up this beautiful, magical mess at the heart of the city.
On our return to Grand Central Market at the end of the walk, we’ll have a rare opportunity to explore the interior of Sid Grauman’s Million Dollar Theater (1918), the city’s first purpose-built motion picture palace.
This walking tour is illustrated with rare photos you can view on your smartphone.
Tour begins at 10:30am sharp, with check-in time 10am at the patio outside Grand Central Market at 324 S Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Please arrive on time and proceed to the check in table to get signed in and logged in to the smartphone slideshow. Scroll down for tour rules and recommendations.
There are numerous paid public parking lots around Grand Central Market, including GCM’s multi-level lot at 308 South Hill Street Los Angeles, California 90013. The nearest Metro stations are Civic Center/Grand Park and Pershing Square. If using public transit, this link can help you plan your trip:
BE PREPARED: This is a walking hour lasting 3 hours, over a mix of level ground and occasional hills and stairs moving at a casual pace. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Bring your smartphone so you can view the tour slide show. We will have a cooler with cold water, and you’re encouraged to bring a full water bottle. A restroom will be available at the start and end of the tour. If you need more information about what to expect, please email us.
COVID SAFETY: At this time, we no longer require that masks be worn on walking tours, with the exception of when we visit the cramped and unventilated basement speakeasy beneath the King Edward Hotel or the Dutch Chocolate Shop. Please bring a mask to wear for this portion of the tour. If you forget your mask, we can provide one on check in.
CAMERA POLICY: No video- or audio-taping unless it has been pre-cleared with us, please. Still cameras and sketchbooks are fine.
If you feel like you’re getting sick, if you test positive for Covid-19, or if you have knowingly been in contact with a positive case of Covid-19 in the last 7 days, please do not attend the tour. Let us know not to expect you. If notified at least 72 hours before tour departure, we can refund or reschedule your booking. If notified at least 24 hours before departure, we can honor the booking on a future date. You may also gift your ticket to someone else—we will need their name, email address and phone number to make this switch.