The building was built in 1893 and is located at 304 South Broadway.
The building was commissioned by Lewis Bradbury (after whom it is named), a mining millionaire who had become a real estate developer in the later part of his life. His plan (in 1892) was to have a five story building constructed at Third and Broadway Streets in Los Angeles, close to the Bunker Hill neighborhood.
A local architect, Sumner Hunt, was first hired to complete a design for the building but Bradbury ruled against constructing his plans which he did not view as adequately matching the grandeur of his vision.
Bradbury then hired George Wyman one of Hunt's draftsmen, to design the building.
Wyman at first refused the offer to design the building. However Wyman supposedly had a ghostly talk with his dead brother Mark Wyman (who had been dead for six years) while using a planchette board with his wife. The ghostly message that came through supposedly said "Mark Wyman / take the / Bradbury building / and you will be / successful" with the word "successful" written upside down. After the episode, Wyman took the job and is now regarded as the architect of the Bradbury Building. Wyman's grandson, the science fiction publisher Forrest J. Ackerman, owns the original of this document. Coincidentally, Ackerman is a close friend of science fiction author Ray Bradbury.
Wyman was especially influenced in the construction of the building by Edward Bellamy's book Looking Backward (published in 1887) which described a Utopian society in the year 2000. In the book, the average commercial building was described as a "vast hall full of light, received not alone from the windows on all sides, but from the dome, the point of which was a hundred feet above ... The walls were frescoed in mellow tints, to soften without absorbing the light which flooded the interior". This description greatly influenced the Bradbury Building.
The building itself features an Italian Renaissance-style exterior facade of brown brick, sandstone and panels of terra cotta details, in the "commercial Romanesque" that was the current idiom in East Coast American cities. The center court of the interior is the part of the building that is known for its remarkable beauty.
The five-story central court features glazed brick, ornamental cast iron, tiling, rich marble, and polished wood, capped by a skylight that allows the court to be flooded with natural rather than artificial light. The elevators in the building are also famous for their being cage elevators surrounded by wrought-iron grillwork rather than masonry. They go up to the fifth floor.
The entire main building features geometric patterned staircases at all ends.
The building is known for its large use of ornately designed wrought-iron railings which are supposed to give the illusion of hanging vegetation and are found throughout the building. This wrought-iron was executed in France and displayed at the Chicago World's Fair before being installed in the building. Freestanding mail-chutes are also made out of ironwork.
The walls are made of pale glazed brick, the marble used in the staircase was imported from Belgium, and the floors are composed of Mexican tile.
A restoration and seismic retrofitting by developer Ira Yellin and project architect Brenda Levin Associates was undertaken in 1991. As part of the restoration, a storage area at the south end of the building was converted to a new rear entrance portico, connecting the building more directly to Biddy Mason Park and the adjacent Broadway Spring Center parking garage. The building's lighting system was also redesigned, bringing in alabaster wall sconces from Spain.
During construction, an active spring was found beneath the work-site, which threatened to shut down work on the building by weakening the foundation. However, Mr. Bradbury who was very committed to the project, believing it to be the greatest monument possible to his memory, spared no expense and imported massive steel rails from Europe in order to bolster the building and allow its construction.
The initial estimate for building the building was $175,000. When it was completed it had cost over $500,000, a ridiculously large amount for those times.
In a sad twist of fate, Lewis Bradbury died months before the building opened in 1893 although it stands as a testament to his and George Wyman's vision and with all its international fame most surely lives up to his dream. Wyman never designed any other building of considerable acclaim.
The building today
Although the building has operated as an office building for most of its history, that has changed as it has recently come under government protection and historical preservation as it has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Today, the building serves as headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department's Internal Affairs division and other government agencies. It appears the City of Los Angeles has become interested in leasing or renting the building out as office space once again.
The building was prominently used in the film Blade Runner (where it served as an inside joke, as the building shares its name with science fiction virtuoso Ray Bradbury), the 1950 film noir classic [D.O.A., as well as the film Wolf starring Jack Nicholson, along with the "Demon with a Glass Hand" episode of the TV series The Outer Limits, the Charles Bronson movie Murphy's Law, the neo-noir indie film The Perfect Sleep ,and Pontiac Pursuit commercial.
The building was featured on the photography of the Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 box.
Visitors are welcomed on a daily basis and greeted by a government worker to aid them with historical facts and information about the building. Visitors are allowed up to the first landing but not past it. Brochures and tours are also available and the building is a popular tourist attraction. It is also close to three other Los Angeles Landmarks: the Grand Central Market and the Million Dollar Theater (across the street) and Angels Flight (two blocks away). The building is accessible from the Los Angeles MTA Red Line or Purple Line via the Pershing Square exit which is one block away.
Bradbury Building on Wikipedia