The Firestone Tire Building, built in 1937 and still operating as a garage at LaBrea and 8th St. some 75 years later, is finally – hopefully – getting the recognition it deserves.
The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles has submitted an application to give the 12,000 square foot garage Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) status as a fine example of Streamline Moderne architecture. The application, submitted by historian Charlie Fisher for the Art Deco Society, reads like an architectural textbook noting the “cantilevered overhang of the dramatic engineered truss-supported roof gave the building a most dramatic and ultra-modern look. ” The building is covered in mustard-colored rectangular sheets of pre-fabricated porcelain-covered steel, popular in gas station construction of the time. This is topped with (painted) red accents of porcelain steel in curvaceous and banding rhythms that wrap around the building. According to Fisher, the rows of florescent tube lighting on the inside of the canopy roof could be original. “Florescent lighting was just coming out at the time, and although there’s no record, this could be one of the first applications of florescent tube lighting used decoratively on a commercial building.”
The application also gives some insight into the origins of the garage. Built for $30,000, it was designed not by an architect but by engineer R.E. Ward. It was in post-depression expansion that Firestone built new retail outlets, like this flagship store at 8th and LaBrea, that replaced an older garage a block south. Firestone provided tires for virtually all Ford models from the early Model “T’s and “A”s all the way through to the mid 1990s – a collaboration evidently due to the close friendship between Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford that began in 1900.
According to Historian Charlie Fisher, there isn’t a specific threat to the building that prompted the HCM application. However, with the building of the large BRE housing development just to the north, the Art Deco Society wanted to be sure to protect this unique example of art deco design, adding to the list of other outstanding deco buildings in the Wilshire Miracle Mile corridor.
Next time you’re in for a tire fix (and believe me, the service there is great) take a moment and look up at the skylights in the iron-trussed ceiling, or the graceful curve of the glass window wall in the waiting room. Behind all the rubber and promotional signage, you may just feel the past, in all its art deco glory, still living on in the present.