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Southwestern Law School Celebrates 90th Anniversary of Bullocks Wilshire

Members of the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, in period dress and with Southwestern Law School Dean Susan Westerberg Prager, welcome visitors on the 90th anniversary of the Bullocks Wilshire building.

In honor of the opening day of Bullocks Wilshire on September 26, 1929, the Southwestern Law School hosted an open house and tour, complete with members of the Art Deco Society dressed in period attire, replicating that famous day 90 years ago when thousands of visitors first entered the “Cathedral of Commerce” at 3050 Wilshire Blvd.  The Buzz was invited to join this first of what will be many festivities celebrating one of the most admired and significant Art Deco buildings in the world, and one of LA’s most iconic buildings.

Designed by renowned Los Angeles architects John and Donald Parkinson and conceived by business partners John G. Bullock and P.G. Winnett, the Bullocks Wilshire Building operated as a luxury department store for more than 60 years. In 1994, Southwestern purchased the Art Deco landmark and set out to convert it into a dynamic academic venue, while retaining its historic character. Through its adaptive reuse, the law school now uses the building for cutting-edge scholastic, professional and social resources that represent the heart of the Southwestern community.

Margot Gerber, President of the Art Deco Society, presented Southwestern Law School Dean Susan Westerberg Prager a check for $20,000 to fund a preservation survey.

“The Bullocks Wilshire building is one of Los Angeles’ remaining Art Deco architectural gems and proof positive that adaptive reuse of historic structures can give property a new life,” said Gerber.

While most of the building is used by students and faculty and not normally accessible to the public, Southwestern and the Art Deco Society will be hosting a series of special events showing off the landmark building and highlighting some of the ongoing maintenance challenges. Southwestern has been an incredible steward of this Los Angeles treasure. After purchasing the building out of bankruptcy in 1995, the school spent ten years meticulously restoring the building.

Westerberg Prager commented, “seeing the building spring up before me each morning, as I ascend the parking lot ramp, always takes my breath away. John Bullock and our founder, John Schumacher, never met – but they shared countless core values. It is fitting that this innovative law school ended up in this extraordinary building.”

Southwestern Law School Chief Communications and Marketing Officer Hillary Kane told the Buzz that the school has planned a 90th Anniversary Moonlight Gala on December 20th, which will feature a menu of vintage cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, along with special guests Margaret Leslie Davis and Stephen Gee. Davis is the author of “Bullocks Wilshire,” an encyclopedic book about the store’s founding and the building. Gee is the author of three books on Los Angeles history, including a book on John Parkinson, the visionary architect of the Bullocks Wilshire. Gee also produced and directed a documentary

Plans for the event are still fluid, according to Kane, but anyone interested can contact the school at [email protected].

And more events are planned for next year, including a fashion show with the Art Deco Society, a Tour and Tea, a vintage car show and a tour and tea open house.

Hancock Park resident Eric Evavold, Official Bullocks Wilshire Ambassador and tour guide, curated a 90th Anniversary exhibit currently on display on the first floor of the building on the right side of the store’s old Perfumery. Evavold’s exhibit features ephemera from the store such as hat boxes, Tea Room menus, items of clothing, advertisements, and a model of the building made by the architects in the 1920s, which he found in the basement of the building.

The following are photos we took while touring the building with Evavold. Full disclosure: these photos hardly do justice to the incredible space. If you can,  take advantage of one of the 90th anniversary events Southwestern Law School is hosting and see for yourself, especially if you ever shopped there.



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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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