BULLISH ON BULLOCKS
OPENED IN 1927, Los Angeles’ Art Deco jewel box, the Bullocks Wilshire department store, revolutionized the relationship between retailers and their customers. Never before had the inhabitants of the City of Angels beheld such abject luxury, arrayed over five floors in a stunning array of color schemes, custom departments, fashion salons, and elegant dining, its every niche and nook bursting with Jazz-era decorative design. Closed in the 1990’s but saved and restored by its current occupants, the Southwestern Law School, the Bullocks Wilshire building can only be viewed by the general public on a single open house day per year, affording the viewer a dizzying kaleidoscope of style, the visual signature of a vanished age. What follows are a few images from my own initial visit:
THE BULLOCKS BUILDING’S COPPER-TIPPED TOWER, seen here from above the store’s Wilshire Boulevard entrance, was erected as a giant promotional “pointer”, inviting the curious toward a structure thought to be too “out in the sticks” from downtown Los Angeles to attract enough customers.
BUILT WITH THE AUTOMOBILE IN MIND: The rear of the store was, for practical purposes, the “main entrance” to the building. A huge drive-through porte corchere (seen as the smaller structure at lower right) was erected so that elite customers could be driven up to the door, handing their cars to valets, then be ushered into the cosmetics and jewelry counters that filled the store’s Main Hall.
REGAL WELCOME: this elegant Art Deco iron gate was the formal street entrance to the Bullocks Wilshire property, leading customers’ cars directly under the porte corchere…….
…..which was ceilinged with Bernard Sachs’ magnificent mural The Spirit Of Transportation.
THE BULLOCKS STORE’S MAIN HALL once housed dozens of counters selling cosmetics, jewelry, and women and men’s furnishings. The ground-floor elevators seen at the rear of this image…
….boast this beautiful asymmetrical wood inlay design.
ELEGANCE AT EVERY TURN: Every one of the Bullocks five floors boasted distinct color and decor schemes, including the southwestern Art Deco flavor of this elevator lobby outside the fifth floor’s Cactus Lounge.
THE BULLOCKS’ UNIQUE COLLECTION of custom departments included a full saddlery service, as echoed in this surviving wall relief. The shop featured a full-sized horse mannequin so customers could climb into the saddle to check the fit of newly purchased riding breeches.
RELAX, LADIES: The lush appointments of the Louis XVI room included a regular crew of young ladies employed to model fashions for lounging customers.
CIVILIZED: No mere lunch counter, the Bullocks Wilshire Tea Room became a destination for generations of mothers, daughters, and grandaughters.
ROOMS WITH A VIEW: One of several private walk-out courts that open to high-rise views of downtown L.A. from inside the various Bullocks executive suites.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL, from the tiniest tile to restored decorative cast block to replica signal lanterns, has continued at Bullocks under its new stewards, the Southwestern Law School, which oversaw the building’s meticulous restoration.