A vanished city lives again...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Court House cornerstone

I'm in Los Angeles on my annual visit right now, and just a few hours ago, I made an astonishing historical discovery. Entirely by happenstance, I found the cornerstone of the old Los Angeles County Court House!

Photo by J Scott Shannon.

During my 2010 trip, I had noticed that the granite blocks that ring the Criminal Justice Center bore an intriguing resemblance to those that were used in the wall around the old Court House, which previously stood at that location. I didn't get a chance to investigate this further at the time, though, but I resolved to check on it on a future visit. (I couldn't do it last year because Michael Jackson's physician's trial was taking place there then.)

Well, today was the day, and while driving east on Temple past the front of the Justice Center, I was giving the granite wall a looksee, when my eye spied a chunk of carved granite behind the wall that had "1888" inscribed on it. Knowing the old Court House had been erected in 1888, I knew at once what that had to be: the long-gone building's original cornerstone!

The green arrow shows its location on Google Street View.

Here's the old Court House, viewed from basically the same street corner before the turn of the last century.

Courtesy U.S.C. Digital Library.

And check it out – obviously there was a time capsule inside!

Photo by J Scott Shannon.

I wonder what it contained. I'm also curious to know where this cornerstone was for the 36 years between the demolition of the old Court House and the construction of the newer building in 1972*.

I'm still not sure if the wall stones are the same ones that used to be in the Court House retaining wall, though. I may never know. But I do know that, almost certainly, the 1888 cornerstone on display at the SW corner of Temple and Spring is the oldest remaining fragment of Los Angeles's Civic Center.

ADDENDA: Since this writing, I've learned that one of the clock faces from the Court House tower has been preserved. Hurrah! Additionally, although I have not yet been able to confirm this, it may be that some decorative pieces of red sandstone from the old Court House were used in the cornerstone of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse at First and Hill Streets.

*Here is the whole story of the Court House cornerstone, courtesy of ProphetM on the Skyscraperpage.com noirish Los Angeles thread.

Photo by formwerks on Flickr.



jim.dawson@gmail.com said...

Great googly moogly!

Anonymous said...

Great catch! I too had wondered about the stone wall, but never noticed the 1888 corner stone. Buster Keaton filmed a scene from Cops (1922) beside the court house, as did Harold Lloyd in Ask Father (1919), and Fatty Arbuckle in That Little Band of Gold (1915).


wildstar said...

This is such a great post (and blog) and your detective work is to be applauded. Nice work!

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