Opened: November 7, 1906 as the Temple Auditorium with a production of "Aida." It was a $350,000 project funded by the Temple Baptist Church and local businessmen. It was built on the site of the 1887 Hazard's Pavilion. Over on the left is the lobby end of the theatre on Olive St. One could also enter on 5th St. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding this great postcard.
Architects: Charles F. Whittlesey, Otto H. Neher and engineer E.R. Harris designed what was at the time the largest theatre west of Chicago and nearly the first reinforced concrete building in Los Angeles. It was structurally advanced for its time and used no columns to support the balconies. The title for the first reinforced concrete structure in L.A. perhaps goes to the 1905 Hill St. addition to the department store building that is now Grand Central Market.
The auditorium was much influenced by the design of Louis Sullivan's Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. The nine story building had retail on the 5th Street side, a recital hall and a basement banquet hall. The theatre was used on Sundays by the Temple Baptist Church.
Seating: The capacity that was originally announced in the L.A. Times before construction was 5,000 but that was quite an exaggeration. The Times article also said there were to be two 950 seat halls called the Choral Hall and Berean Hall on the second floor and 118 office/studio spaces.
It's listed in the 1907-1908 Henry's Official Western Theatrical Guide as having a capacity of 2,226. A c.1940 postcard from Temple Baptist Church listed the capacity as 2,700 with a 2nd floor hall (then called Burdette Hall) at 650 and a chapel with 200.
It was 2,670 according to the 1949 edition of the "ATPAM Theatre, Arena and Auditorium Guide" with 1,040 on the main floor, 619 in the 1st balcony, 373 in the mezzanine, 522 in the 2nd balcony and 166 in the boxes.
Stage: The proscenium was 46' wide x 32' high according to Henry's 1907-08 Western Theatrical Guide. 50' x 35' were the measurements given in the 1949 ATPAM Guide.
Stage depth: 42' was Henry's number, 45' from curtain to backwall was the ATPAM number. It was 4' from the footlights to the curtain line.
Wall to wall: 90' was Henry's number, 80' according to the ATPAM Guide.
Grid height: 80' listed in Henry's, 76' 6" in the ATPAM Guide. It was a hemp house, rigged with 50 linesets.
Dimmerboard: Offstage right. Originally it was a live front board, later replaced. Henry's guide in 1907 noted that at the time they used both gas and electric for lighting. Road power listed in 1949 was 1,600 amps 110-220V AC and 400 amps at 110V DC.
Dressing rooms: The 1919 edition of Vaudeville Trails notes that there were 3 dressing rooms at stage level and 9 others. The 1949 ATPAM Guide says 2 at stage level, 19 on upper floors, 4 chorus rooms in the basement.
The stage data listed in the 1907-1908 edition of "Henry's Official Western Theatrical Guide can be seen on Google Books. The 1919 edition of "Vaudeville Trails Thru the West," also known as Herbert Lloyd's Vaudeville Guide, is on Internet Archive. Thanks to Mike Hume for finding it. Among their tidbits they note that there were no Sunday shows. The 1949 edition of the "ATPAM Theatre, Arena and Auditorium Guide" is on Bob Foreman's terrific Vintage Theatre Catalogs site.
The site of the Auditorium as seen on Plate 7 of the 1910 Baist Real Estate Survey Map from Historic Map Works. That's 5th at the bottom of the image, Hill Street on the right. Pershing Square, then known as Central park, is out of the frame at the bottom, south of 5th.
A 1911 L.A. Times ad for exhibition at "The Auditorium - Theater Beautiful" of a Kinemacolor feature. It was a British two color process that involved photographing and projecting alternate frames using red and green filters, requiring both a modified camera and a special projector. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the ad. Note in the upper right a mention that L.E. Behymer was manager at the time.
Billy Clune arrives: In 1914 the theatre was leased to pioneer film producer and exhibitor Billy Clune and became the grandest movie theatre west of New York. There was (still) church on Sundays, but on the other six days there were many concerts as well as feature films with elaborate prologues. It was advertised as Clune's Auditorium or Clune's Theatre Beautiful.
A 1915 ad located by Ken McIntyre announcing the February 8th premiere of D.W. Griffith's "startling" picture "The Clansman."
A 1915 program for "The Clansman" at the Auditorium. The film was soon retitled "Birth of a Nation." It ran for 26 weeks. Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for sharing this rare item from his collection. Check out his latest explorations at Theatre Talks.
The July 15, 1916 issue of Moving Picture World mentions Clune's roof sign: "The Auditorium has a very elaborate sign six stories in height on top of a nine story building. It contains 6,000 lamps and has the largest flasher in the world, making 150,000 contacts per minute." The issue is on Google Books.
"All this Week" - a 1917 ad for the Fox production of "Cleopatra" with Theda Bara at Clune's. The ad appears on a William H. Peck web page "Images of Cleopatra in Films." Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Ethereal Reality who found the ad and included it (along with some semi-nude images of Ms. Bara from the film) in his Noirish post #32997.
A September 1919 ad for the world premiere of "The World And Its Woman" with Geraldine Farrar. Thanks to theatre sleuth Ken McIntyre for posting the ad on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
Although the Auditorium's movie career was brief and it wasn't built as a movie palace, Clune's operation turned it into one. He used a 20 piece orchestra and booked the biggest pictures he could get for this venue. Given the size of the theatre, the impressive architecture, and Clune's dazzling productions, this building takes the prize as the first true Los Angeles movie palace. See the Cameo Theatre page for a timeline of Billy Clune's other exhibition ventures.
The L.A. Phil takes over: They had done their first season in 1919 at the Trinity Auditorium, a less than satisfactory hall in several respects. For the 1920 season they signed a long lease on the Auditorium and renamed it Philharmonic Auditorium.
The theatre was also used for Broadway shows produced by the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera for 27 seasons. Most of the productions also played as San Francisco Civic Light Opera shows at the Curran Theatre there.
The exterior goes moderne:
Claud Beelman, L.A.'s King of Deco, did a remodel in 1938 which removed the mansard roof and gave the building a moderne facade. The main auditorium entrance was moved to Olive St. Beelman did many other notable Los Angeles buildings including the Eastern Columbia Building (1930). Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding this L.A. Times illustration for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
Among many other noteworthy events, George Gershwin conducted his last concert at the Auditorium. Brady Westwater commented on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page: "Besides his being commissioned to write 'Rhapsody in Blue' only because of something that happened after WW I at the Alexandria Hotel just down the street (an event which later led to the discovery and signing of Bing Crosby at the Million Dollar Theater), Gershwin later conducted 'Rhapsody in Blue' at this theater for the last time on the night he first felt his brain tumor. After he passed away, the production of 'Porgy and Bess' he had arranged to have produced at the Auditorium was the first financially successful production of the musical/opera."
In the 50s the building got a huge roof sign again. At one point it advertised Alka Seltzer, later the Temple Baptist Church. Broadway shows in 1963's Civic Light Opera season included "Camelot" and "Carousel." The latter production starred John Raitt and Jan Clayton.
Closing: The building stopped being a venue for major shows with the opening of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in December 1964. Both the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera moved their shows there. The building was then known as the Auditorium Bldg.
The L.A. Times had a 1979 article about the building's demise. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding it. The report:
"For nearly sixty years, the names of Galli-Curci, Tito Schipa, John McCormack, Mary Garden, the Ballet Russe, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and of course the Light Opera Association, as well as many others, graced the marquee above 5th Street. All that changed in 1965, when, except for an occasional production of a Broadway musical, the theatrical lights dimmed at the Philharmonic and the scene changed to the new Music Center. Since then the 2,600-seat auditorium with its vast stage, ceiling of concentric sound circles and acoustically perfect interior has been dark-and silent-except on Sundays when the faithful attend Temple Baptist Church worship services.
"Now that is changing. The auditorium and its adjoining nine-story office building overlooking Pershing Square have been sold by the church to Auditorium Management Company for a reported $3 million. The new group of entrepreneurs, investors and developers has started to renovate the old auditorium to return it to its original grandeur as a showcase for Broadway-type productions.
"David Houk, president of the management company, said the auditorium-office building had been for sale for five years but his group had doubts about purchasing it because, as he put it, 'Downtown is dead.' Enter Stephen Rothman, a specialist in theater restoration who has done similar work at the old Paramount Theater in Aurora, Ill., and the Hartman Theater in Stamford, Conn. 'This is a true Broadway stage,' said Rothman, 'It just needs a little sanding. Otherwise it’s in incredible shape.'"
Demolition: Houk was unable to secure financing for a restoration of the theatre. It was demolished in 1985 with little public outcry. Jerry Belcher commented in "Wreckers' Ball Brings Down Final Curtain at Auditorium," an April 5, 1985 L.A. Times story:
"George Gershwin played his last concert there. Booker T. Washington lectured there. Igor Stravinsky conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra there. Buck and Bubbles, not to mention Pavlova and Nijinsky, danced there. Jack Benny and Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle joked there. In short, almost everybody who was anybody in the performing arts of the 20th Century entertained there from the day its velvet curtains first rose in 1906 until its faded curtains dropped for the last time in 1964. And all during that time--and up until 1978--hundreds of thousands worshiped there...."
Plans for a new building fell through. The site became a parking lot and remained that way for 3 decades. Hillsman Wright of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation noted: "David Houk tore the Phil down and was trying to develop the lot for years. The 76 story condo-hotel being the last failed effort. He did try to atone by saving the Pasadena Playhouse and the Variety Arts Center. Such a shame to lose this one. I can imagine the street scene with both the Metropolitan and Phil with capacity audiences."
Wikipedia has a story about the history of the site and David Houk's efforts to get the Park Fifth project built. It finally stalled for good (for him anyway) in the recession of 2008. The site was in play again in 2013 for a revised version of the project about half the size of the initial version. Adrian Glick Kudler had the story in October 2013 for Curbed L.A.: "Whoa: New Tower Planned..." Curbed has a whole archive of Park Fifth stories to look at.
Site status: The long delayed residential/retail project is now there. It's in several chunks. The low-rise portion is called the Trademark Residences. The tower is Park Fifth Tower. Strange things were unearthed during excavations. See Morgan Terrinini's September 1, 2016 post on the DTLA Development Facebook page for many photos and comments.
The Philharmonic in the Movies: In the 1930 film "Song o' My Heart" (Fox) John McCormack sings several songs supposedly at a concert in New York. The numbers were filmed in 1929 at the Auditorium. "Song o' My Heart - A Hollywood Venture," an article by Miles Kruger on the McCormack Society website, describes the production. It was filmed both in 35mm and the short-lived 70mm Fox Grandeur process. John Downe notes that "Ireland, Mother Ireland" and "I Hear You Calling Me," two of McCormack's songs from the show, are on YouTube. Unfortunately, we don't see anything of the theatre.
We see lots of the theatre, including many backstage views, in Lloyd Corrigan's film "He Learned About Women" (Paramount, 1933). Here Gordon Westcott, playing a destitute theatre manager in New York, is at the proscenium. Stu Erwin stars as Peter Potter Kendall II, a bookish young man who inherits a large fortune and needs to figure out how the world works. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for sixteen additional murky screenshots from the film's scenes at the theatre.
A view up Olive toward the Auditorium Building from Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity" (Paramount, 1944). The film stars Fred MacMurray as a gullible insurance executive and Barbara Stanwyck as the femme fatale. Thanks to Ed Savage for the screenshot. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for another shot showing the theatre.
In "The Outfit" (MGM, 1973) we get this view north on Olive St. with the Biltmore on the left. Across the street beyond is the San Carlos Hotel and Googie's coffee shop. The very beige Auditorium is on the right with part of the Subway Terminal Building up the block. The film, directed by John Flynn, stars Robert Duvall and Karen Black. Thanks to Jeffrey Carlson for the screenshot.
Travolta is back with his Saturday Night Fever character Tony Manero in Sylvester Stallone's "Staying Alive" (Paramount, 1983). He wants to become a dancer on Broadway. New York's Broadway, that is. We see the Orpheum for an audition sequence during the opening credits and lots of the Philharmonic Auditorium for another show. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for twenty additional screenshots from the film.
Looking across to house right. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo that they date as 1931.
A postcard of the house right boxes from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
A box detail from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. They give it a 1931 date.
A postcard view of the stage with the Sunday church set in place. The image appears on page 27 of the great Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres in Los Angeles" by Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Amy Ronnebeck Hall and Marc Wanamaker. Most of the photos in the book are from Mr. Wanamaker's Bison Archives. There's a preview of the book on Google Books.
This smaller but more colorful version of the church set card appears with Chapter 12, "Olive Street and 3rd Street," in Brent Dickerson's delightful epic "A Trip to Old Los Angeles." He also includes several other views of the auditorium.
A c.1934 look across the main floor from the Tom B'hend and Preston Kaufmann Collection, part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collection.
A view from a house right box. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.
A 1951 view from a proscenium box. It's a Herald Examiner photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
The rear of the auditorium as seen in a postcard from the collection of Brooklyn-based theatre historian Cezar Del Valle. It has a 1908 postmark. Keep up with Cezar's latest explorations on the Theatre Talks website or his Theatre Talks blog. There's a black and white version of the card in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
A 1923 photo of the 4,229 potential investors in the Palos Verdes Estates development project. Note Clune's projection booth at the rear of the main floor. The photo is from the Palos Verdes Peninsula Library District. Thanks to realtor Maureen Megowan for posting it on her Palos Verde Estates History page.
A wide angle view dated 1928. The photo from the California Historical Society appears on the USC Digital Library website.
A perhaps 1930s look to the rear of the house when it was filled with the followers of Paramahamsa Yogananda. That's the man himself circled in the lower right. A version of the photo appears on "A Pioneer of Yoga in the West," a page on the site of the Self Realization Fellowship.
An Otto Rothschild photo of the rear of the house in 1966. It's in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
A 30s dome detail in the Los Angeles Public Library collection that was once belonged to the MGM Art Department.
An undated view from one of the balconies that appears in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
A 1966 balcony view by Rothschild Photo. It's in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
A look down on to the stage. Note the hemp rigging. It's a 1962 photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
Would you believe that no photos have surfaced? Except this: a shot from a scene in the 1st balcony lobby from "Staying Alive." It was filmed in 1983. Two years later the theatre was gone. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more screenshots from the film.
Would you believe that no photos have surfaced? Except this: a shot from a scene in the 1st balcony lobby from "Staying Alive." It was filmed in 1983. Two years later the theatre was gone. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more screenshots from the film.
The recital hall:
An undated photo of the proscenium of the 650 seat hall from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
More exterior views:
Many of the early views are difficult to date. If you have any ideas or corrections, please leave a comment at the bottom of the post.
1906 - A March 27 construction photo showing formwork in place for the roof trusses and the wall along Olive St. It's from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The one on their site omits some scribbling on the top. Floyd Bariscale has the whole thing on Flickr.
1906 - A construction view from the Security Pacific Bank collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.
c.1906 - An early drawing of the building from the collection of Brooklyn-based theatre historian Cezar Del Valle. A caption noted that Sparks M. Berry was manager at the time. Keep up with Cezar's latest explorations on the Theatre Talks website or his Theatre Talks blog. Thanks, Cezar!
c. 1907 - A lovely look across the corner of Central Park. The card is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. That's a monument to the Spanish American War on the corner.
c.1907 - Patrons lined up for a show. It's a California Historical Society photo in the USC Digital Library collection. USC also has a very similar version of this one, also from the California Historical Society, under another URL.
c.1907 - A detail of the Olive St. facade from the USC photo.
1907 - Looking east on 5th St. It's a photo that appears on the Water and Power Associates Early Los Angeles City Views Page Two where they credit it to the Department of Water and Power collection. The photo can also be seen on the USC Digital Library website as being from the California Historical Society collection.
c.1908 - "Auditorium, Largest Concrete Building in the World..." It's a card with a 1909 postmark in Elizabeth Fuller's "Old Los Angeles Postcards" collection on Flickr. Thanks, Elizabeth! At last look she had 586 cards to browse.
1908 - Looking west on 5th toward the State Normal School. The building on the corner is the California Club, replaced in 1930 by the Security Title Building. It's a photo that appears on the Water and Power Associates Early Los Angeles City Views Page Two where they credit it to the discussion forum Noirish Los Angeles. The photo also appears in the California State Library collection where it's credited to Martin Behrman.
1908 - A detail from the Martin Behrman photo.
1908 - A panorama looking southeast that was taken by California Panorama Co. It's in the Library of Congress collection.
1908 - A detail from the panorama giving us a look at the top of the theatre. If you had wondered where the fan room was, there it is atop the stagehouse.
1909 - The stage end of the building shows up on the far left in this 1909 panorama looking northwest from 4th & Broadway. The photo by Chas. Z. Bailey is in the Library of Congress collection. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor R Carlton for posting the 1908 and 1909 panoramas (and others) on his Noirish post #9754.
1909 - A detail of the left end of Mr. Bailey's photo. That's Hill St. running left to right this side of the stagehouse.
c.1910 - An early postcard view. Thanks to Brian Michael McCray for sharing this one from his collection on the Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page.
c.1910 - Looking east on 5th. Check out that fine Sullivanesque ornament on the corner storefront. It's a card from Elizabeth Fuller's collection on Flickr.
The photo the card was based on is on the USC Digital Library website from the California Historical Society. In the actual photo there are letters stretched across the street reading "Robin Hood." It's evidently a photo by Martin Behrman.
c. 1910 - Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding this view looking up Olive St. It was a post on Photos of Los Angeles.
c.1912 - Looking west on 5th toward the State Normal School. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding this one.
c. 1912? - A card looking north across Central Park. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding it.
c.1913 - "Paris Grand Opera" signage seen atop the marquee as we look west on 5th. The building on the far right is the California Club, replaced in 1930 by the Title Guarantee Building. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Handsome Stranger for finding the photo on eBay and posting it (along with some other nice vintage views) on his Noirish post #4301.
c.1913 - A card looking north on Hill toward the tunnel. That's the California Club at the center of the image. The pointed tower of City Hall is over to the right on Broadway. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding this one.
c.1913 - A great view north across the park. The fountain in the center of the park dates from a 1910 redesign by John Parkinson. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the photo.
1913 - A lovely view east on 5th with the Auditorium Hotel, later renamed the San Carlos, on the left. The Auditorium itself is beyond. Thanks to Bill Gabel for finding the photo for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
More pre-1914 views: facade from the park - c.1905- USC | corner view - 1907 - California State Library | corner view postcard - undated - CSL | facade from the park - c.1910 - USC | east from Grand - top of west facade - c. 1910 - USC | distance view with mountains - Martin Behrman - c.1910 - CSL | corner view - c.1910 - LAPL | northwest from 2nd & Spring - c.1910 - LAPL | north on Olive from above - C.C. Pierce - 1913 - LAPL | across the park from above - 1913 - USC | through the park looking north - c.1913 - USC |
c.1914 - A look east on 5th after Billy Clune had taken over the theatre. It's a photo that appears on the Water and Power Associates Early City Views Page Two.
c.1914 - A detail from the previous photo.
c.1915 - A view of the Clune's roof sign from a building on 6th. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the photo.
c.1915 - A card from Elizabeth Fuller's terrific "Old Los Angeles Postcards" collection on Flickr.
c.1915 - A view from the soon-to-be-demolished State Normal School, now the site of the L.A. Central Library. Note on the far right the roof of the Auditorium and the two turrets that faced onto Olive St. The C.C. Pierce photo from the California Historical Society is in the USC Digital Library collection.
c. 1915 - A detail from the C.C. Pierce photo.
c.1915 - A panoramic view looking southeast from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The Auditorium, and the back of Clune's roof sign, are on the far right.
1915 - Looking east on 5th. It's a photo in the California State Library collection. The photo is also in the USC Digital Library collection from the California Historical Society.
1915 - A G. Haven Bishop photo from the Huntington Library showing the Auditorium lit up under Billy Clune's management. Somehow when the Philharmonic got the place in 1920 they didn't go in for this sort of thing. It's part of a set taken for the Southern California Edison Co.
1915 - A detail from the G. Haven Bishop photo giving us a closer look at the facade's stud lighting.
1915 - A detail of Clune's waterfall roof sign from the G. Haven Bishop photo.
c.1920 - A corner view that appears on the Water and Power Associates Early Los Angeles City Views Page Two where they credit it to the Los Angeles Public Library.
c.1920 - A look at the Clune's signage from across the park. It's a Martin Behrman photo in the California State Library collection.
c.1920 - Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating this card for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
1920 - A lovely view west on 5th toward Clune's. The monument we see here in the northeast corner of the park is to the Spanish American War. The park was renamed Pershing Square in 1918. That's a touring car for hire to Pasadena parked at the curb. The photo appears on the site Shorpy. Also see the high resolution version.
1920 - A detail from the Shorpy photo. The theatre is playing "The Confession," a January release with Henry Walthall. Mr. Walthall had been the star and an uncredited assistant director on "Birth of a Nation," which played a big engagement at the theatre in 1915 under its earlier title "The Clansman."
1920 - A detail of the top of the building from the Shorpy photo.
early 1920s - A view of the rear of the building. We're on Hill at the Pacific Electric Hill St. Station before construction of the Subway Terminal Building. The view is southwest toward 5th & Olive. Note that the framework for the Clune's sign is still on top of the building. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo. Two additional Hill St. Station views are on Tourmaline's Noirish Los Angeles post #16126.
1920s? - An Auditorium Hotel postcard. The building, later called the San Carlos Hotel, opened in 1911. It was on the northwest corner of 5th & Olive, in the block west of the theatre. It was a design of Otto Neher (part of the Auditorium team) and Chauncey Fitch Skilling.
c.1924 - An aerial view from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The Biltmore (1923) is there but the lot to the west is still vacant. The Central Library would open there in 1926. Note the water tank at the bottom just right of center. It's on the stagehouse of the Metropolitan/Paramount Theatre (1923).
c.1925 - A postcard in the California State Library collection. The vertical sign has been redone to say "Philharmonic Auditorium."
c.1925 - Looking east on 5th in a view from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The building on the right across Hill St., the Pershing Square Building, opened in 1924.
c.1925 - A Shriners parade on Olive St. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.
c.1927 - A corner view from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
1927 - A parade view north on Olive. It's a photo in the UCLA Digital Library collection. Thanks to Ken McIntyre spotting it for a post on Photos of Los Angeles.
1930s - It's a card from the Brian Michael McCray collection appearing on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles. Brian comments: "Do you know what they did with all that vegetation when they dug out the garage in 1951? Sold it to Walt to put in "The Jungle Cruise" where it exists today."
On the left, the Biltmore opened in 1923, a design by the New York firm Schultz & Weaver. They also did the Biltmore Theatre around the corner on 5th and the Jonathan Club on Figueroa St. The building to the right of the Auditorium with the flag is the Title Guarantee Building, a 1930 design by Parkinson and Parkinson. Across Hill St. farther to the right, the brown building is the Pershing Square Building, dating from 1924.
1930s - A postcard from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
c.1939 - Looking west on 5th toward the Auditorium's new facade. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the photo for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. Joe Vogel notes that across Olive the San Carlos Hotel still has its original facade.
1940s? - North across Pershing Square. Note Claud Beelman's 1938 vintage moderne facade on the Auditorium. It's a card in the Elizabeth Fuller collection on Flickr.
1940s - A Temple Baptist Church card from Jeffrey Carlson's collection.
1940s - North on Olive. It's a card from Elizabeth Fuller's great collection on Flickr. Thanks, Elizabeth!
1948 - Looking south on Olive toward 5th on a smoggy day in January. It's a L.A. Examiner photo in the USC Digital Library collection.
1948 - A view east on 5th. The marquee is advertising the July world premiere of the opera "Magdalena." Thanks to Sean Ault for locating the photo in the RTD collection.
1948 - The 5th St. entrance. Note a bit of the neon for the San Carlos Hotel in the next block. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.
c.1950 - Protestors at a concert by opera singer Kirsten Flagstad denouncing "Norwegian Axis Sally." It's a photo from the Southern California Center for Social Studies and Research in the USC Digital Library collection. The USC site comments: "During World War II, Flagstad returned to her native Norway, then-occupied by the Nazis. Flagstand's husband collaborated with the Nazis and after the war was arrested for being a war profiteer. Although Flagstad was not involved with Nazi activities, and refused to sing for the Germans, many people denounced her as a Nazi collaborator."
1951 - A view east on 5th to check out the marquee on that side of the building. The photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
1951 - Clearing the park to dig it out for the underground parking garage. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the photo.
1952 - Fans lined up for a Judy Garland Concert. It's a L.A. Examiner photo, one of ten in a set in the USC Digital Library.
c.1955? - A retouched look at the building from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The buildings to the right have vanished. What's interesting is that on the far left it gives us a rare view of Claud Beelman's modernized Olive St. facade.
1958 - Lining up to buy tickets for Meredith Willson's "The Music Man." It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.
1960 - Looking west toward the Biltmore. Note the "Auditorium Bldg." vertical on the corner of the theatre building. The San Carlos Hotel is in the block beyond. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the photo.
1962 - Looking east on 5th with the Biltmore Theatre on the right. It's a William Reagh photo in the California State Library collection.
1963 - A great look down Olive from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
1965 - A lovely view north across Pershing Square toward the Auditorium. It's on the Neat Stuff Blog in a 2009 post called "Vintage Los Angeles." The photo is credited to "nicepictures," a seller on eBay. Note the "Auditorium Bldg." vertical on the left side of the building.
1966 - A William Reagh photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
1966 - Another William Reagh photo from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
1984 - A California Historical Society photo in the USC Digital Library collection. The photo is also in the California State Library collection.
1970s? - A look north across the park. Ken McIntyre found the photo for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
1985 - A facade view by William Reagh that's in the California State Library collection.
1985 - The view east on 5th toward the doomed theatre. The Biltmore Theatre used to be on the right where we see the parking lot. It's a William Reagh photo in the California State Library collection.
1985 - The exciting new parking lot. The William Reagh photo is in the California State Library collection.
2016 - Excavation for the Park Fifth project finally began on the site in August. Thanks to Morgan Terrinoni for his photo appearing as a September 1 post the DTLA Development Facebook page. We're looking east toward Hill St. with the Security Title Building on the right at 5th and Hill. See the post for a fascinating array of comments and photos about the remains of the Auditorium unearthed during the dig.
2016 - A look west toward the sidewalk along Olive, at the left where the orange fencing is. At the right is the Subway Terminal Building, now a loft complex known as Metro 417. We're standing about where the upstage left corner of the stage was. Thanks to Hunter Kerhart for his September photo. Keep up with his latest explorations: www.HunterKerhart.com | on Facebook
October 2018 - Looking north toward the new project. Photo: Bill Counter
October 2018 - A closer look at the corner. Photo: Bill Counter
November 2019 - The nearly completed building on the Auditorium's site. Photo: Bill Counter
More information: Floyd B. Bariscale on Big Orange Landmarks has done a fine series of articles about the history of various Los Angeles buildings that have been given City landmark designation. See his Philharmonic Auditorium article for interesting photos and a nice history.
See the Cinema Treasures page for a great history by Joe Vogel, a lively discussion by various contributors, and links to many photos of the Pershing Square area. Curbed L.A. ran a nice story in August 2013 featuring over 30 views of Pershing Square over the years.
On the Ann Dvorak blog, see a post about "Ramona" at Clune's Auditorium. Nathan Marsak has an article on the New Auditorium Hotel, later the San Carlos Hotel, on the site On Bunker Hill.
See the L.A. Times 2011 story "Mildred Pierce remembers downtown L.A.'s Philharmonic Auditorium" about re-creating a visit to the theatre for the mini-series. Unfortunately, they didn't use a Los Angeles theatre.
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