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Temple Theatre

158 N. Spring St., 155 N. Main St. Los Angeles, CA 90012 | map |


Opened: 1859 by John Temple as the Market House, a two story brick structure designed to house a city market on the ground floor and a theatre on the second floor. This c.1886 photo taken on Spring St. by W.H. Fletcher is in the California State Library collection. That's the south end of the Temple Block on the left. 

Equivalent addresses before the street renumbering of the 1890s would have been 58 N. Spring, 55 N. Main. While the building was under construction, the July 30, 1859 issue of the Los Angeles Star noted in an article located by Brent Dickerson that the clock tower was to rise sixty five feet above the roof. The bell of the clock weighed 700 pounds. 

Architect: W. Dearien was both architect and contractor.

The building was reported to have cost upward of $40,000. It had primary entrances on both Main and Spring and occupied an entire small block with entrances also on Court St. to the south and Market St. to the north. Spring at the time curved east to join Main at Temple St. The City was initial lessee of the first floor market, occupying the space starting October 1, 1859 on a ten year lease. They leased out the various stalls via an auction with some later complaints as to how the tenants were determined. At the time of the building's opening the upstairs was just a bare hall.

The Los Angeles Star reported on February 18, 1860: "The large hall over the City Market, is being fitted up as a theatre. The stage is forty-five by twenty feet; with a private box on each side. The scenery is being painted by an artist brought from San Francisco for the purpose, under whom the decorations of the house are to be executed. The accommodations for the public are comfortable; the gallery consists of two tiers of raised benches; the parquetted to be furnished with arm chairs. From present appearances, it will be a very neat and commodious theatre, creditable to the enterprising proprietor, John Temple, Esq." Thanks to Brent Dickerson for finding this article as well as doing other research on the building. He's shared his notes on Noirish Los Angeles post #47763.

The theatre was later reported to be small and poorly ventilated although the armchairs and benches used for seating were viewed with approval. Evidently the space was used as a theatre only for about two years.

The upstairs became City Hall in 1861 on a rental basis but within a year the City moved out and it became the County Courthouse. John Temple died in 1866. The executor of his estate sold the building that year for $14,000 to J.S. Griffin and B.D. Wilson who re-sold it to the County. They used it until 1891. J.A. Bullard bought it from the county in 1894 and initially just wanted to pull down the tower and convert the building into a rooming house. The August 21 Los Angeles Herald had the story. He ended up demolishing the building c.1895 and replacing it with the J.A. Bullard Building, also known as the Bullard Block.

Status: During the City Hall construction project of the 20s Spring St. was straightened out and extended north. The Market St. and Court St. blocks that were between Main and Spring have vanished. City Hall is now on the site of the Market House. 



This detail from plate 003 of the 1910 Baist Real Estate Survey from Historic Map Works shows the Market House replaced by the Bullard Building. The diagonal through the middle is Spring St., Temple St. is on the right edge. Note the other Temple Block structures to the north.

The Cineograph, earlier the Tivoli Theatre and the New Vienna Buffet, is there on Court St. across from where the Market House had been. Also note Fischer's Theatre on 1st St. between Spring and Main.



c.1865 - A look at the Main St. end of the Market House with Market St. on the right. The theatre was up on the second floor. The photo appears on the Water and Power Associates Museum page "Early Los Angeles Historical Buildings (1800s)" where they credit it to the Los Angeles Public Library. The USC Digital Library collection also has a version of the photo. 



c.1869 - A detail from a panorama taken by a Mr. Rendall with the Market House building in the center. The photo appears on the Water and Power Associates Museum page "Early Los Angeles Historical Buildings (1800s)" where they credit it to the Huntington Library.

We're looking east. From the left it's the Temple Block, Market St., the Market House and Court St. On this side of the Market House behind the stables in the foreground it's Spring St. Main St. is on the far side. The full panorama is on the USC Digital Library website in a version with most of the buildings of the city nicely numbered.  Note on the south end of the Temple Block the absence of a fancy blaustrade on the parapet that's seen in later photos.



c.1870 - Looking south from Temple St. at the Temple Block and the clock of the Market House beyond. Main St. is on the left. There's already been one three-story addition to the Temple Block with a "photographic gallery" on the side. The two-story 1857 adobe portion nearest us would be removed in 1871 to make way for another more elaborate three story addition. The photo is from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

More Temple Block images in the LAPL collection: 1876 north facade detail | Spring St. facade - undated C.C. Pierce photo | 1890 north facade - and a bit of Spring St. | Main St. drawing - undated | c.1905 view - with the Market House clock tower beyond | 20s view south on Main - including the Bullard Building | a similar 20s view south | demolition | another demo photo |



c.1875 - Looking south on Main St. with the Temple Block in the distance on the left. The new addition has sprung up on the north end of the block. A bit of the Market House clock tower peeks over the top. Thanks to Doug Simmons for finding the photo for a post on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.



c.1879 - Looking northwest at the Main St. end of the building. At the left we're looking along Court St., a side of the building that would later get a little one-story annex. At the right we're seeing part of the Market St. end of the Temple Block. The photo appears on the Water and Power Associates Museum page "Early Los Angeles Historical Buildings (1800s)" where they credit it to the Los Angeles Public Library.



c.1887 - A view to the northeast with the various chunks of the Temple Block on the left. Spring St. is in the foreground. The photo appears on the Water and Power Associates Museum page "Early Los Angeles Historical Buildings (1800s)." Noirish Los Angeles Contributor Flying Wedge notes that behind the clock tower we can see the U.S. Hotel over on Main St., rebuilt in 1886-1887. Also noted is a sign on the canopy of the Temple Block for Pacific Truck and Transfer at 9 Market St, a firm not at this location until 1887. This and many other Temple Block photos are nicely analyzed on Noirish post #47657.



c.1887 - Looking south toward the new Temple Block additions. That's Spring St. where the streetcars are curving off to the right. The large building in the foreground is the Downey Block, later the site of the Post Office. The photo by J.B. Blanchard is in the California State Library collection. 



1891 - We're on the Main St. end of the building with Market St. on the right. It's a photo from the California State Library collection, one of four views of the building in their set #001385000. Also see another photo from Main St. in the Library's collection. Noirish Los Angeles Contributor Flying Wedge spotted a poster on the building advertising an August 1891 balloon ascension and parachute jump that was also advertised in the August 2 L.A. Herald. Also on the building are posters for the Lyceum Theatre Company and "The Charity Ball." See the discussion on Noirish post #47657.



1891 - A Spring St. view from the California State Library set #001385000. That's Court St. on the right. There are also three takes of a cropped version of this from the California Historical Society on the USC Digital Library website.  



1891 - On the right a peek over to the New Vienna Buffet on Court St. That building had opened in 1890 as the Tivoli Theatre. As the New Vienna it had a scandalous reputation and after much crusading in the newspapers it was forced to close. In 1902 it reopened as a film house called the Cineograph. One later use was as a Chinese theatre. It's a photo from the California State Library set #001385000.



c.1903 - A look north on Spring from 1st St. toward Hamburger's Department Store and the curve around toward Main St. In 1908 Hamburger's would move to a new building at 8th and Broadway. The Temple Block is out of sight around the curve. Centered in the distance, looking like it's in the middle of the street, is the Baker Block on the east side of Main St. The California Historical Society photo appears on the USC Digital Library website. They date it c.1880-1889. Thanks to Carol Momsen for finding the photo in the collection for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.



c.1910 - A lovely postcard view south from Sebi Garcia on the Facebook page Historical Pictures of Los Angeles. On the left looking down Main you can see the Bullard Building, on the site of the Market House / Temple Theatre. That's the main Post Office on the right side of the image. Also from Mr. Garcia is a slightly different Temple Square card showing more of the Post Office.



c.1925 - The vista looking north on Main along the east side of the Temple Block. Just beyond the corner that's the Post Office at Main, Spring and Temple St. Thanks to Robert Kraus for finding the photo.



c.1925 - Looking south along Main St. from Temple. That taller building down just beyond the corner of Market St. is the Bullard Building, on the site of  the Market Block / Temple Theatre. The photo was once on Historical Pictures of Los Angeles Facebook page but has vanished from there.



1927 - The new City Hall rises behind the soon-to-be-demolished Temple buildings. The photo is from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



2019 - Looking south from Temple and Main. Photo: Bill Counter



2019 - Market St. has vanished. The green door is about where the steps on the Main St. end of the Market House / Temple Theatre would have been. Photo: Bill Counter 

More information: John Temple had opened his grocery store in 1828 on the west side of Spring street where it met Main. In 1848 he replaced that with a more solid adobe structure, the original Temple Block. This site, just north of Temple St., became the Downey Block after Temple's death and, later, the site of the main Post Office.

In 1857 he continued his building spree with a 2 story adobe structure, the New Temple Block, on the east side of Spring, just south of the Main St. intersection. The Market House was added on the block south of the New Temple Block in 1859. Further additions to the Temple Block occurred in 1868, 1870 and 1871. The clock tower of the Market House was still visible behind the newer buildings to the north. The whole mess was called Temple Square. Temple died in 1866. The street is named for him.

See the "Main Street Part 1," "Spring Street Part 1" and "New High Street...Broadway Part 1"  chapters of  Brent Dickerson's "A Visit to Old Los Angeles" for a fine exploration of some of the Temple buildings and the surrounding neighborhood. The book "Gentle Artist of The San Gabriel Valley" has some additional information about Temple.

"The Herald's History of Los Angeles" and "Los Angeles From the Mountains to The Sea" both give a chronology of Mr. Temple's building spree and mention the the Market House location. They're on Google Books.

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