Is There Buried Treasure in Downtown Los Angeles?


The site of a long-demolished building site at 1st and Broadway is being dug up this month for an expansion of Grand Park. The corner was home to the Los Angeles Times building when it was bombed in 1910, and later to an art deco tower that housed California state offices. That structure was damaged in the 1971 Sylmar earthquake so artwork and other WPA-era treasures were stored in the basement, which was retained when the building came down in 1974. Concrete and marble rubble languished there for 40 years until the bulldozers moved in a few weeks ago. I alerted Councilman Jose Huizar’s office to old newspaper reports of buried treasure and they assure me that nothing remains. I’ve talked to others in the city (Councilman Tom LaBonge offered to spelunk down there himself) and made contact with the state, but the whereabouts of the chandeliers, paneling, and “art nouveau décor” hidden below remain unknown. Flickr user Hunter DTLA went exploring in the exposed basement recently and it looks pretty empty. Where did the treasures go? “X” Marks the spot.


State Building Foundation Site on Flickr


Photo by Ron Reiring

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  • Brady Westwater

    Evidently, I am the only person left in LA who keeps track of things like this. They murals were stolen by the politicians up in Sacramento.
    California, Flags, Beauty and History
    The Lucile Lloyd Mural, The Origin and Development of the Name of the State of California, is permanently installed in the John L. Burton Hearing Room behind the dais.

    On October 16, 1937 three murals painted by Lucile Lloyd were unveiled at the State Building in Mural SealLos Angeles. Commissioned specifically for the building through a Great Depression -Era program (the WPA), they remained on view for 38 years. The building was torn down for safety reasons in 1975. Fortunately, the murals were saved and in 1991, the Senate Rules Committee had them restored and installed in the California Room, recently rededicated The John L. Burton Hearing room, in honor of former Senate President pro tempore John Burton.

    In a sweeping panorama, the three panels tell the history of the name of California. The two side panels portray important flags that have flown over the state. The central panel shows the history and development of the state through the Spanish Mexican and American eras. Realistic figures trace the state’s history, and vivid, colorful images illustrate the state’s unique natural beauty and resources.

  • Nathan Marsak

    And thank you for keeping track of these things, Mr Westwater! I would point out two things, though: it’s perhaps heavy-handed to say the murals were “stolen” by Sacramento as they were originally installed in the California State Building and being reinstalled in the California State Senate seems therefore appropriate. This point also begs the question, where were the murals between 1975 and 1991?

    Because, point two: the artifacts of which Mr Nichols speaks, as written of in contemporary news accounts, are not murals, but chandeliers and marble and paneling and “art nouveau decor” — “all these pieces are being stored in the basement, which will be sealed and covered with earth at ground level until the time comes for a new building to go up.”

    As you may be aware, nobody has kept track of these things, and what seems to remain as the basement is days shy of demolition (the recent brouhaha over what may be the Times Building foundation is south of that site).