DispL.A. Case #72: Bullocks Wilshire Tea Set

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The history of Los Angeles as told through 232 objects.



Los Angeles was founded on September 4, 1781. Between now and the 232nd anniversary, we are gathering the stories behind iconic objects that help explain our city. Los Angeles is older than Chicago, Atlanta or Washington, D.C. In fact, when L.A.’s founders were gathering at El Pueblo, New York City was still occupied by the British army. We have a long story to tell, let’s take a look back and see where the city came from. Feel free to add to this exhibition. Email your ideas to askchris@lamag.com

The ladies who lunch lunched at Bullocks Wilshire. The grand art deco department store instantly became the city’s most elegant shopping emporium the day it opened in September of 1929. Seven floors of sophisticated salons offering gowns and furs, but also gems and minerals, Steuben glass, Of course it had a beauty parlor, of course they had fashion shows, sure they’ll polish your silver. Up in the John Parkinson-designed tower, on the fifth floor, was the epitome of graceful afternoon dining, the Bullocks Wilshire Tea Room. Dishes like Bombay Salad and Crab Rarebit were afternoon staples for generations of urbane shoppers. After a series of corporate takeovers, Macy’s declared bankruptcy and closed the store in 1993, while plundering artwork, furniture, and decorative items for their San Francisco offices. The following year, Southwestern Law School embarked on an award winning restoration of the building as a law library. One day a year they open the tearoom to the public and serve the classic Bullocks menu. The crowds are immense – and we have been asked not to publish the date.

 

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