Four of L.A.’s Iconic Midcentury Buildings Are Currently Under Threat

These local gems could be torn down for new development

The L.A. City Council recently voted to permit the demolition of Parker Center, which served as the LAPD’s headquarters for decades. Designed by Welton Becket, the man behind the Cinerama Dome and the Capitol Records building, Parker Center is considered a midcentury icon by preservationists. Here are some other structures they’re fretting about.

Lytton Savings

Illustration by Peter Hoey

Bart Lytton was a B-grade screenwriter who switched to the home loan business in the 1950s. Featuring a “folded plate” roof, marble and glass walls, and integrated artwork, his Kurt Meyer-designed headquarters at Sunset and Crescent Heights also served as a museum and cultural center. The company went under in 1967, and a shopping center was eventually built on the parklike grounds. A Chase Bank currently occupies the building, and plans to replace it with a mixed-use tower by Frank Gehry were stopped by a judge in April.

Covina Bowl

Illustration by Peter Hoey

The architecture firm Powers, Daly & DeRosa wanted to demonstrate what could be achieved with a modernist suburban pin palace. A hybrid of ’50s modern and Egyptian styles, it combined 50 bowling lanes with, at one time or another, a restaurant, nightclub, pool hall, beauty parlor, playroom, and banquet center under a spectacular pyramid of folded stucco with a zigzag porte cochere that rests on stone pylons. The complex, declared eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 2015, closed in March; its future is unclear.

Home Savings and Loan

Illustration by Peter Hoey

Artist and architect Millard Sheets designed more than 40 branches for Home Savings and Loan from the 1950s through the 1990s. His distinctive white marble buildings were rich with mosaics, stained glass, and sculpture, often in modernist forms created by Albert Stewart, David Svenson, and Betty Davenport Ford. The Santa Monica branch, built in 1970 at 26th and Wilshire, closed in 2000 and was repurposed into a retail space. Though the property has landmark status, a developer still intends to replace it.

Metropolitan Water District

Illustration by Peter Hoey

William Pereira and Charles Luckman designed more than 400 buildings, including the LAX Theme Building (see page 20), before splitting up. Pereira’s 1963 Metropolitan Water District headquarters, near Echo Park, was a sleek modernist office complex with fountains and concrete sunshades. After the MWD left in 1993, the crumbling compound became home to a church, and an addition was turned into an apartment tower in 2014. Now there’s a proposal to raze Pereira’s original work to make way for a second apartment tower.