I really hate when people move to Los Angeles from the East Coast and immediately start complaining about the lack of history and culture here. I was born and raised in the greater LA area and I know it has more to offer than Pinkberry, Ugg Boots and cocaine.
But listen, I agree. At first, LA can seem like a vapid piece of disgusting garbage. But you know what? There are actually a ton of hidden gems that make this city just a tad more bearable. You just have to look for them. And as any good hipster knows, when you find something that not many other people know about, it’s like automatically growing a mustache.
The Los Angeles Central Library is located in the heart of downtown LA. It’s just one of the many public libraries in the greater Los Angeles area. The Central Branch was constructed at the turn of the century in 1923. Architect, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, designed it. However, Goodhue died midway through construction and none other than architect Carlton Winslow, took over. I swear to god that I am not making that up.
The theme of the library is “The Torch of Wisdom” or “The Light of Knowledge,” depending on translation. With the original 1923 tile still intact, the outside of this building is a truly wonderful sight.
I decided to go downtown to the library to see what I could find. And other than a place that seemed like a transient hotel for homeless people, I learned that the library provided free walking tours every day except Sunday at 12:30 p.m. FREE! And you thought the only thing free in LA was that cold sore you got from that dude at Chateau Marmont.
The tour was being lead by a nice, older woman who informed us that the library still had most of its original lighting fixtures and furniture.
However, there were some items that were destroyed in the fire. Yeah, a FIRE. Turns out in 1986 some homeless crazy set fire to the library destroying over 400,000 books and the library was shut down for 7 years until 1993. Some of the ceilings even still show signs of smoke and water damage. Probably just like Lindsay Lohan’s lungs.
In 1993 a new branch was added on to the existing library and was dedicated to Mayor Tom Bradley. The wing is called – you guessed it – the Tom Bradley building. Man, that guy better have saved like 100 baby puppies or something. Now, I’m not going to lie, I’m a sucker for old buildings so this one constructed in 1993 is not as spectacular to me. Like, the 1923 wing is the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and the Tom Bradley wing is like Johnny Depp doing a Michael Jackson impression with no face.
To me, the beauty of the original building is how the historic, architectural elements have archived a time in history when the building was constructed.
(Interesting fact, during WW2 the library officials took down the chandelier for fear of enemy invasion.)
“That you can have your name engraved on for only $5,000 dollars,” the tour guide mentioned. Yeah, right. One time I gave a homeless person $5 dollars and I was mad at myself for weeks.
So, next time you and your friends are at brunch complaining about how there’s no history in LA, and you’d move back to New York in a heart beat, but as an actor that would be career suicide, head down to the Los Angeles Central Library for a free walking tour. Or just go and get lost in the hallways with a good book. And yes, I really just wrote, “get lost in the hallways with a good book” I officially hate myself.
Other Notable Branches Worth Checking Out:
Silver Lake Library – 2411 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039
Hollywood Library – 1623 N. Ivar Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Cahuenga Library – 4591 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90029
Featured image via.