Monday, September 1, 2014

City Hall Dome of Beverly Hills--and An Amazing Picture Source!

Last week's Mosaic Monday post featured the tiled dome of a church just outside Beverly Hills. It led a friend to mention to me that the dome atop Beverly Hills City Hall is a mosaic, so why not feature that?

Absolutely. See how beautiful it is?

The tower is eight stories high, of reinforced concrete finished with cement plaster and terra cotta, and is part of the 1932 City Hall designed by William Gage and Harry Koerner. The picture at right was taken late that year (the City Hall opened for business in April, with great fanfare and speeches by Will Rogers and William Collier Sr.) and is from the Water and Power Associates' page.

DIGRESSION: That page has dozens of historic pictures! Of the building of the Griffith Observatory and the Times Building, and :

  • The Orpheum Theatres 1 and 4, as well as the Vogue Theatre

  • The Rancho La Brea (Gilmore) Adobe

  • The Wilshire Tower and Silverwoods, as well as Bob's Air Mail Service Station on Wilshire

  • Pan Pacific Auditorium--inside and out, through the years
  • Little Joe's, the Plaza Church in the 30s, Victorian mansions on Main . . .so much more.

  • The Earl Carroll Theatre, including the showgirls

And that's just maybe half of one page. The Water and Power Associates historical collection is like a museum, except that you don't need to drive anywhere, walk, or pay an entry fee. Wow. I'll go back there for future posts, I promise. End digression.

Now, back to the Beverly Hills City Hall, at 455 N. Rexford Drive.

To quote from the city's webiste

"Architect William Gage created the Spanish Renaissance building in typical government style of that era."

I must pause to snort because the statement sounds--sorry--ridiculous. "That era," if I may be so crass, was the beginning of the Depression. Even if it weren't, the idea of an eight-story tower topped by a gold-trimmed--gold!--cupola being typical of any city anywhere else strains credibility.

Which doesn't mean it isn't beautiful! It absolutely is gorgeous, stunning, and a landmark that the city is rightfully proud of. Just please stop saying it's typical.

In fact, the Los Angeles Times said of the building (back in 1932) that it was "the largest and most costly City Hall of any municipality its size in the country,"

Who actually designed the glazed tile dome? Not sure. W. E. Shephard Co. and Heinsbergen Decorating Co. are listed as the Decorating Contractors, so it may be them (there are separate credits for bronze work, special lighting fixtures, terra cotta work, and terrazzo floors).

By the 1930s, Beverly Hills had become the favored real estate of Hollywood's elite. Pickfair and Greenacres sat there--the homes of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, and of Harold Lloyd, respectively. Such a city would spare no expense for it's municipal buildings! The City Hall, even back then, was part of a Civic Center complex that included the police and fire department headquarters, a library, and gardens designed by Seymour Thomas.

The dome was cleaned and the entire building renovated and brought up to current codes and earthquake standards in the 1980s. Ten years later, a new Civic Center was dedicated, with some new buildings, designed by Charles Willard Moore and his firm, Urban Innovations Group. The expanded gardens and complex include tiled arcades that evoke the dome's patterns. The entire package cost $110 million.

More pictures of the dome and photos of the other City Hall fixtures and features, the ceiling, etc. can be seen on the Just Above Sunset blog.

This last picture (at right) is NOT of the City Hall dome. It's from the SmartMeetings blog, and is credited to Bebe Jacobs.

The photo was taken from and of the Montage Hotel on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills, built in 2008, and shows the impact that the City Hall design has had on the city. The "imitation dome"of that luxury hotel is lovely in its own right, the dome and cupola really more of an homage than a copy of the city's 1932 dome.

In fact, Montage's website claims the hotel was inspired by the Spanish colonial architecture of the area, and is "reminiscent of the Golden Age of California." Montage features a Rooftop Grill with a view of the dome (which is not as tall as City Hall's) as well as roof top pools and cabanas.

A picture at the Ohaha Real Estate page shows both domes in perspective, in golden light.

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