Friday, June 7, 2002
Southwestern University School of Law to Offer Tour Of Bullocks Wilshire Tea Room Tomorrow
Historic Facility to Remain Open to Public Through Summer
By NAZANIN AGANGE, Staff Writer
Southwestern University School of Law reopens the doors of the historic Bullocks Wilshire building—now the school’s law library—to the public tomorrow.
The Tea Room will remain open to the public during the summer.
The school’s Tea and Tour at the landmark Art Deco department store marks the third tour of the building since it was reopened in 1997 as the university’s law library. The first public tour was given in 1999.
Bullocks Wilshire was built in 1929 by John Bullock and P.G. Winnett when the mid-Wilshire district was largely residential. The building, with its 241-foot tower, topped with a search-light and unique rear-entrance and parking lot, was one of the first Art Deco buildings in the Los Angeles-area.
Its rich history is punctuated by its glamorous beginnings when it served as the department store of the rich and famous. University spokeswoman, Carolyn Ziegler-Davenport notes that Clark Gable and John Wayne bought riding clothes at the store’s Saddle Boutique and Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst shopped at the store after closing for lavish parties to be held at Hearst Castle in San Simeon.
The store began to have economic problems as competition increased around it. Ken Bernstein, director of preservation issues for the Los Angeles Conservancy, said the 1992 riots took a great economic toll on the struggling store. Though the upper floors had been sealed off, the first floor of the building was completely ransacked, Ziegler-Davenport said.
The store closed its doors to shoppers in 1993 and Macy’s, its owner at that time, declared bankruptcy.
Southwestern purchased the building in 1994 and restoration began almost immediately. The building has been returned mostly to its 1929 décor and furnishings, Ziegler-Davenport said.
“We had the opportunity to have a really beautiful campus with [the Bullocks Wilshire that sits across the street] as its centerpiece,” Ziegler-Davenport commented.
The school, which had been looking to expand its campus, had money in reserve and purchased the building in 1994 for $4.8 million and the land, which was owned by California Institute of Technology, for $3.7 million, Ziegler-Davenport said.
This tour marks the first time the third and fourth floors, which are classrooms and faculty offices now, will be open to the public.
The first and second floors, where the law library is located, have both been restored their 1929-era design, Ziegler-Davenport said. The men’s furnishing department on the first floor, decorated in a Frank Lloyd Wright theme, retains its original display cases. Instead of wristwatches and cufflinks, the cases now display the university’s archival information and information on notable alumni, which includes former mayor Tom Bradley and the longest serving California Supreme Court justice, the late Stanley Mosk, Ziegler-Davenport said.
The period rooms of the second floor, where the ladies boutiques were located, have also been restored to their original style and retain the reliefs and artwork that made them famous.
The school’s library is the second largest private, academic law library in the state. It occupies 83,000 square feet and holds 428,000 volumes.
The Tea Room, on the fifth floor, has been rid of its 1960’s peacock wallpaper and cabbage-print carpeting, Ziegler-Davenport said. Though much of the original furniture was gone, pieces were recreated based on photos, she continued. Visitors with reservations may have lunch or tea in the room after the tour.
Restoration efforts have cost in excess of $20 million dollars, Ziegler-Davenport said. The funds came from the university as well as private donors.
The university expected 110 visitors on Saturday and said there are still tour spaces available in the afternoon.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company