Lou Ehlers Cadillac | Los Angeles Conservancy
Demolition underway. Photo from L.A. Conservancy archives

Lou Ehlers Cadillac

The mid-century classic Lou Ehlers Cadillac showroom at 5151 Wilshire Boulevard was demolished in July 2008, along with the annex across Wilshire and the adjoining Bob's Big Boy restaurant.

Demolition began July 3, 2008, just days after new owner Sonic Automotive closed the dealership and a few days after the Conservancy contacted Sonic to request a meeting to discuss alternatives to demolition. Our call was not returned.

Opened in 1955, the Lou Ehlers showroom was designed by the noted firm of Stiles Clements Associate Architects. Floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows gave passing motorists and pedestrians unobstructed views of the showroom floor, while the use of Cadillac’s logo for immense script signage on the building’s exterior attracted customers from afar.

The Conservancy and its Modern Committee have long considered the building to be one of the three most significant postwar auto showrooms remaining in Los Angeles, along with Casa de Cadillac in Sherman Oaks and Felix Chevrolet near the University of Southern California’s University Park campus.

Sonic constructed new facilities on both sides of Wilshire for the relocation of Beverly Hills BMW, including a new showroom and auto service center on the main Ehlers site and a three-story sales office and car lots on the south side.

The neighborhood associations representing the south and north sides of Wilshire along this stretch had contacted ModCom to discuss potential landmark nominations for the showroom buildings and Bob's Big Boy restaurant, a late design by the renowned firm of Armet and Davis. One community group voted in late June 2008 to nominate the auto showroom for Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) status, but demolition started as a consultant was preparing the nomination.

An emergency HCM nomination was submitted on July 7, but the building had been largely destroyed by the time it was considered by the Cultural Heritage Commission on July 17.