Pierce Brothers Mortuary | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Jean Frost/West Adams Heritage Association

Pierce Brothers Mortuary

In 2019, the City of Los Angeles’s Office of Historic Resources approved plans for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the historic mortuary for senior housing and construction commenced in April 2020. The Conservancy intervened following a series of arson fires that damaged the building, bringing in a structural engineer to advise on preservation options.

The adaptive reuse project reconstructs and rehabilitates the historic mortuary paired with new construction for senior housing.

As with many historic properties that remain vacant for extended periods, the Pierce Brothers Mortuary became increasingly vulnerable to arson. The historically significant property, which was the first full-service funeral home built in Los Angeles, is a designated Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM). Until the property owner adequately secures and stabilizes the building, this is a case of demolition by neglect. The Conservancy and community groups are concerned about further damage that can occur. 

The fires caused extensive damage to the structure, but discussions are taking place on saving as much of the historic structure as possible. The Conservancy worked with the West Adams Heritage Association (WAHA) to help assess the condition of the building and offer recommendations for stabilization. The Department of Building and Safety red-tagged the structure, deeming it too unsafe to enter or occupy.

Given the severity of the fires and the significance of the property, the Conservancy encouraged the property owner and the Department of Building and Safety to thoroughly consider all options and not rush to the conclusion that complete demolition is warranted.

Because the property is designated as an HCM, the city's Office of Historic Resources and Cultural Heritage Commission must review any decisions regarding its treatment. 

“Demolition by Neglect” is the term used to describe a situation in which a property owner intentionally allows a historic property to suffer severe deterioration, potentially beyond the point of repair. Property owners may use this kind of long-term neglect to circumvent historic preservation regulations.

Intentional neglect and allowing a property to remain unsecured is sometimes a strategy used by an owner(s) who want to develop the property, free of any historic buildings. Intervening, stabilizing and eventually rehabilitation of Pierce Brothers depends on what action the City decides to take, if at all.