The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures / May Company Wilshire
Now the home of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, this former premiere department store building is the grandest example of Streamline Moderne architecture remaining in Los Angeles.
The Conservancy’s Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) designation of the May Company building paved its adaptive reuse as the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Los Angeles, California 90036
After decades as a premiere shopping destination, this unique landmark faced demolition in 1991 for a massive new development project. The L.A. Conservancy successfully landmarked the building as a Historic-Cultural Monument, saving the building and paving the way for its adaptive reuse as the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
This stunning adaptive reuse project was recognized with a 2022 Preservation Award from the Conservancy. Since its opening, the museum has made an immediate contribution to Los Angeles and helped solidify Miracle Mile’s Museum Row as a major cultural institution and visitor destination.
About This Place
About This Place
For decades, the gleaming Streamline Moderne style May Company building was a crown jewel on Wilshire Boulevard. Built in 1939 by A.C. Martin and Associates, its striking black and gold façade greeted motorists heading west along L.A.’s “Miracle Mile.” As one of the city’s largest and most elegant department stores, May Company Wilshire symbolized L.A.’s ascent as a major modern metropolis.
In the early 1990s, May Company California merged with J.W. Robinson’s to form Robinsons-May, closing multiple locations, including the Wilshire store.
After the proposed demolition was halted, the building served a short stint as LACMA West before it was leased by the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. The ensuing project to reuse the building was a years long collaboration between preservationists and museum leadership.
The Historic Resources Group (HRG) monitored the massive, three-year adaptive reuse project and preservation plan in conformance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. HRG also reviewed construction plans, provided guidance, and worked to resolve code-related issues that could potentially impact the building’s character-defining features.
Perhaps the Saban building’s most defining feature is its eye-catching four-story tower, which is comprised of over 300,000 gold glass mosaic tiles. These were carefully surveyed for areas of delamination and any damaged or missing historic tiles were replaced with custom tiles from the original family-owned manufacturer in Venice, Italy.
The museum is LEED Gold certified.
The Conservancy, supported by community members and local elected officials, successfully halted proposed demolition of the May Company Building by designating the building a Historic-Cultural Monument in 1991.
The Conservancy also played an integral role in the successful adaptive re-use of the building, working with project leadership to ensure the new Academy Museum project met the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. This included maintaining the eligibility of the May Company Building for the National Register of Historic Places; the proposed signage program; and retaining the building’s original exterior cladding and significant elements of the Tearoom, one of the few remaining intact interior features.
The Conservancy recognized the Academy Museum’s stunning adaptive reuse project with a 2022 Preservation Award.
2022 Celebration Video
The L.A. Conservancy celebrated the 2022 Preservation Awards winners at the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with a video showcasing their stories. The program celebrated their hard work, dedication, and achievement. We’re thrilled to share The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures / May Company Wilshire inspiring story with you.