Hall of Justice | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Joe Decruyenaere on Flickr

Hall of Justice

The Hall of Justice is the oldest surviving government building in the Los Angeles Civic Center, that collection of city, county and federal buildings stretching for several blocks along Temple and First Streets in downtown Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors authorized construction of the building to consolidate the County’s courts and jail facilities in one location. The result was a grandiose new facility housing all levels of the county criminal justice system. The Hall of Justice played a significant role in the criminal justice history of Los Angeles, housing such notable arrestees as “Bugsy” Siegel, Robert Mitchum, Charles Manson, and Sirhan Sirhan. The autopsies of Marilyn Monroe and Robert Kennedy were also conducted there.

With its bold classical detailing and matching facades on all four sides, the Hall of Justice is an imposing presence in the Civic Center and one of Los Angeles’ most striking Beaux Arts structures. The exterior is clad almost entirely in granite from ground level all the way up to the granite columns encircling the upper floors; a rarity for buildings of its size, where more economical terra cotta was typically used to achieve the appearance of dressed stonework. The floors above and below the colonnade contain terra cotta panels featuring bucrania (ox skulls) and acanthus leaves while a terra cotta cornice caps the façades. The opulent grand lobby features Ionic marble columns and a gilded, coffered ceiling.

The Hall of Justice was designed by the Allied Architects Association, a consortium of Los Angeles-based architects founded in 1921 for the purpose of exclusively designing buildings paid for by the proceeds of public tax money. Among the participating architects were Octavius Morgan, Reginald Johnson, Edwin Bergstrom, David C. Allison, Myron Hunt, Elmer Grey, Sumner Hunt, and Sumner Spaulding.

West Los Angeles Civic Center
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

West Los Angeles Civic Center

Built between 1957 and 1965, the civic center reflects the postwar growth of municipal services and the general optimism of the period, exemplified by its eye-catching Mid-Century Modern design.