LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, Vickrey-Brunswig Building | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Flora Chou/L.A. Conservancy

LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, Vickrey-Brunswig Building

This Victorian-era brick commercial building was among the earliest five-story buildings in Los Angeles.  Commissioned by Los Angeles businessman William Vickrey as an investment property, the building housed ground floor retail with lodging on the upper floors when it opened in 1888.  Prominent architect R. B. Young designed the building in a transitional Italianate style, varying the treatment of each story of the facade for greater visual interest.  The windows of the upper floor feature Romanesque arches, while those of the third floor are embellished with turned posts that serve as the mullions between the grouped sashes.  

Original cast iron detailing includes storefront columns, the stringcourses separating each floor, and decorative arched rails capping the upper floor windows.  An elaborate cornice with false gable parapets completes the façades.

In 1897, the building was purchased by F. W. Braun and Company, and for more than three decades was associated with the pharmaceutical industry.  Reorganized as the Brunswig Drug Company in 1907 following its purchase by part owner and prominent Angeleno Lucien Brunswig, the company expanded dramatically and developed into the largest pharmaceutical manufacturing laboratories west of Chicago.  In addition to the wholesale drug business, the company also manufactured show cases and soda fountain equipment popular in drug stores of that era.  Today, the Vickery-Brunswig Building is the last remaining vestige of the Brunswig Drug Company’s presence at El Pueblo, which by 1930 had grown to include several buildings.

The County of Los Angeles purchased the Vickrey-Brunswig Building and the adjacent Plaza House in 1948 and renovated them for use by the Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission, County Superior Courts, Police Crime Laboratories and the County Sherriff’s offices through the mid-1970s.  After enduring three decades of vacancy and deterioration, the County rehabilitated both buildings to house LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a Mexican and Mexican-American cultural center which opened in 2011.

The rehabilitation seismically reinforced the buildings and connected them internally, while restoring the facades and reconstructing the long-missing cornices and false gable parapets crowning the structures.

The Conservancy holds an easement protecting the exterior, as well as some interior elements, and is limited to the footprint of the historic building.

 

Photo courtesy El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument

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The Plaza House features original cast iron storefront columns, groups of double and triple windows topped by segmental arches, and an elaborate bracketed cornice and false gable parapet.