Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

Stanley Mosk Courthouse / Los Angeles County Courthouse

The Los Angeles County Courthouse, along with the adjacent Los Angeles County Hall of Administration, were designed simultaneously by a team of noted, local architects and artists of the period. Both buildings were conceived as part of the 1947 Civic Center Master Plan, a monumental plan that transformed a large portion of Bunker Hill through the westward expansion of the Civic Center and created the east-west axis of government buildings that frame today’s Grand Park.

The County Courthouse was completed in 1958 and formally opened on January 5, 1959. Los Angeles County had gone nearly twenty-six years without a dedicated courthouse structure after the previous 1891 sandstone courthouse was damaged in the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. The Los Angeles Times noted that the architects of the present courthouse, which is home to both municipal courts and superior courts, designed it to last 250 years.

The County Courthouse was renamed in 2002 in honor of Stanley Mosk, who was the longest serving justice on the California Supreme Court and earlier served as Attorney General of California.

 

Massive in scale, the County Courthouse spans two city blocks and rises to eight stories through a series of angular volumes. The building is clad in panels of ceramic veneer with the lower floors featuring polished red granite. Hallmarks of its Late Moderne design include its spare detailing and smooth surfaces, strong horizontal emphasis and stepped volumes, bands of windows within bezeled frames, and integrated planting beds. Mid-century design details include the interior columns at the entrances to the main floor, which are clad in blue-green mosaic tile. Polished Italian marble is used for interior walls.

The design of the County Courthouse also features an original fountain and integrated sculpture. The circular fountain, located at the corner of Hill and First Streets, features an elevated bronze basin and contoured nozzle rising above a tiled pool which features a Greek key design. 

The Hill Street entrance features terra cotta relief sculptures, designed by sculptor Donal Hord, depicting allegorical representations of Truth, Law and Justice. The Grand Avenue entrance features an integrated, terra cotta sculptural group titled Foundation of Law designed by sculptor Albert Stewart, with three figures representing the legal traditions upon which America was founded: Mosaic Law, with Moses representing Judeo-Christian heritage, Magna Carta, with a 13th century knight representing English Common Law, and Declaration of Independence, depicted by Thomas Jefferson.

One prominent feature of the County Courthouse actually predates the structure by a century: the numerals of the east-facing clock positioned high on the exterior date from 1859, and formerly adorned one of the clocks on the previous red sandstone courthouse (1891) and originated with one of clocks on the earlier clock tower courthouse (1859).

The County Courthouse, along with the adjacent County Hall of Administration, were both identified as eligible for listing in the California Register in 2009. They are also contributing structures in the Los Angeles Civic Center Historic District, which was formally determined eligible for listing in the National Register in 2010.

Photo by John O'Neill on Wikimedia Commons

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