This classic 1960 picture, which was taken by longtime National Parks Service photographer Jack E. Boucher, depicts the interior of L.A.’s Bradbury Building, one of the most filmed and photographed pieces of architecture in the world. The setting for numerous films and music videos, the downtown Los Angeles structure is perhaps best known for its appearance in Blade Runner. Built in 1893 by George Wyman for the visionary mining millionaire Lewis L. Bradbury, the building was completed a year after its namesake’s death. Wyman purportedly consulted a Ouija board before accepting the assignment.
A brief history about the project from the Pacific Coast Architecture Database: “Sumner P. Hunt began a five-story design for the mining magnate, Lewis Leonard Bradbury (1823-1892), in 1891; Bradbury wanted an office building that he could walk to from his house on Bunker Hill in Los Angeles; Hunt had previously designed a warehouse for Bradbury in Mazatlan, Mexico; Hunt had completed plans for the new office building by March 1893 at the latest; Bradbury died in July 1892, and there were legal disputes over his estate; in this contentious context, it is possible that the Bradbury Estate may have wanted to finish the Bradbury Building as inexpensively as possible; in 1892 or 1893, George Herbert Wyman, a draftsman in Hunt’s office, entered the picture, as a project supervisor, taking control from Hunt. According to Cecilia Rasmussen writing in the Los Angeles Times, indicated that modern research on the history of the Bradbury Block derived from a story done by the noted architectural critic and historian, Esther McCoy (1904-1989), in Arts and Architecture magazine in 1953. Rasmussen stated: ‘Esther McCoy interviewed Wyman’s two daughters, Louise Hammell and Carroll Wyman. McCoy’s story…reports that Wyman’s daughters told her that Bradbury found Hunt’s design uninspiring and promptly offered the job of redesigning the building to their father. They told McCoy that their father incorporated ideas for his design from Edward Bellamy’s 1887 novel, Looking Backward, which described a utopian civilization of the year 2000. Wyman, the daughters told McCoy, originally turned down the offer, judging acceptance as unethical. But that weekend, while using a Ouija board with his wife, he received a message from his 8-year-old dead brother Mark: ‘Take the Bradbury assignment. It will make you successful.’”
Five minutes about the Bradbury Building from Thom Andersen’s brilliant cine-essay, Los Angeles Plays Itself: