A large problem with architectural delights in Los Angeles is that many of them are not in use. They’re beautiful and elegant and represent a moment in history and everyone knows it but does nothing about it. The problem is that most of these are too expensive for someone to undertake and are in really, really risky neighborhoods that–without help from surrounding businesses–potential revamping of a building could fall really, really flat. One building that is as breathtaking as it is stressful to consider reopening is 6777 Hollywood Blvd, formerly Hollywood First National Bank.
The thirteen story building was built in 1927 by powerhouse architect duo Meyer & Holler, who are better known for having built other extravagant commercial business buildings like Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, and Culver Studios. The group were the top architectural firms in the city for some time, for obvious reasons, and took on commercial properties after World War I.
The Hollywood First National Bank was one of their later properties and built on the Northeast corner of Hollywood at Highland. The building was, for some time, a bank as you can tell and was a beacon of “solidity and thrift” in light of The Great Depression (as expressed through eagle and beehive symbolism, one website reports). Somewhere along the lines, the building became a hub for Security Pacific Bank, which eventually went sour in 2008 as a result of the recession (which is when we are assuming the building was vacated).
Now, the building just kind of sits there watching tourists walk past, not welcoming them in or even interacting with them: it just stands there. The building cannot be overlooked, too, as it is a beautiful mix of Gothic architecture with some Art Deco and Spanish influence. The building is a marvel in the area, but is overshadowed by other potentially sexier, famous buildings (it gets barely a shout out in An Architectural Guidebook To Los Angeles). Moreover, because it is basically empty and covered in a few real estate signs, it isn’t very inviting.
The building is also quite distinctive as it features quite a bit of architectural sculpture and is covered in gargoyles. Any local person with an eye for beauty or even a feigning interest in buildings has noticed the Science and Enterprise sculptures on the sides of the building that depict men in their field with symbols relating to the field. The building is one of a handful of structures in the city that is adorned with gargoyles. Name one other building off the top of your head in the city that has gargoyles–you’d be hard pressed to find an answer. The Los Angeles Times included the building in a (short) list of gargoyle covered buildings in 2001, but–like everything else on 6777 Hollywood–nothing else is said about the building besides, “It’s really nice.”
This is all particularly strange considering the thirteen story building was once the tallest building in Los Angeles (from 1927 to 1932). It does seem to be protected by CRA/LA, who have included it as an example of style and size regulations for the Hollywood area–but that’s about it. It was formerly covered in gross huge mega-advertisements and occasionally still is. It’s definitely an anchor in that area which, even if you hate Hollywood and Highland, this building demands your respect.
Currently, the building is under the arms of Ramsey-Shilling Co., a local commercial business building real estate service. The listing they have is incredibly paltry, positioning it as a retail space with ground, mezzanine, and basement areas available. We reached out with a few questions, on the listing and got some pretty not-great answers. Firstly, the entire building is basically empty, including the upper floors. This is because “the air conditioning system for the entire building has failed and consequently the building is largely unleasable,” says agent Jon Tronson in an e-mail. This is a major bummer but, of course, not the end of the world: as expected, it needs some help and, likely, some modernizing.
6777 Hollywood Blvd should be taken over by the city and made a tourist attraction by the city, office space for the city, and an emblem that the city actually cares in turning the slummy area of Hollywood & Highland around. Since the space is so tall, it would be great to make that into a sort of lookout point, for tourists–and locals–to travel up thirteen stories to see the city in front of it and a higher view of that bustling area. Put a nice restaurant or bar at the top of it, too, to get big spenders to want to go there. Not, like, a Hard Rock or Hooters or even a Katsuya: do your research and get someone really cool and willing to experiment with the area.
As far as the office space, Metro is booming in that area: why not make that office for them? Similarly, why not just give that office space to some sort of bigger company and really, really encourage them to take Metro to work since it is right next to the train? Even though the area is so easy to get to by Metro, none of the businesses in a mile radius of it acknowledge that. Like the area’s oft compared to East coast cousin Times Square, make the area both a business haven and tourist destination–not just tourist destination.
As far as the lower floors, why not make this a Hollywood/Film museum put on by the city? Obviously, people coming to the area want that, so give it to them. We have the creatives and creative resources to put up something really great, not something branded and corporatized like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and Guinness World Records across the way. Sure, the area may be entrenched in too much smoke and mirrors that would distract people from a “history” museum of sorts, but it could potentially bring in locals, too.
Frankly, anything that would come into 6777 Hollywood Blvd would be wonderful since it is quite depressing and dead. It’s a tall invisible building that is completely visible. It’s beautiful, but it probably would be a lot to undertake because it is in a tricky area and is quite old. Lets hope at some point soon some savvy city person in power or even rich local takes 6777 under his or her wing to make it into something as amazing it deserves to be.