The Friends of Robinson Gardens Fellows’ Historic Walking Tour of Downtown Los Angeles

“Pocket Gardens and Historic Spaces” was the theme for the recent Fellows walking tour of downtown Los Angeles on April 25 and 26, 2024. The former neoclassical-style Bank of Italy built in 1922, through “adaptive reuse,” opened its doors in 2020 and was transformed into a fabulous hotel called Hotel Per La. The hotel was the Fellows’ base to launch an immersive learned journey through seven distinct historic spaces, spanning the city’s earliest commercial building, the opulent Bradbury Building, circa 1860, to the modernism of the Frank Gehry designed Conrad Los Angeles hotel which opened in 2022. A veteran docent of 40 years, Mr. Gordon Johnson spent the day interpreting the history of each stop along the way. He shared fascinating stories that helped weave together the historic fabric of our wonderful city that has enjoyed a renaissance of art and culture.

Hotel Per La rooftop garden and swimming pool

Primary entrance to Hotel Per La, formerly the Bank of Italy

Main lobby seating area of Hotel Per La

After viewing the pre-war opulence of the Bradbury Building, we transversed a city block as we walked through the “Grand Central Market.”

Main floor of the Bradbury Building with tour participants and L.A. Conservancy guide Mr. Gordon Johnson

We then boarded the Angel Flight for the funicular ride to the top of Bunker Hill. 

End of line and top of Bunker Hill

Walking along a central allée of fountains that parallel Grand Avenue, we turned west, just before the Colburn School of music and enjoyed an impressive view of The Broad, a museum of contemporary art, and its organic style architecture.

The Broad, a museum of contemporary art

After a short walk north on Grand, we arrived at Frank Gehry’s modernistic building. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is fluid in form and clad in stainless steel. Here, we met a delightful and knowledgeable docent who led us through the concert hall. She provided insight into the concepts that drove Gehry’s design in developing a world-class acoustical concert hall. We exited the concert hall on the third floor and entered a thoughtfully designed, mature garden that offered the beauty of orange coral trees and the sweet spicy fragrances of the snowball-shaped pink blooms of the Dombeya tree.

The Lilian Disney Memorial Fountain made with Delft china

Fellows gathered under the sweet smelling Dombeya tree

Exiting the concert hall, we crossed Grand Avenue to the newly opened Conrad Los Angeles hotel, another of Gehry’s buildings, to enjoy a chef-inspired lunch at Agua Viva restaurant by Michelin star-rated Chef Jose Andres. We dined al fresco on the fifth floor with amazing views of City Hall, the Hollywood Sign, and distant views of the San Gabriel Mountains beyond the Dodger Stadium. 

The Conrad Los Angeles Hotel

 L.A. Skyline

Janice Jerde, seated right, and Tim Lindsay, standing, organized our tour.

Leaving the Conrad hotel, we walked along Grand Avenue, pausing to oversee Grand Park and the vista to City Hall, and we then arrived at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, designed by Rafael Moneo in 1996. We toured the entire 5.6-acre property, including the catacombs and the biblical garden for children. 

Following a short van drive via Olvera Street, we arrived at Union Station, built in 1939. Its architecture combines Art Deco, Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne style. Here, our L.A. Conservancy guide provided an expansive and detailed tour of this iconic train station, including the history of the “Harvey Girls” and how they provided accommodations and delicious food, making the transcontinental journey more tolerable, if not enjoyable.

We ended the evening with a delicious dinner in a private room at the Hotel Per LA restaurant, “Per L’Ora.” Some of the Fellow participants spent the night at Hotel Per La and rose early the next morning to explore the shopping district which offers tremendous discounts the last Friday of the month. 

Post by Superintendent Emeritus Tim Lindsay & Friends of Robinson Gardens Board Member Janice Jerde

Photos by Tim Lindsay

  1. Clare Wagner
    | Reply

    This looks like a fabulous event. So very sorry I had to miss it. Congrats to Janice and Tim.

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