Italian Public Art & Architecture in Greater Los Angeles: Historical Survey


Italian Public Art & Architecture in Greater Los Angeles: Historical Survey

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(Selective survey compiled, and texts written, by Gloria Ricci Lothrop, Ph.D., W. P. Whitsett Professor Emerita, California State University Northridge, highlighting Italian art and architecture reflecting Italian influences. Reproduced with Author's Permission.)

(Photographs by Luisa Del Giudice)


Central City

Olvera Street (Historic-Cultural Monument #64)

The Blessing of the Animals, by Leo Politi: South wall of the Biscailuz Building, 125 Paseo de la Plaza. The mural by artist and children's author Leo Politi depicts a Holy Week ceremony conducted at El Pueblo de Los Angeles. (see photo)


Leo Politi mural, The Blessing of the Animals,
on the Biscailuz Building, now the Mexican
Cultural Institute

Leo Politi mural, The Blessing of the Animals














Junipero Serra: Statue in the park directly east of the Plaza kiosko is a copy of the original created in the 1930s by Ettore Cadorin. It stands in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C., representing one of the two persons of distinction selected to represent the state of California.

Avila Adobe (10 Olvera Street): Constructed in 1818, the oldest existing residence in Los Angeles, in the 1880s served as a boarding house known as the Hotel d'Italia Unita. For some time it also housed a restaurant operated by Secondo Guasti and Rosa Morelli.

Pelanconi House (W17 Olvera Street): One of the first brick buildings constructed in Los Angeles was built around 1855 by Austro-Italian Giuseppe Covacichi. Antonio Pelanconi purchased it in 1865. Today it houses La Golandrina Caf╚.

Italian Hall (642 N. Main St.): The second story of this yellow brick building built by the Pozzo Construction Company served as headquarters for the Italian Mutual Benevolence Society from 1908 to 1931. In 1994 the City of Los Angeles approved the site for use as a museum and meeting hall for the Italian American community. [See: [url=index.php?70&94] COMMUNITY SITES: Historic Italian Hall Foundation]


Central City and South

Colpo d'Ala, by Arnoldo Pomodoro (W. First and N. Hope Streets): The graceful metal sculpture which appears to float above the south reflecting pool of the Department of Water and Power was a gift from the Italian government to the City of Los Angeles to mark the 40th anniversary of the Marshall Plan.

Statue of Christopher Columbus (South walkway, Civic Center Mall): The likeness of navigator/explorer, Christopher Columbus, created by Francesco Perotti of Piacenza, Italy, was given to the City by local chapters of the Order of the Sons of Italy in America.

Sculptures by Mark di Suvero and Frank Stella: Wells Fargo Center, Fourth Street and Flower Avenue.

Murals by Giovanni Battista Smeraldi (Biltmore Hotel, 515 S. Olive Street), Wall and ceiling murals in the style of Giovanni Vasari were executed by Smeraldi and his team of Italian craftsmen in the early 1920s.

Doughboy, long a feature of Pershing Square, a tribute to the United States fighting men of World War I, was sculpted by Umberto Pedretti.

Nicola Restaurant (601 S. Figueroa): Designed by contemporary restaurant architect, Michael Rotundi.

Bas Reliefs Symbolizing Modern Industry, by Salvatore Cartiano Scarpitta (618 S. Spring Street): Fa┴ade of former Pacific Coast Stock Exchange.

Building, designed by Allison and Allison (1031 S. Broadway): Structure noted for its Italian Renaissance architecture, particularly the loggia and the roof garden with its courtyard.

Jonathan Club (545 S. Figueroa Street): The building is designed in the manner of early 16th-century Italian Renaissance architecture. The wall and ceiling murals were executed by Giovanni Smeraldi in 1925.

Giannini/Bank of America (649 S. Olive Street): Built in 1922 for the Bank of Italy (Bank of America) in Renaissance Revival style by Morgan, Walls & Clements. Historic-Cultural Monument #354.

Fine Arts Building (811 W. 7th Street): The street fa┴ade of this twelve-story building with its arched windows, columns, sculptured corbelling and elongated doomuns, is an exact replica of the fa┴ade of La Chiesa di San Michele in Foro located in Lucca, Italy.

William Andrews Clark Library (2520 Cimmarron Street): The building, designed by Robert Farquhar in 1923, is in the Italian Renaissance style. The entrance vestibule is Italian Baroque. The paneled drawing room is a replica of the Sala del Collegio in the Doge's Palace in Venice. Historic-Cultural Monument #28.

Daniel Murphy Residence (2076 W. Adams Blvd): Built in 1906, was the city's first Italian Renaissance-style house.

Guasti Villa (3500 W. Adams Blvd.): Italian Renaissance Revival structure built in 1910 by Secondo Guasti, California Wine Commissioner and owner of the world's largest vineyard of the period. In 1936 it was sold to Hollywood director, Busby Berkeley. Historic-Cultural Monument #478.

Touriel Medical Building (2608-10 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.): The steel frame, post and beam structure was designed by architect Raphael S. Soriano in 1950.

St. John's Episcopal Church (514 W. Adams Blvd.): Interior ceiling is modeled aftr the Church of San Miniato in Florence. The bas-reliefs surrounding the rose window were designed by Salvatore Cartiano Scarpitta, one of Italy's most famous sculptors. Historic-Cultural Monument #516.

Mudd Hall of Philosophy (University of Southern California): The highlight of this Lombardy Romanesque building designed by Ralph C. Flewelling in 1926, are the graceful cloisters on the east side of the building.

Doheny Memorial Library (University of Southern California): The library, designed by Cram and Ferguson in 1931 has been described as "the most luxuriant of the northern Italian Renaissance buildings on the campus."

Owens Hall (University of Southern California): The structure, completed in 1930, is a southern California version of the rural Tuscan villa.

Towers of Simon Rodia (1765 E. 107th Street): Working alone from 1924 to 1954 Simon Rodia erected three concrete towers measuring as high as 104 feet. The structure, embellished with sea shells, wood, broken glass and china, has been described as a remarkable expression of folk art. Historic-Cultural Monument #15. [See Folk Art]


Los Feliz, Hollywood and Westside

Earl C. Anthony Home (3412 Waverly Drive): Residence, now retreat center, designed by Bernard Maybeck in Euro-eclectic style with an emphasis on the Italian Renaissance. Formal gardens designed by Lucille Council in 1968 reinforce Italianate motif.

Gates to Los Angeles Zoo, Griffith Park, designed by Carlo Romanelli for William ZeligÝs private zoo were recently rediscovered and are being incorporated into the municipal zooÝs redesign.

Statue of St. Martin de Pores, by Gemma D'Auria: Monastery of the Angels Gardens (1977 Carmen Ave.)

High Tower (North End of High Tower Road): Landmark built in 1920 is based upon the tower of Bologna.

Villa d'Este Apartments (1355 Laurel Ave.): The lovely complex designed in the 1920s by Pierpont and Walter S. Davis is patterned after its namesake on Lake Maggiore.

Murals, by Ettore Serbaroli: Rosary Chapel, Immaculate Conception Church, 1433 W. 9th Street.

A Bit of History: Ettore Serbaroli (1881 ˝ 1951) produced scenic artwork for the Hollywood studios during the golden age of Hollywood from 1927 ˝ 1947. Serbaroli was a noted Italian artist who trained at San Michele in Rome and came to California in 1914. He worked on momentous projects such as the Pan-Pacific Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco, Hearst Castle at San Simeon and the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas. His paintings appear in legendary movies such as Heidi (1937), Lloyds of London (1937), The Rains Came (1939), Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) and Wilson (1944). His works can also be found in many Los Angeles churches such as the Church of Saint Monica (7th and California Sts.); St. AndrewÝs Church (311 No. Raymond Ave.), Pasadena; Immaculate Conception Church (1433 West 9th St.), Los Angeles; Church of the Good Shepherd (505 North Bedford Dr.), Beverly Hills; Holy Family Church (Rollin St. and Fremont Ave.), So. Pasadena; and in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, in San Francisco. [Read more about Ettore Serbaroli in: Joseph A. Serbaroli, Jr. ýHector Serbaroli: A Scenic Legacy,ţ Perspective Magazine, The Journal of the Art Directors Guild, October/November issue, 2008: 35-41. http://www.artdirectors.org/sites/art/information/Perspective/3Hector_Serbaroli.pdf

Pacific Design Center (The Blue Whale): Designed by architect Cesare Pelli for Victor Gruen & Associates.

Beverly Hills Post Office (Canon Dr. & Santa Monica Blvd.): Designed in 1932 by Ralph Flewelling, uses terra cotta and brick in an effective rendering of the Italian Renaissance style.

Greenacres (Former Harold Lloyd Estate), 1040 Angelo Drive: Italian Renaissance structure designed by Sumner Spaulding in 1928 is significant as one of the finest residential and garden complexes in Los Angeles. Historic-Cultural Monument #279.

Royce Hall, UCLA: The building, designed by Allison & Allison, is in the Lombard Romanesque style as is the library across the quadrangle. It is a free adaptation of San Ambrosio in Milan. Many other buildings on campus are adapted from the Romanesque style, while the Chancellor's residence, designed by Reginald Johnson in 1930, reflects the style of a northern Italian villa.


Beach Cities

J. Paul Getty Museum (17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu): The building constructed in 1972-73, is a replica of the Villa dei Papyri at Herculaneum which was engulfed by lava in 79 A.D.

Statue of Blessed Junipero Serra, by John Pasquale Napolitano, Serra Retreat House (3401 Serra Road & Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu): This is one of the most forceful and accessible sculptures created by a gifted Italian-American artist.

Exterior Sculpture, by Joseph Conradi and Interior Murals of Ettore Serbaroli, Saint Monica's Church, 7th Street and California Ave., Santa Monica.

Venice Center (Windward Ave., between Pacific & Speedway, Venice): The buildings, including the three-story Hotel Saint Mark's, are what remain of Abbot Kinney's effort to build a Venice in America in the early 20th Century. Historic-Cultural Monument #532. [See: A Bit of History: Venice]

Venice Canals: Although the gondoliers returned to Italy and many canals were filled in, several exist south of Venice Blvd. Four of Kinney's Venetian bridges still stand. [See: A Bit of History: Venice, interview clip]

Jasper D'Ambrosi "Jacob's Ladder," American Merchant Marine Veterans' Memorial, 6th Street & Harbor Blvd., San Pedro: D'Ambrosi, a native of Wilmington, died in 1986. The bronze statue was completed by his sons, Mark and Michael.

Malaga Cove Plaza (Palos Verdes Drive & Via Corta, Palos Verdes): The Center contains a reproduction of La Fontana di Nettuno, constructed at Bologna in 1563. (see photo)


Reproduction of La Fontana di Nettuno,
constructed at Bologna in 1563,
Malaga Cove Plaza, Palos Verdes

Malaga Cove Plaza, Palos Verdes



















Gard House (2780 Via Campesina, Palos Verdes): Kirkland Cutter designed this Tuscan country villa in 1927.

Schoolcraft House (749 Via Somonte, Palos Verdes): The extensive use of ironwork, tiles and windows brought from Italy contributes to the authenticity of this Tuscan villa designed by Edgar Clive in 1927.


Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena


Pasadena City Hall
Fountain Bas-relief, by Bartolo Mako: Burbank City Hall, Olive Ave. & 3rd Street: Mako's murals may also be seen on the fa┴ade of the Lou Henry Hoover School, Whittier and at El Monte High School.

Forest Lawn Memorial Park(San Fernando Road & Glendale Blvd.): Memorial Park contains a stained glass reproduction of Leonardo Da Vinci's "Last Supper," executed over a period of five years by Prof. Rosa Caselli Moretti di Perugia. One of the most arresting statues is Ernesto Gazzeri's "Mystery of Life."

Portal of the Folded Wings, Valhalla Cemetary, North Hollywood, is a mausoleum commemorating aviation pioneers, designed by Federico Antonio Giorghi who is buried at the cemetery.

Murals, by Ettore Serbaroli, Holy Family Church (Rollin Street at Fremont Ave., South Pasadena): His murals may also be seen at St. Ignatius Church, Highland Park.

Oaklawn Bridge and Waiting Station (Oaklawn & Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena): The structures were designed by architects Greene and Greene. Stone work executed by Michael de Palo in 1906.

Tanner-Behr Residence (Corner of Columbia Street & Grand Ave., South Pasadena): The home, designed by Reginald Johnson, is modeled after the Villa Vanzatti.

Pasadena Post Office (Colorado & Garfield Ave., Pasadena): Designed in 1913 by Oscar Wenderoth in the style of a Renaissance palace.


Gas Company Building












Gas Company Building











Gas Company Building

















Gas Company Building (Garfield Ave. & Ramona St., Pasadena): Upper facades of structure built in 1929 exhibit distinctive Italian sgraffito designs.(see photos)




St. Andrew Church
St. Andrew Church (311 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena): Structure, designed by Ross Montgomery in 1927, is distinguished by its Romanesque campanile and fa┴ade patterned after Santa Maria Cosmedin in Rome. The interior of the church is a replica of the Roman Basilica of Santa Sabina.Its interior is highlighted by a mural painted by Venetian master, Carlo Wostry. The 24 enormous marbleized columns were finished by Italian craftsmen using a technique called "scagliola." (see photo)

Alverno Convent, Villa del Sol d'Oro (Michilinda & Highland Aves., Sierra Madre): School designed by Wallace Neff in 1923-24 as a residence for Dr. James Barlowe, is based on the design of Villa Colazzi (sometimes attributed to Michelangelo), located outside Florence.


San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire

Rico Le Brun Mural: Frary Hally, Pomona College (2nd & 6th Streets, Claremont).

San Secondo Asti Church, Guasti: Church built by vintner, Secondo Guasti is a replica of the parish church in Asti, Piemonte, the town of his birth.