A Walking Tour of Historic Downtown LA – Photographic Focus
(500) Days of Summer Edition
Since I've been dribbling about (500) Days of Summer continuously over the past few days, I'm going to continue with that theme and get it out of my system. The movie is set and shot in downtown Los Angeles, and it highlights great historic architecture around town. I narrowed down the stops are within the inner 10-blocks of the Old Commercial District. This route is only 3.5 miles all the way around and it has about 10 stops. I even created a supplemental map you can use.
I recommend doing this on late Sunday morning for great daytime photo lighting and I even provide a stop for lunch. This walking trip is dedicated to my friend Angie who is a great photographer and who just celebrated a birthday earlier this week.
OLD BANK DISTRICT
Make this your first stop. There are several public parking lots in the area so it will make it easier for you to get back to your car. The Old Bank DVD is the setting for the record and video store scenes in the movie. It's located on the corner of 4th Street and Main and this area is called the Old Bank District. On the northwest corner is the old Farmers & Merchant Bank which is a great building to photograph.
Head south on Main Street and continue for about four blocks.
TOM SHOWS SUMMER DOWNTOWN ARCHITECTURE GEMS
The next two stops are two buildings that were specifically called out in the movie as examples of great Los Angeles architecture. Tom took Summer on an architectural field trip and these were featured in that scene.
From Main Street, turn right on w. 8th Street then left on Broadway.
The Eastern Columbia Building located at 849 S. Broadway is near the Orpheum Theatre in what Angelenos refer to as the Broadway Theater and Commercial District. This 13-storey high building, constructed in 1930, is now a structure of 140 luxury condominiums.
From Broadway, turn right on W. 9th Street, right on S. Hill Street, then left at W. 7th Street.
Right next to the 7th Street Metro Center (corner of 7th and Flower), you will find the Fine Arts Building. This 12-storey structure is so beautiful I wouldn't do it justice with my descriptions. Admire the outside of the building and go inside to visit Gallery 1927. This gallery utilizes the ground floor of this building how the space was originally intended to be used. This at least gives you an idea of what the building designers wanted to do back in 1927.
Head southeast on W 7th St toward S Flower St, then turn left on S. Hope Street, then right on W. 6th Street.
ANGELS KNOLL – A LOOK AT L.A.
From W. 6th Street, turn left on S. Olive Street.
On your right, you will see the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Even though this is not an official stop on this walking tour, I would hate for you to miss out on this photo opp. Go ahead and sneak a click.
Continue up Olive Street. Once you pass 4th Street, Angels Knoll will be on your right side. Climb to the top of the park and look towards the city. The view from here gives you a different perspective of downtown L.A. You may just end up wasting a lot of your time here taking photographs. That's completely okay but don't forget we still have one more stop before lunch.
Head northeast on S. Olive Street, traveling up about 3 blocks and turning right on W. 1st Street.
JOE DANCING AT THE MALL
We're finally getting to where my favorite scene in the movie takes place. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays Tom in 500 Days expresses his joy in finally “getting the girl” with a big dance number. I won't spoil the movie for you if you still need to see it. Just know that you won't look at this next spot the same way again afterwards.
From W. 1st Street, turn left on N. Hill Street. Turn left between the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration and the Los Angeles County Court House. This is the Civic Center Mall and at the end of the mall, on your right is the Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain. Can you see the dance sequence in your head?
LET'S GO TO LUNCH!
By this point, you would have walked about 2½ miles. You need some refreshments and sustenance. So head back down south on N. Hill Street, then turn left on W. 2nd Street.
The Redwood Bar & Grill is where they shot all the karaoke bar scenes for the movie. This pub, located at 316 W. 2nd Street, has a ahoy-matey ambiance. The gastro-pub fare is a well-deserved treat after all the walking you've just done. I suggest the Grilled Cheese with The Works. This means with fresh tomatoes, caramelized onions, and avocado slices – so worth the exercise.
Head southeast on W. 2nd Street, then turn right on Broadway.
WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE INSIDE
Located at the corner of 3rd and Broadway, you will find the Bradbury Building. This five-storey building has an exterior facade in the Italian Renaissance style. That's not what's impressive about this building though.
In the movie, Tom goes for a job interview and this setting gives that sense of “moving up” and a quiet elegance. This place, I think, captures the romantic side of Los Angeles a lot of people really miss out on.
The building is open for visitors everyday but you will be limited up to the first landing only. The 5-storey atrium will feel familiar to you, as it has been used for a lot of movies and TV shows. The lace-work balconies and old-fashioned elevators create such a stunning visual display you will not be able to resist the urge to photograph as many angles as you possibly can.
As a bonus, across the street from the Bradbury Building is the Million Dollar Theatre. This movie house was also used in the film as Tom and Summer's movies destination. This is the first Grauman theater (as is Grauman's Chinese Theater, another famous Hollywood landmark) built in 1918.
Head down southwest on S. Broadway, then turn left on W. 4th Street.
WE END WHERE TOM STARTED
In the movie while sitting on Angels Knoll, Tom points out a building he calls the first high-rise of Los Angeles. This is the first time Tom shares his passion for architecture with Summer in the movie. I think it's fitting that we end our walking photography tour with an up-close look at the Continental Building.
This 13-storey building is located on the corner of 4th Street and Spring Street, just one block west of where we started at the Old Bank District. It now houses condominiums with a pub at the street level, perfect for a last refreshment stop before you head home.
I want to credit the following shared Google Maps for providing a lot of the movie-related information and some historical data:
Los Angeles in (500) Days of Summer by the Los Angeles Times
Historic Downtown Los Angeles by twosevens
Share your photos with us if you decide to embark on this little adventure.