downtown los angeles, historic core

Downtown LA’s Historic Spring Arcade Building Gets New Flooring: For Better or Worse

Workers were installing new slate floors this week in the Spring Arcade

Walking through the Spring Arcade Building this past Wednesday, I noticed that new floor tiles were being installed, replacing the horribly ugly and dated white tiles that have been there since probably the 1950s. The new slate tiles consisting of grey and brown hues are marginally nicer than the old ones (at least they look clean). However, they do clash with the existing yellow-beige walls, so the jury is still out until the owner of the building hopefully decides to repaint the yellow-beige walls with a color that actually matches the new slate floors.

Even with the questionable new floors, eventually in the next few years, the entire Spring Arcade will likely have a completely different atmosphere than what exists today as a low-end shopping corridor selling everything from tourist-oriented T-shirts to kitschy battery operated toy aquariums. In April 2012, Famima opened their new convenience store facing Broadway and helped set a new aesthetic precedent for the rest of the Spring Arcade — one that’s clean and attractive. Later this year, Royal Clayton’s restaurant will be opening on the other side of the arcade facing Spring Street and will be replacing a cluttered electronics store.

A more complete section of the flooring

New slate tiles being installed

The new floor and old floor side-by-side

These checkered tiles are the original ones from 1924

Year 1932: Inside Spring Arcade with original checkered floor:

The checkered pattern floor seen here in 1932 (Photo: LA Public Library Archives)

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  1. Illithid Dude says

    I wish they’d just re-do the original tiles instead of putting in this ugly McMansion stuff…

  2. sebastian says

    You’re right Brigham, it’s always better to restore something original.

  3. Lawrence says

    The biggest issue I have with this are the tacky patterned insets every few feet. If they would have stayed with just the solid grayish tiles throughout, it might have been a bit better. In any case, I agree that the yellow beige paint has to go! Something more neutral would work better here. The current scheme just clashes. On the plus side, the new flooring brightens up the arcade quite a bit. It was looking grungy (not in a good way) before.

    I’m not surprised by the lack of design sense when it comes to this building however. This is the same owner who pasted hideous green marble tiling on the base of the spring street side because he thought it looked good. In the process her covered that historic details that made the structure interesting. Let’s just say this guy isn’t going to win any design awards anytime soon. Hopefully once new businesses come in and enliven the corridor, these design missteps will be easier to overlook.

  4. Jennifer says

    FYI: Your link for images of the building in the past doesn’t work.

    The black and white tiles in Bloomies — and that look in Frisco follows a design similar to the floor (or at least that used to be) in the main store in New York — are okay, but that design can become overbearing if it were used to cover a surface space as large as the pathway of the Spring Arcade building. I believe the style of a checkerboard also has been more closely identified with the floor of a kitchen area in upscale homes.

    • Thanks Jennifer, I added a picture from 1932 showing the original checkered pattern floor, which I think looks a lot better and matches the original design of the building compared to the slate tiles.

  5. Lawrence says

    I’ll take the kitchen floor of an upscale home over the tasteless slate from a McMansion in Arcadia or Santa Clarita.

    • Jennifer says

      Brigham, that photo from 1932 shows how attractive the stores and charming were back then. To go from something like that to the way the Spring Arcade has looked more recently (for the past few decades?) is galling. And — speaking of tasteless — also truly, truly tasteless.

      The photo from 1963 indicates the original floor, if it was a checkerboard design from one end to the other, must have been mostly removed some time ago. It’s hard to make out exactly what it looked like in person, but if were solid terrazzo, it would have been similar to the type of floors commonly used in discount stores like Woolworth’s, Newberry’s or Thrifty’s over 40 years ago.

  6. broadwayboy says

    Why not do a little research and restore the floor to its original appearance – which very well may have been terrazzo?. The black and white “tiles” were probably terrazzo, too. There might even have been some tax credits available for restoration work. Neutral solid toned flooring wouldn’t compete with storefront designs and color. There seem to be marble-mania going on here viz the awful green marble on the Spring St facade, which also covers up the historic fabric of the bldg. Even so, it’s very nice to finally see some TLC and $$ expended on the Arcade.

  7. Della says

    Thank you for this article Brigham, and thank you MarkB for the link to the 1963 photo! As this building is near & dear to me, I was delighted to discover that the management was ‘upgrading’ the building & installing new floor tiles. Then I thought ‘Gahh! These tiles clash w/ the existing interior colors!’ The 1963 photo shows just how classy this building could look, given thoughtful care & selection of materials & fixtures. I would love to see the existing industrial (in not a good way) light fixtures replaced with something more historically sensitive. The fixtures shown in the ’63 photo are fabulous & really add to the character of the space. I love the spacious feel of that photo too. This building has so much potential!

  8. Emily says

    Thanks for the report, Brigham. Loved looking at those old photos. I agree that the building has so much potential–I like to daydream about the place turning into a kind of marketplace similar to Chelsea Market in the meatpacking district (but of course with a distinct LA atmosphere). However, I did buy my toaster from a very nice man in that electronics shop, so I feel a little guilty saying that. I wonder what will happen to those businesses.

  9. Steve Gerdes says

    I suspect that the tiles added, whether in 1950 or 1963, are asbestos based which may explain the choice of just covering them over with modern slate tiles. Abatement would not only cost a fortune, but also would shut the entire place down for quite a while.

  10. Give credit where due…yes, the green wall tile along the Spring Street side was a bad choice, but the owner did a nice job filling in the damaged & missing decorative terra cotta elements on the Broadway side a couple years ago. A dude took molds of the ornamental stuff and applied them to the gaps. I have photos I’ll dig up one of these days…

  11. I agree with you Illithid Dude it should be restored ,they can just re-do it. It would be more historical.

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