civic center, downtown los angeles
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Downtown LA Hall of Justice of Charles Manson Infamy to Reopen Early 2015

The 1925 Hall of Justice, which once held the infamous Charles Manson, is slated to reopen in early 2015 after an extensive $234 million retrofit and modernization project

The 1925 Hall of Justice, which once held the infamous Charles Manson, is slated to reopen in early 2015 after an extensive $234 million retrofit and modernization project

One of the most magnificent civic structures in all of LA is close to reopening after being shut down for two decades since the 1994 Northridge earthquake left the building red tagged due to severe damage. Fortunately, the 1925 Hall of Justice designed in the Beaux Arts style was not demolished. Instead, the county-owned structure located in LA’s civic center — once the headquarters for the sheriff, district attorney, and coroner — was saved after almost a decade of fundraising efforts spearheaded by former Sheriff Lee Baca that started in 2004.

Work on the building began in early 2012 and included extensive seismic retrofitting (new shear walls and drag beams) and infrastructure modernization throughout the 14-story historic structure including all brand new mechanical, electrical, and plumbing as well as the introduction of central AC. The once-grimy exterior of the building was also completely cleaned and restored. In addition to the general contractor Clark Construction, several specialty contractors were brought in for their expertise in various areas due to the historic nature of the project including: Spectra Company, Carnevale & Lohr, and Evergreene Architectural Arts. All told, the $234 million project is finally wrapping up and will reopen in early 2015, once again, as the headquarters for the Los Angeles County Sheriff and District Attorney’s office.

The grand stately architecture isn’t the only interesting part about the building. It also has had a noirish history of (in)famous figures who have ended up behind those thick concrete walls. The infamous Charles Manson was once held behind bars here. And those same jail cells have been painstakingly restored and relocated to another section of the Hall of Justice that will become part of a new visitor center. Who else ended up here? Both Marilyn Monroe and Robert F. Kennedy had their autopsies conducted here in 1962 and 1968 respectively.

Exterior

The 14-story Beaux Arts style Hall of Justice will reopen again in early 2015

The 14-story Beaux Arts style Hall of Justice will reopen again in early 2015

New landscaping for the main entrance along Spring Street

New landscaping for the main entrance along Spring Street

Another view of the main entrance along Spring Street with new landscaping

Another view of the main entrance along Spring Street with new landscaping

The Hall of Justice sits nearby other grand civic structures within the civic center including LA City Hall and the US Courthouse

The Hall of Justice sits nearby other grand civic structures within the civic center including LA City Hall and the US Courthouse

The west entrance with new landscaping facing Broadway

The west entrance with new landscaping facing Broadway

The new parking structure adjacent to the Hall of Justice

The new parking structure adjacent to the Hall of Justice

The new parking structure has 1,000 parking spaces

The new parking structure has 1,000 parking spaces

Beautiful architectural details have been restored throughout the historic building

Beautiful architectural details have been restored throughout the historic building

Hall of Justice erected in 1925

Hall of Justice erected in 1925

Interior

The grand foyer with its ornate ceiling and chandeliers have been beautifully restored

The grand foyer with its ornate ceiling and chandeliers have been beautifully restored

A closer look at that gorgeous ceiling

A closer look at that gorgeous ceiling

Marble columns and floors have also been restored

Marble columns and floors have also been restored

The original banisters in the stairwell have been restored

The original banisters in the stairwell have been restored

New efficient and technologically advanced elevator system added

New efficient and technologically advanced elevator system added

And that infamous jail cell…

Controls that once operated those jail cell doors

Controls that once operated those jail cell doors

Hardened criminals were once held in these jail cells

Hardened criminals were once held in these jail cells

A peek inside a cell where Charles Manson may have once been held

A peek inside a cell where Charles Manson may have once been held

Did Charles Manson once use this little white sink?

Did Charles Manson once use this little white sink?

The etchings on this bed frame have been preserved

The etchings on this bed frame have been preserved

Operating instructions for those lever controls

Operating instructions for those lever controls

10 Comments

  1. I thought the exterior was restored by Carnevale & Lohr and the interior by EverGreens Architectural Arts…

  2. LAifer says

    Brigham, is that parking garage going to have any street-level retail, or is it just going to be a parking garage at street level as well?

    • No, there is no retail as part of the parking structure. Unfortunately the entire civic center area still lacks much else besides grand civic structures. A few things can help change this: 1) redeveloping the LA Mall, 2) the new Parker Center project is supposed to have some retail, 3) the US Courthouse could be repurposed after the new US Courthouse is finished by the LA Times buliding, 4) capping the 101 freeway with a cap park, connecting the civic center to El Pueblo/Chinatown, generating some crossflow of pedestrian traffic

      • LAifer says

        Thanks Brigham. Given that LA’s civic center is the largest concentration of government jobs west of the Mississippi, you’d think it could offer folks more than the stray food truck at Grand Park. It’s a real dead zone for commercial activity, and frankly a lot of that has to do with the grandiosity of buildings that can’t be bothered to contemplate their street-level interaction. Seems like the new parking garage is a lost opportunity to rethink our city’s street-level experience, particularly for those folks who do the most work around setting land use policy. Glad to see there are potentially other opportunities in the not-too-distant future, although I’d put the Courthouse and 101 cap in a “wish list” bucket, since those may not happen for decades to come.

  3. robertissimus says

    Great entry, Brigham. Glad you focused not only on the restoration, but the building’s history as well. Maybe Los Angeles could follow the example of London and other cities and come up with a system for placing plaques on buildings to commemorate people and events associated with them. This would probably help dispel the notion that there’s no history in L.A. — and it would be fun to read those stories too.

  4. Dieter Muller says

    Somebody please explain to me why in this day and age the city of LA still uses tropical and water hungry plants, like birds of paradise, for their landscaping, instead of drought tolerant vegetagian?
    I mean, seriously???

    • Chris Bell says

      Birds of Paradise may not be native but they are drought tolerant and the official flower of LA.

      It’s actually very hard to plant water-thirsty landscapes in public places as the architect needs to submit a water budget for approval by bldg inspectors.

  5. Mr whitman says

    Brigham, thx for the comprehensive photos. I pass this project frequently and always wondered what’s happening

  6. Veronica Myers says

    I heard of a ribboncutting taking place on Oct 8th for the improved building but I have not seen a time listed. Do you know Brigham?

  7. PFC Jason Hayden says

    Love Downtown LA! Been coming here ever since I was a kid. First trip was back in 97 for Easter. Family trip to Olvera Street and seeing the then “Library Tower” for the first time. Exciting!
    Now in the present day I continue my trips here frequently.
    Left for the military in 2013 and haven’t been back for almost a year and was amazed to discover that the historic Hall of Justice is set to reopen soon, The new museum on Grand, The Broad ready to open its doors, the Wilshire Grand Hotel being replaced with LA’s newest skyscraper….was stunned how a building Ive seen in my postcards for years was completely gone and replaced with a giant hole!
    MTA’s regional connector is going to be really useful, and discovering a giant new apartment building on Santa Fe Ave in the Arts District sprang up faster than weeds!
    The cherry of the cake was seeing the visionary plans for the” New 6th Street Bridge”……Gonna be sad that the old one will be demolished but its a look torward the future for this great city.

    Safe to say that LA’s economy is on the rebound forsure!

    Back when the city was the “gang capital of America”
    fast forward 20 years when crime has dropped significantly and new oppurtunities are upon the city of Angels…..

    LA is gonna have a bright future! Keep up the good work!

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