From the birth of Los Angeles to today, the city’s structures serve Angelenos in shifting and sometimes surprising ways. This week in 1929, Bullocks Wilshire Department Store opened in the stunning Art Deco building that currently houses Southwestern Law School. ICW celebrates this anniversary with Southwestern and Dean Susan Westerberg Prager, who provided a brief history about this Wilshire Boulevard landmark.
After visiting the 1925 Exposition of Decorative and Modern Arts in Paris, where the Art Deco, or moderne, style was introduced, John G. Bullock’s partner, P.G. Winnett, and architect Donald Parkinson agreed to use this new aesthetic as the inspiration for the store. When Bullocks Wilshire opened in 1929, the building was one of the first Art Deco structures built in the United States. Parkinson, along with his son John, went on to design some of Los Angeles’ most prominent landmarks from Union Station to City Hall.
After purchasing the building out of bankruptcy in 1995, Southwestern spent the next ten years meticulously restoring the building to its original luster and design. The building is beloved by many of the faculty and staff (and older students) who have vivid memories of shopping with their mothers or lunching in the tea room.
“Seeing the building spring up before me each morning as I ascend the parking lot ramp always takes my breath away,” adds Dean Prager. “John Bullock and our founder, John Schumacher, never met but share countless core values. It is very fitting that this special law school ended up in this special building.”
Today Southwestern utilizes this architectural treasure to serve Los Angeles both through training new lawyers and through its numerous public interest programs and clinics.