A storied Los Angeles theater and office complex built by silent film stars that was later owned by one of the city’s most popular televangelists has been purchased by East Coast investors.
The historic United Artists building at Broadway and Ninth Street in downtown Los Angeles was sold by Wescott Christian Center Inc. to Greenfield Partners for $11 million.
Greenfield, a prominent hotel investor, hasn’t revealed its plans for the property that once sported neon signs proclaiming “Jesus Saves.” Representatives of the South Norwalk, Conn., company did not respond to requests for comment.
Silent film stars Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin were among the founders of United Artists, a movie production company. Pickford, known as “America’s Sweetheart,” posed at the controls of a steam shovel in early 1927 to call attention to the groundbreaking for the United Artists Building, a 13-story movie palace and office complex at 927 S. Broadway.
Construction was rushed with three shifts of workers building around the clock to get the Spanish Gothic-style building done in time for the premiere of Pickford’s film “My Best Girl” just after Christmas. Searchlights were expected to attract a crowd of 100,000 people, who would hear the ceremony from loudspeakers set up on surrounding blocks as far away as Seventh Street, The Times reported. The National Guard was called out in advance to maintain order.
The structure was purchased in 1986 by Glendale-based Westcott Christian Center. One of its founders was Gene Scott, a flamboyant preacher whose broadcasts were heard nationally. He died in 2005.
Downtown Los Angeles has enjoyed a renaissance in the last decade, and some improvements such as condominiums, bars and restaurants have come to the blocks around Broadway and Olympic Boulevard near the United Artists building.
“That area is already starting to form a bona fide neighborhood,” said downtown advocate and blogger Brigham Yen. “Broadway is the most architecturally significant street in downtown L.A., if not all of Los Angeles County."
-- Roger Vincent
Photo: United Artists Building Credit: Wikipedia Commons