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Spring Street revisited

July 30, 2008 |  6:08 am

C.C. Pierce & Co. Photographers, Los Angeles, Cal., U.S.A.

An undated photograph of the Phillips Block, 1887-1912.

Dropcap_a_1901 After looking at the old photos of Spring Street over the last few days, I wanted to learn more about the Phillips Block, a seemingly lovely building north of 1st Street. The Phillips Block, designed by R.J. Reeve looked wonderful--but even before it was finished there were problems with the construction, see story below left.

In December 1888, developer Louis Phillips denied charges that, for example, "in Chicago or New York this building would be condemned in 20 minutes. He also denied that "the building is nothing but a shell and a very light earthquake might bring the whole thing to the street."

The Times lavished praise on the People's Store, which opened in the building in July 1888.


Above, books on sale at the People's Store, in the Phillips Block.



Above, in the final days of the Phillips Block, after most of its tenants had left, including the Hamburger Brothers' store, it housed an auctioneer.
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By 1912, however, the Phillips Block was considered a deathtrap and the worst fire hazard in the city.

Below, possibly my most favorite fact in a very long while: In 1911 "mice and matches" were blamed for 12 fires in the city of Los Angeles.


A few months after the 1912 article was published, the building, in fact, burned in what was believed to be arson. Fortunately, no one was injured in the blaze, which drew enormous crowds, The Times said.