Inside the historic buildings that have defined the Los Angeles Times
Inside the historic buildings that have defined the Los Angeles Times

After 137 years, the Los Angeles Times is moving from downtown Los Angeles to El Segundo. The move marks the end of an era for The Times and an opportunity to look back at its storied history. The development of Times Mirror Square, located in the Civic Center next to City Hall, reflects the aspirations of a newspaper that played an essential role in the development of Los Angeles.

The early buildings

Today the Los Angeles Times is most easily identified by its Art Deco headquarters, completed in 1935 at the corner of 1st and Spring streets. But the paper, which was established in 1881, had had three headquarters before the construction of that landmark building.

First building
(1881-1886)

The Mirror Printing Office and Book Bindery begins publishing the Weekly Mirror, an advertising sheet, on Feb. 1, 1873. The pressroom and plant are powered by a waterwheel and housed in a small two-story brick building located near the intersection of Spring and Temple streets. In 1881, the company publishes the Los Angeles Daily Times for Nathan Cole Jr. and Thomas Gardiner, who later sell the publication and assets to Harrison Gray Otis. In 1884, The Times Mirror Co. is incorporated. On Dec. 4, 1881, the first issue of the Los Angeles Daily Mirror is published. The paper comes out every day except Monday. On Feb. 14, 1887, the first issue of the Los Angeles Times is published. It comes out seven days a week, making it a true "daily."

Second building
(1887-1910)

On Feb. 1, 1887, The Times moves into a larger, three-story brick building with a granite facade located at the northwest corner of 1st and Broadway. The distinctive building features a dome rising above crenulations in the facade. On Dec. 5, 1891, the Times eagle is installed between two towers. Gutzon Borglum sculpted the bronze eagle that symbolized the publisher’s motto: “Stand fast, stand firm, stand sure, stand true.” In 1907, the building expands. The six-story addition housed engraving, composing, photo and art departments and also the linotype machines used to place individual blocks of lead type. A double-cylinder Hoe press, capable of making 3,500 impressions per hour, was located in the basement.

On Oct. 1, 1910, an explosion and fire destroy the Times building, killing 21 employees. Ironworker Ortie McManigal eventually confesses, telling how he and fellow activist Jim McNamara came up with the plan in response to Otis’ fierce opposition to unions. Times staff moves to a temporary location while a new building is constructed.

Third building
(1911-1934)

On the one-year anniversary of the bombing, a cornerstone is laid for The Times’ third building at the same location. With the exception of a four-sided clock tower, the new building has a dome and arching windows like its predecessor. The Times moves to the building on Oct. 1, 1912, installing the eagle on a new perch.

Otis dies in 1917, and Harry Chandler becomes the publisher. The Times continues to grow with Los Angeles, whose population would soar from 900,000 in 1920 to 2.2 million in 1930. Chandler commissions architect Gordon B. Kaufmann to design a new building for The Times, located across the street.

Fourth building: Kaufmann’s masterpiece (completed in 1935)

During a ceremony attended by civic leaders and broadcast over the radio, Chandler lays the cornerstone on April 10, 1934, at 1st and Spring streets. Kaufmann’s fortress-like plan complements nearby civic landmarks such as City Hall, which was completed a few years earlier. Kaufmann wins a gold medal for the building at the Paris Exposition in 1937, the same year that demolition on the third Times building begins.

The building features state-of-the-art presses, power generators, an exhibit hall, an auditorium and dining rooms. It is the first building in the nation to be completely air-conditioned. On June 28, 1935, the eagle is placed over the clock, facing north. On July 1, the first issue publishes on the new presses.

Here is what the Times building looked like and where editorial worked as depicted by staff panoramic artist Charles Hamilton Owens in 1935 and colorized by staff graphic artist Lorena Iñiguez Elebee in 2018.