RESTORATION WATCH : Welcome Home

Sometimes there is a happy ending. After months of negotiations, R. H. Macy & Co. has returned nearly all the historically significant fixtures and furnishings it removed last year from its now-shuttered Bullocks Wilshire store.

The building, completed in 1929, is so majestic an example of Art Deco architecture that it is on the National Register of Historic Places. But municipal and federal laws protect only the building, not movable fixtures, no matter how historic or splendid. Because Macy's owns the lease on the Bullocks property, it was legally entitled to use the more than 200 decorative items however and wherever it wanted. Some of these one-of-a-kind items found their way into other Macy-owned stores.

But legalities aside, Macy's action caused hurt feelings locally. City leaders, including Mayor Richard Riordan, and preservationists campaigned relentlessly for the return of the chandeliers, urns, clocks, fireplace screens and sconces removed from the mid-Wilshire property.

After protracted, tense negotiations, Macy's has done the right thing, returning 166 items proved through photographic records to be original to the store. These items will be on display when the facility is reopened next year as a library for the Southwestern University School of Law. Public tours of the facility will be conducted.

Preservationists regard the return of these precious items as a national precedent for historic properties elsewhere. Beyond that, it is a sweet ending indeed for one struggling building in a struggling neighborhood of Los Angeles.

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