Historic review for Dutton’s site

Times Staff Writer

With architectural photographer Julius Shulman helping to plead the case for the home of Dutton’s Brentwood Books, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted Thursday to consider declaring the complex a historic-cultural monument.

Four commissioners voted to follow a staff recommendation that the building warranted further investigation as a well-preserved example of mid-20th century California modern architecture. A fifth commissioner, Carlos Singer, recused himself because of his friendship with David Barry, the man who commissioned the building in 1950 and recently sold it.

Dutton’s “represents a wonderful, cherished community center,” said Shulman, 96. “There should not be a debate.”


The home to Dutton’s since 1984, the building is organized around a central courtyard that has long been a neighborhood gathering spot and the setting for hundreds of book signings by the likes of Alice Walker, Margaret Atwood, Tom Wolfe and the late Kurt Vonnegut.

The applicant in the case is Diane M. Caughey, a daughter of Milton H. Caughey, the modernist architect who designed the building on San Vicente Boulevard.

On Sunday afternoon, Caughey plans to lead visitors on an architectural tour of the site.

The building’s owner is Charles T. Munger, a prominent attorney and major donor to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and other local arts institutions, who said in January that he planned to redevelop the site as a mixed-use development that would include luxury condos and a ground-level bookstore.

His comments stirred longtime Dutton’s customers into action. Caughey and supporters formed Friends of the Barry Building. She gathered historical photos and submitted documentation that won praise from the Los Angeles Conservancy and Cultural Heritage Commission President Mary Klaus-Martin during the meeting at the Woman’s Club of Hollywood.

Designation as a historic-cultural monument would not provide an ironclad prohibition against demolition, said Ken Bernstein, manager of the city Planning Department’s Office of Historic Resources.

The commission is expected to take a final vote within two months. If it names the structure a historic-cultural monument, the designation will be put to a vote by the City Council.