A Different View of the City

Los Angeles City Hall was the tallest building in the city from its completion in 1928 until 1964. Even though it has since been eclipsed by various skyscrapers housing commercial offices, its distinctive shape compared to its surroundings helps it stand out. If you’ve ever been to Grand Park, you have probably seen it standing to the southeast. At the top of the building is an observation deck that you can visit for free on the weekdays and, since I had a free Thursday, that’s what I did!

If you take the Red Line, the Civic Center stop is the closest to city hall. There is an entrance for employees on Spring Street, but public entrance to the building requires you to walk around to Main Street, where you’ll go through a metal detector and get a nifty visitor sticker. They asked for a photo ID when you check-in, so don’t forget one!


There are two main stops that the security guard at the entrance recommended to visit, but before I get into that, I just want to point out that you should make sure that you get on the right elevators! Some are express and are limited to certain floors, so pay attention. The first place I went to was the third floor, where they had an exhibition from the USC School of Architecture and some artifacts from the city’s past, which included a flag of Los Angeles that was flown aboard the Challenger space shuttle, a clock presented by the city of Nagoya to commemorate the 35th anniversary of being sister cities, and a bust of both former Mexican president Benito Juarez and his wife Margarita.





If you look up, there is a depiction of the twelve signs of the zodiac surrounding the phrase “The masters of education hold in their hands the future of the world.” After some googling, I *think* the quote is supposed to be attributed to German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, but I am not 100% sure. I really liked this quote though and it’s kind of weird that searching the quote in parentheses brings so little results, especially when it was chosen to be featured in a place like Los Angeles City Hall.


The architecture and design in general is pretty impressive, both inside and outside of the building.



Afterwards, I started to continue my way up to the top. I’m not sure if I made a mistake or not, but I wound up on an elevator that only went up to the 22nd floor. I then took an elevator there to the 26th floor and exited in the Mayor Tom Bradley Room. There are a bunch of paintings of previous Los Angeles mayors on this level, as well as the bathrooms. You can either take another elevator that runs between the 26th and 27th floors or you can just walk up the stairs and enter another room that I assume is used for press conferences or small meetings. There was a podium there so I couldn’t resist taking a picture behind it.



There are some interesting quotes along the top of the walls as well. My favorite said “The city came into being to preserve life, it exists for the good life.” Again, I am not 100% sure as to whom this quote should be attributed to and it’s just so weird that there isn’t a lot of information out there to shed some light on things.

Exiting out of the observation deck, you can move around and see views of Los Angeles in all directions. There are some signs describing various points of interest, but they all have aged quite a bit and are a little worn out. The signs aren’t updated to feature some of the newer sights and buildings and some of the words aren’t even legible.

Here are a few pictures that I took from the deck. See if you can find some of the places mentioned.


Dodgers Stadium, Chinatown, United States Court House


Grand Park, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Department of Water and Power Building


US Bank Tower, Los Angeles Times Building


LAPD Headquarters, Los Angeles Times Building


Federal Building, City Hall East, Little Tokyo

On the elevator ride back down, I was talking to a security guard who moved to Los Angeles from Ohio. We both lamented the fact that many people who live in Los Angeles don’t even know what’s there to see. If you’re available one weekday during normal business hours, then I think it’s worth it to drop by and get a different view of the city. There are a lot of observation decks in different cities that require some kind of admission fee, but this one is free so take advantage of it!


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