The Los Angeles County Central Court House is located at 111 N Hill St and 110 N Grand in Downtown Los Angeles just across the Street from Disney Hall the architectural landmark by Frank Gehry. Foreign visitors can not get enough photos of the Gehry undulating metal panels and pose with it to remember their trip to this City. But they should take a moment as well to consider the imposing building dispensing justice across the way. The Courthouse has nine floors, but two entrances. On the Hill Street side it tops out at six floors because it follows the grade of First St as it climbs from Hill to Grand. The building was designed principally by the well-known architect Paul Williams who was responsible for many buildings and residences throughout Los Angeles and Beverly Hills from the 1920s to the 1960s. He worked in an era when African American professionals faced many hurdles which he overcame because of his obvious talent. The court house was completed in 1959. It was lavishly appointed with terrazzo floors and interior marble as wall clad throughout the halls and passageways. No expense was spared in the construction and fit and finish because the trade unions, a powerful force when public buildings were involved, insisted that no expense be spared. Alas, over half century later it appears there may be asbestos in the insulation, and the earthquake protections and other features are not up to present building code requirements. There has been talk of removing the court house to make more room for the planned development of shops and residences across from Disney Hall where the “erector set” parking structure is now located. There may not have been many movies shot in the building but of course many a drama plays out there every day open for the public to see in each court room. Just watching the proceedings involving Sumner Redstone the Chairman of Paramount Pictures, or Frank McCourt battling to preserve from his wife the billions from his sale of the Dodgers would make the visit both entertaining and fodder for a screenplay.
By Michael Harris