To the uninitiated, the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles may not look like much, but step through its doors and you enter into one of the most fantastical buildings in LA. Standing at five stories tall, the Bradbury’s interior is an atrium with two open cage elevators, and swirling wrought iron that cascades around marble stairs.
Over the years I heard contradicting information about the accessibility of the Bradbury, as it is a used office space, but when we heard a bar opened within the iconic building, we were overjoyed, and last weekend we visited with a small group of friends.
If you’ve seen the movie Blade Runner, then you’re already familiar with the incredibly beautiful and unique design of the Bradbury, as its the setting for the film’s climax.
While made famous for film buffs in the 1980s, the Bradbury Building’s story begins near the end of the 19th century with Lewis Bradbury.
A gold mining and real estate millionaire, Bradbury was looking for a way to get his name on a building, like many millionaires continue to do to this day. He decided to just build one, and he first commissioned architect Sumner Hunt. When Bradbury came to see Hunt’s designs, he wasn’t taken with them. On his way out he met George Wyman, a draftsman for Hunt, and out of the blue Bradbury asked him to design the building. Wyman was said to have been caught so off guard to be taking a project from his boss, and felt so unqualified that he turned to his dead brother for answers. Yes, I said dead. Using a writing planchette (see one in this post) Wyman and his wife asked Wyman’s brother if he should take the job or not, to which he responded with “Take Bradbury you will be…” followed by some scribbles. Supposedly if read from another direction it read “successful” while another source says “famous.”
Sadly, Bradbury died on July 15, 1892, not living to see the completion of the ornate building with his name on it, which was finished in 1893. Soon it became home to the offices of lawyers, doctors, insurance agents, real estate agents, transportation companies, as well as retail shops. Retail shops continued including Ross Cutlery, where in 1994 O.J. Simpson purchased the knife used in the murder of Simpson’s ex-wife and friend.
While Bradbury had passed, his family still owned and looked after the building, doing renovations in 1915. But as Art Deco began to take over LA, some of the prominent office tenants would vacate, and it eventually became home to more charitable organizations and non-profits. In 1943 the Bradbury family sold the building to Western Management Corporation, and just a few years later, in 1947 it had a fire, and began to face what would become decades of neglect.
While it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and later in 1977 became a National Historic Landmark, it still didn’t get the attention it deserved until after Blade Runner, when it was purchased by Ira Yellin. Yellin was already present in the area, as he had also taken over the nearby Grand Central Market. In the summer of 2003 it was sold to a Hong Kong investor.
In 2011 it was used in The Artist, which went on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It’s also one of my favorite films, highlighting the transition between silent film and talkies.
More recently NeueHouse, a private co-working space, opened inside the Bradbury, along with a bar, dubbed The Wyman after the architect. However, the bar is “members only” meaning you have to rent within the co-working space to gain entrance. Then they announced non-members could acquire a day-pass to visit after working hours, and that’s exactly what we did.
The bar is small and intimate, but also incredibly elegant, going for a mix of old Hollywood glam and sleek contemporary aesthetics. Located on the second floor it gives access for visitors to walk around the upper floor and gaze upon the uniqueness of this legendary icon of architecture and film.
For more information on visiting The Wyman inside the Bradbury Building, please check out this article from Eater Los Angeles. The article does say that non-member passes are complimentary, which is incorrect, they are $5, and require a reservation. Additionally, this pass/reservation format, according to our waitress, will end mid-December, but that Wednesday nights would be open to the public when live music is being performed. Additionally, proof of vaccination and masks are required upon entry, we were informed masks could be removed for photos, in addition of course to eating and drinking.