Parking garages don’t often receive attention as architectural objects or historical monuments, but this one might deserve a second look. Designed by one of Los Angeles’ leading architectural firms, Wurdeman and Becket, the General Petroleum Corporation Parking Garage opened on Feb. 28, 1949, on the northwest corner of Flower and Eighth streets in downtown Los Angeles. It served as the off-site parking facility for General Petroleum’s new office building (today, the Pegasus Apartments) two blocks away at Flower and Wilshire; instead of excavating five or six basement levels for on-site parking, the oil company opted to build a standalone garage here to accommodate 446 cars.
The self-park garage was revolutionary in its corkscrew-style design that maximized efficiency by including parking spaces on the sloped ramps. (In earlier designs, the ramps simply provided access to the levels above and below.) And though it could use some detailing today, the structure’s clean lines, graceful curves, and vintage “PARKING” sign grant it a charm lacking in most parking garages. Wurdeman and Becket, I should note, was the firm behind the famed Pan-Pacific Auditorium as well as the General Petroleum office building down the road. Later, after Wurdeman’s 1949 death, Becket designed Hollywood’s landmark Capitol Records Tower.
There’s a plaque on the structure’s Flower Street side announcing the architects and deidcation date. It’s what initially caught my attention, and apparently blogdowntown’s Eric Richardson also stumbled across it back in 2006.
Downtown office workers still park in the structure, but the fate of another historic garage just a few blocks to the east suggests an interesting possibility for its future. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a 1924 parking garage on Grand Avenue between Eighth and Ninth was converted into the South Park Lofts around 2002.
The General Petroleum Corporation Parking Garage shortly after its 1949 opening. Courtesy of the Photo Collection – Los Angeles Public Library.