Hollywood Superstar and Architectural Landmark
Free Attraction in Downtown Los Angeles, California
If you’re looking for a free attraction in downtown Los Angeles, you won’t want to miss Hollywood’s unsung hero: The Bradbury Building. Built in 1893, this Hollywood superstar and architectural landmark is on the National Register of Historic Places. In fact, it’s one of the most filmed buildings in L.A., having starred in hundreds of movies, TV Shows, and works of fiction.
(Look for a list of popular movies and television shows filmed on location at the end of this post.)
The Bradbury Building looks grand but rather unremarkable from its Romanesque entrance near the corner of 304 South Broadway at West 3rd Street.
Once you step in, though, you’ll find it rich with Victorian architectural details. From the filigree ironwork and coffered ceilings to the Italian marble stairs, Mexican tile, and decorative terra-cotta trim, it’s a work of art.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: This Downtown L.A. attraction is FREE and open to the Public.
The Central Court and Atrium
The central court soars to five-stories with an open cage elevator, culminating with an atrium skylight which fills the building with natural light. When constructed, the Bradbury Building laid claim to the largest plate-glass windows in Los Angeles.
Surrounded by a labyrinth of stairs, walkways, and balconies, the central court of L.A.'s Bradbury Building is a cross between artist M.C. Escher's Relativity and the New Orleans' French Quarter. @dtla #bradburybuilding… Click To Tweet
The name “Bradbury” brings to mind author Ray Bradbury, whose science fiction/fantasy books filled my childhood with dystopian and sci-fi classics such as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man.
But the namesake of the Bradbury Building is that of gold-mining millionaire Lewis L. Bradbury, who commissioned a young architect named George H. Wyman to design it.
Interestingly, Wyman was inspired by the science fiction novel, Looking Backwards by Edward Bellamy. The book described “a vast hall full of light received not alone from the windows on all sides but from the dome.” Wyman clearly manifested that vision.
A Popular Movie Set
Years later, when the Bradbury Building fell into disrepair, it garnered the attention of Hollywood movie producers.
In addition to being a perfect setting for chases and moody scenes in its decrepit state, the open interior also provided practical benefits: ideal angles for long camera shots, diffused lighting, ample space for lights and equipment, and nearby parking and dining options for staff.
This architectural marvel is perhaps most famous as the movie set for the original Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford.
The Bradbury Building in L.A.: This architectural marvel is perhaps most famous as the movie set for the original Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford. @harrisonfordLA #dtla #losangeles #bradburybuilding #movies #genesis… Click To Tweet
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Look for the original Blade Runner promo poster on the first floor.
The Bradbury Building Now
The Bradbury Building underwent a complete restoration in 1990. Now, the first floor of the building is the home to the LAPD’s Internal Affairs group and offices and residences occupy the upper levels.
However, visitors are welcome to tour the first floor and follow the staircase up to the first landing. It‘s an incredible attraction for sci-fi fans, movie buffs, and architectural lovers to experience this historic building and pop movie culture icon.
Don’t Miss This Hidden Gem!
The Bradbury Building doesn’t take long to see on a self-guided tour, but it’s something you won’t want to miss if you’re exploring Downtown Los Angeles. It’s fun to imagine the movies, television appearances, music videos, and writing inspiration taking place in this magnificent landmark. It truly is Hollywood’s unsung hero!
PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you like incredible architecture featured in movie sets, you’ll love the Newport Mansions; Rosecliff Mansion hosted scenes from the movie production of The Great Gatsby starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
12 Film Sets Featuring the Bradbury Building
- Blade Runner (1982)
- 500 Days of Summer (2009)
- The Artist (2011)
- Chinatown (1974)
- Pay It Forward (2000)
- Double Indemnity (1944)
- D.O.A. (1949)
- Greedy (1994)
- Wolf (1994)
- Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)
- Bosch (2014-)
- The Outer Limits (1963-1965)
Do you recognize the Bradbury Building from any of these movies or shows?
For a comprehensive list of movies and TV series filmed at this Hollywood superstar and architectural landmark in downtown L.A., check out IMDb.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you’re looking for more off-the-beaten-path things to do in L.A., check out my list of 6 Hidden Gems in Greater Los Angeles.