In Search of the Cutts Building in downtown Los Angeles

Having an interest in vintage papers and ephemera means that old photos that are part of your own personal history are all the more valuable to you. I have a handful of photos that I wanted to find out more.

My grandfather (b.1900 – d.1982) liked to take photos as a hobby. Growing up I saw albums at my grandparents’ house that my grandmother kept and allowed us grandchildren to look through. When, as an adult in my early 20s, I became interested in photography and in my grandfather’s photos, my grandmother let me borrow a shoe box full of negatives for me to print whatever I wanted. I made my selections and spent close to $200 getting many developed at a specialty photo store for old BW negatives.

Since my photos are reprints I have no information on them. My grandfather died when I was 7 so I couldn’t ask. Most of the photos are from the time my grandfather immigrated to the US from Nurnberg, Germany in the mid 1930s, where he settled in Los Angeles. When I came across buildings in some of the photos, I really didn’t have much hope in discovering where they were. When I came across the same building, taken in many photos, my curiosity was piqued. This one, for example:

And then this one:

And this one:

Hmmm. It looks like an office (with two telephones!). Online I looked for lists of historic buildings in downtown Los Angeles. It took me a couple of hours to compare buildings, but I found it. It’s called the Sun Drug Building on 700 Hill Street. It’s 12 stories, which was pretty impressive when it was built in 1921/22. It’s on the corner of Hill and 7th. Here’s what it looks like on Google Maps. Today it’s a jewelry exchange among other things.

I looked for information on the Sun Drug Building and found out it was once owned by George Cutts from the late 1920s to the early 40s. Now it made sense to me as I had heard that in his early years in California, my grandfather worked as a person who stood in the elevator and pressed the button of the floor you wanted to go to. Here he is in his uniform.

This looks like it was taken on the roof. I found other photos of what I think is the interior of the Cutts Building. I couldn’t find any pictures online of the interior of the Sun Drug Building to compare them.

And one of the street outside.

The door on the left has letters above that say CUTTS BLDG. When looking for old photos online of the Cutts Building, I found one on the street with those same letters so I’m fairly certain this photo was taken next door.

And then there is this one:

This was the Warner Bros. Theatre, exactly cater-cornered to the Cutts Building. One of the movies on the marquee is “Blackwell’s Island”, which was released March 2, 1939.

Here’s the image from Google Maps:

The side-by-side:

Pretty cool, I think. Now since I don’t live in LA, I need to find someone who goes to downtown often, and can step into the Sun Drug Building and have a look. What does the lobby look like now? Is there still marble on the walls by the elevators? Has everything been redone or are there any signs that show its 1920s character?

One more picture of my grandfather, William Hurn in 1939.