The Broadway Department Store

the_broadway_store_los_angeles

It’s unlikely that patrons of The Broadway at Fourth & Broadway in the fall of 1926 noticed anything different about their shopping experience. Hosiery was still on aisle 8, books on aisles 5-6; the beauty shop was still giving marcel waves on the 3rd floor, and Toy Town on the 4th floor was being made ready for a visit from Santa Claus. But like Hamburger’s, another pioneer Los Angeles department store had passed out of family ownership.

the_broadway_store_los_angeles
There’d been a Broadway Department Store on the southwest corner of Broadway & Fourth Street since 1895. Arthur Letts Sr., newly arrived in Los Angeles, took over the failing store there in February 1896 and built it into a wildly successful enterprise. Catering to the bargain shopper, Letts was innovative among department store retailers at the time for his pricing practices and return policy.

the_broadway_department_store_los_angeles_1912

12-29-1912

Unlike other stores that changed location often, The Broadway stayed right where it was, adding on as needed, and let the growing City come to it. Plans for a new 8-story cream colored brick edifice designed by Parkinson & Bergstrom were announced in late 1912. Built in stages so that the store could remain open during construction, the fully completed store debuted in 1915. The Broadway also leased space in the upper three floors of the new (1914) Clark Hotel on Hill St., which abutted it to the west, and had its own entrance from Hill Street through the lobby of the hotel.

Inside it was like a small city, with a beauty salon, rooftop restaurant and full departments: clothing, furniture, rugs, perfume, books, groceries, cosmetics, household goods, sporting goods, yardage- if The Broadway didn’t sell it, you probably didn’t need it. The multi-level bargain basement was billed as the “store within a store.”

the_broadway_store_los_angeles

The most recent expansion, c.1924. LAPL

In April 1923, The Broadway revealed plans for its Fourth Street expansion on the site of the old Sherman Hotel. Soon after, the 60-year old Arthur Letts, Sr. fell ill and died on May 18, 1923. The pioneer merchant was much mourned by his employees and the community. Son Arthur Jr. took over as head of the store. The 11-story addition had a gala “informal opening” from November 8-10, 1924.

the_broadway_store_los_angeles

The new addition had two-way escalators from the basement to the 4th floor and elevators to all floors. 11-9-1924.LA Times

In February 1926, The Broadway proudly celebrated its 30th birthday.

the_broadway_department_store_los_angeles

In October 1926, Letts Jr. sold The Broadway to a group of the store’s executive management, headed by the late Lett’s son-in-law Malcolm McNaghten. The single department store employed about 2400 people at the time. Outwardly there were few signs of the change, other than the name Letts disappearing from the store’s advertising and “Inc” appeared instead.

the_broadway_store_los_angeles

January 1926

the_broadway_store_los_angeles

December 1926

the_broadway_store_los_angeles

One of The Broadway’s main floor aisles decorated for Christmas c. 1925. USC collection.

arthur_letts_home_hollywood

The Arthur Letts home in Hollywood, with its formal gardens, had its own postcards.

4th & Broadway remained the company’s only store until 1932, when it took over the bankrupt H.B. Dyas store and opened Dyas’ Hollywood location as The Broadway Hollywood. The downtown store closed in 1973.

Advertisements

One thought on “The Broadway Department Store

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s