Just half a mile west of the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard is a magnificently odd little bit of architecture known as Crossroads of the World. Designed by Robert V. Derrah, Crossroads of the World was built in 1936 as a mixed use commercial development, encompassing retail and office space in what has been called the world’s first outdoor shopping mall.
Crossroads is very much a product of its time; a central structure built in the Streamline Moderne style, and looking for all the world like the offspring of a tugboat and a diner, seems to cruise between two banks of cottages done up in Olde World fantasia fashion, the whole thing surmounted with a neon lit globe. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else, other than Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, that is, where a replica stands guard over the huddled masses yearning to spend a year’s wages on some felt and plastic ears and a chance to take a picture with a theater major in a Chewbacca costume.
Crossroads of the World was a symbol of the rise of Hollywood as a place in the 1930s. As the world suffered through the Great Depression, the film industry brought money and jobs to Los Angeles. Crossroads, with the shops of its imaginary international bazaar filled with luxury goods, put the wealth and glamour of the movies right on the corner of Sunset and Las Palmas.
In time, as high-end retail migrated away from Hollywood toward the Miracle Mile and Beverly Hills, Crossroads would become an office complex, hosting a number of entertainment industry administrative functions. Many writers for TV and film keep offices there even today.
It was designated a Los Angeles Historical Cultural Monument in 1974, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. A new development, which will preserve the original buildings while adding high-rise hotel and condominium buildings to the area, is slated to break ground in the next few years.
Thanks for checking out this funny little corner of Los Angeles with me. We’ll be heading into the hills in search of that sweet Laurel Canyon sound, and some archetypal mid-century domestic architecture, on our next visit. Until then, be kind to each other and have fun posting today.