The Bizarre History of LA’s Iconic Bradbury Building

From Blade Runner to the occult: the bizarre history of LA's iconic Bradbury Building (Image: Craig Dietrich; the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles)

Even if you’ve never been to Los Angeles, California, you’ve probably seen the Bradbury Building. In addition to being used as the film location for a plethora of 1940s and ’50s-era film noir pieces, it also famously served as one of the major sets for the 1982 neo-noir sci-fi hit Blade Runner.

The history of how the iconic Bradbury Building (located at 304 South Broadway and West 3rd Street in downtown LA) came to be is appropriately bizarre. Curbed Los Angeles wrote of the Italian Renaissance Revival structure’s supposed origins back in 2015. We’ve summarised the weird occultist account here.

The Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles (Image: Highsmith, Carol. M)

In 1892, gold magnate turned real estate developer Lewis L. Bradbury asked local architect Sumner P. Hunt to design what Bradbury intended to be his crowning achievement. But the mogul didn’t like any of the plans that the architect presented to him, and instead approached Hunt’s draftsman, George Wyman, to make his vision a reality.

The Bradbury Building's bizarre history allegedly involves the occult and messages from the designers dead brother (Image: Thomas Amberg)

Wyman – who was not a trained architect – was offered the job. But not wanting to step on his boss’s toes, Wyman hesitated, and did what any level-headed wannabe architect would do under the circumstances. He consulted the spirit of his dead brother. Through a seance, the deceased relative allegedly advised Wyman to take the commission, reassuring him that the ambitious project would be a success.

The Bradbury Building in LA is said to have been designed by Sumner Hunt and/or George Wyman (Image: Luke Jones)

The draftsman did just that, and supposedly based his design on a popular science fiction novel by Edward Bellamy, called Looking Backwards: From 2000 to 1887. Published in 1888, the novel tells of a man who falls asleep and wakes in the year 2000 to find that America had been turned into a Socialist utopia. It’s fitting roots for a then highly-futuristic building that would become immortalised in one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time.

Period photographs of Los Angeles' Italian Renaissance Revival Bradbury Building (Images: Jack Boucher – 1, 2)

If you enjoyed this article, don’t miss our earlier feature covering the 10 greatest fictional cities of film & literature.

 
 
 

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