If you are visiting Hollywood, you won’t miss this sign or building. I’ve seen the ornate Hollywood and Vine sign on the corner of Hollywood and Vine (pictured above) many times. Above it is another tall sign saying Hollywood and Vine. The stately Gothic/Art Deco tower they are mounted on defines the intersection, yet I was never quite sure what this grand building was!
I decided to find out. It’s the Equitable Building, aka The Bank of Hollywood Building, built in 1929. The building was designed by Aleck Curlett, an American architect, and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with many other buildings his firm designed. Even with the iconic Capitol Records Building to the north and the Pantages Theatre just east, it has remained a significant landmark in Hollywood.
The reason I didn’t know just what the building was without doing some research was because its sign was removed in 2008. Like so many of the old buildings in Los Angeles it once had a large ornate sign on top of the building that read “Bank of Hollywood Building” in 10 ft. high letters.
It was then that the building was converted into a loft style live/work units by Palisades Development Group. At the same time, the “Bank of Hollywood Building” sign turned into one advertising “The Lion King” at the adjacent Pantages Theater, then “Snow White” at Disneyland, and finally “Patron” tequila. The replacement of the original sign was not welcomed by many as the ornate rooftop signs that adorn so many buildings from that era are considered a part of LA’s cultural heritage.
Brief History of the Hollywood Equitable Building
The Equitable Building was completed at the end of 1930 and in November the powerful agent, Myron Selznick (brother of David O. Selznick) moved his agency into the building. With him came such stars as Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda, Boris Karloff, Carole Lombard, and others.
By 1939 many advertising agencies leased space in the building. The giant Williams Esty and Company were responsible for the Camel cigarette ads and the sponsorship of the radio version of Blondie with Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake on CBS. By 1942, Young and Rubicam Company moved into the building and did the advertising for the U.S. War Department on the radio. In 1945 Rudy Vallee had offices in the building along with the advertising agency, Benton and Bowles who sponsored the popular Glamour and Manor Show.
The Equitable Building, now known as The Lofts at Hollywood and Vine, is a significant piece of Hollywood history. This is the first of several articles I will be writing about the notable and iconic buildings and attractions in Hollywood. While Hollywood is known as “tinsel town,” when one cares to look there is a great deal of substance beneath the tinsel exterior.