Did Patriotic Hall have a different architect?

Clubhouse Rendering (c1915) copy.jpg

Los Angeles historian Jim Beardsley is a scholar in the work of Ross G. Montgomery, the architect of such many LA area churches who also was an illustrator. With downtown's Bob Hope Patriotic Hall being officially rededicated today, with lobby murals by Kent Twitchell, Beardsley sends along a short piece about the real origins of the building's design.

An Architectural Rendering that Became a Landmark

Ross G. Montgomery (1888-1969) was a Los Angeles-based architect and illustrator as well as an expert on Catholic architecture and ecclesiastical art. Many of his architectural interpretations were convincing variations within a broad scope of scholarly themes based in Spanish Colonial, Italian, and other historic design schema. While evolving from the more romantic and less historically accurate earlier styles, Montgomery’s adaptations accentuated the modernist functions of many of the civic-type designs that he and his associate William Mullay produced locally between the 1910s and the 1960s. This progression was clearly evident in a rendering by Montgomery that was published in 1916 which depicted a multi-story clubhouse. Soon after its initial exhibition the original rendering was set aside. It was, however, destined to be revived nearly a decade later and used as the basis of the design for Patriotic Hall.

Delineating a multiple-arched entry on South Figueroa Street, wrought iron gates and balconies, and a decorative exterior concrete scheme, Montgomery’s drawing was published in a 1916 report by the Southern California Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In 2005, C.S.U.N. history professor Dr. Merry Ovnick pointed out that the rendering was strikingly similar to Patriotic Hall which was built in 1925 and dedicated in 1926. The architectural design of Patriotic Hall has been generally attributed to the Allied Architects Association, but its explicit conception should be credited to Ross Montgomery.

After his initial illustration was first published, a slightly revised version of that rendering was chosen as the winner of an in-house design competition conducted by the A.A.A. in 1923 and 1924. However, Montgomery wasn’t identified as the originator of the chosen entry, and he apparently didn’t participate in any of the final planning that was completed by the Allied Architects under the direction of the well-known local architect, (and friend of Ross Montgomery), G. Edwin Bergstrom. Newspaper reports from 1926 emphasized that the edifice was built to last: “The new building is a Class A reinforced steel structure of Florentine type of architecture . . . . It has a frontage of 100 feet on Figueroa Street and a length of 155 feet. The interior is decorated in Italian Renaissance style.”

When it was built, Patriotic Hall may have been the tallest building in the city at 10 stories, but was quickly surpassed by City Hall. Patriotic Hall was opened to house services for veterans and that's what the county is using it for. Though, the LA Times notes that veterans groups are not happy about being relegated to the basement.

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