Videos of Interest


Thursday, April 1, 2010

May Company, Wilshire & Fairfax, Los Angeles. Opened 1940. Architects: Albert C. Martin & S.A. Marx

David May founded what was to become The May Department Stores Company in Leadville, Colorado in 1877, one year before R.H. Macy founded his famous chain. It was in 1910 that the name The May Department Stores Company, later to be known as May Co., was officially incorporated. The May Company California division was established in 1923 when David May acquired A. Hamburger & Sons Co.

This striking building at the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and S. Fairfax Ave. marks the western end of the "Miracle Mile" in Los Angeles, a brand new concept in city planning for the 1920s that centered around the automobile as opposed to the pedestrian. The May Company Wilshire, as it was soon to be known, was constructed in 1940 by architects Albert C. Martin & S.A. Marx.

I took these photographs when I first moved to the area in 1989. How well I remember the 'store closing' sale during it's final months. Sadly, I never photographed the exquisite interior, with its wood paneled elevators and it's polished escalators. In my mind I can still picture the interior as it was when I walked through the doors off Wilshire Blvd. The May Company chain dissolved in 1993 and many of it's stores became Macy's Department Stores. Happily, this building was preserved and acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They've retained its streamlined facade for future generations to appreciate.

May Company Wilshire, corner of Wilshire Blvd. & S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles (1989)

May Company Wilshire, looking east down Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles (1989)


  1. nice photos, great blog

    David from Los Angeles -

  2. I visited the building for the first time yesterday to check out the Diane Von Furstenberg show.

  3. I enjoyed your old photos of the May Company; thanks for posting.

  4. In my early research efforts regarding another of May Company's retail fortresses I've stumbled over this grand structure. My focus is exclusively on the Southtown branch of Famous Barr, a May division. Southtown served St Louisans for half a century, from 1951 to the store's closing in 1992. In November of '94 the tear down began. The architect was one Nole Leslie Flint, at one time a partner to Marx. Southtown was unique in it's location, smack in the heart of a residential sector at the once one of the city's busiest intersections. It was the second branch store of the May Company, then headquatered in St Louis. The main 6 story store,was downtown. The second branch store, Clayton, opened in '48, a few years before Southtown. All 3 of these May Company fortresss, the Wilshire location, St Louis's Clayton and Southtown store have most brominate features mirroring one other. The first 40 years of my life were literally spent within the shadows of Souttown Famous Barr. Met my first wife there. Southown was 4 levels counting the "bargin basement" and without question became a St Louis landmark, The rounded sandstone façade, the deep reflective marble trim around the entire base- not to mention the very soft tones of the massive sales floors, all laid out in a circular midway of sorts. One of the most unique Souhtown features was a tunnel that led from one of the huge parking lots. Across from the main building, A tiny Jack-in-the Box entrance was a stairwell that gave way to a narrow passageway. It burrowed under six lanes of Chippewa Street [much tike Wilshire] and opened into the basement retail floor of the main building. That tiny entranceway, with the main structure as the backdrop, is in a rather long scene from a Steve McQueen movie entitled The Great St Louis Bank Robbery. The movie was filmed in St Louis and Famous Southtown takes center stage in a "license plate stealing scene" Ebay for a few dollars.. Southtown cast a warmth somehow with it's soft glow and sparkling cosmetic and jewelry counters. And those manikins--everywhere. I did manage to "gain access" to abandon Southtown before it came down. That's another story in itself that I've chronicled. At the time I lived directly across the street and at night I'd fall asleep to those mighty cranes Ughing for mercy- the old Southtown defying them with every bit of strength incorporated into it's taught construction. It was a bittersweet sound. to fall asleep to. If you have any guidance or information regarding the Marx or Flint architects, please let me know. Much like the music and the cars of the era, the retail experience of today is null and void of home spun dazzle that once radiated throughout the midways of these stupendous structures.