Highrising — Solitary Skyscrapers of Suburbia

High Rising

Fast-fashion company Bestseller recently announced their intention to build a 320-meter tall skyscraper as their headquarters in Brande — a tiny Danish town of roughly 7,000 inhabitants. Few buildings there have more than three stories and the mostly flat skyline is punctuated with the occasional windmill or church steeple. It won’t be the first such rural skyscraper; back in 1991, a 41-story residential tower, スカイタワー41 (Sky Tower 41), sprang out of a rice paddy in Kaminoyama, Japan. From what I’ve seen, there hasn’t been much if any uproar about either project.

スカイタワー41 (Still from a video by Jitensya37)

Meanwhile, back in Silver Lake, the proposed replacement of an old gas station with a three-story building was met with much weeping and gnashing of teeth. This, after all, is in a quaint corner of Silver Lake centered around a 7-Eleven which some have proposed designating “Silver Lake Village” — and what kind of village (Brande and Kaminoyama excepted) has three-story buildings? Someone event painted a hellish dystopia where the building’s recycling bins would line the street for one day of the week — occupying a space better suited to free automobile storage.

Silver Lake wasn’t always so synonymous with NIMBYs, NIMPS, and other urban bumpkins determined to preserve at all costs a little slice of car-dependent suburbia inside the nation’s second most populous (and most densely populated) metropolis. In 1929, the four-story Silver Lake Towers were completed at 3408 Sunset Boulevard. A year earlier, a five-story residential low-rise was completed around the corner at 3205 Descanso Drive. If there were Jazz Age Silver Lakers who moaned about the destruction of neighborhood integrity, their laments have been long forgotten.

Similarly, over in Hollywood, that district saw its skyline climb from two-to-fifteen stories in 1925, with the completion of the Terminal Building, which at fifteen stories tall actually qualifies as a high-rise — if not an especially tall one. Los Angeles repealed a half-century old height limit of 150 feet (47.52 meters) in 1956 and in the intervening years, multiple high-rises rose in Beverly Grove, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Bunker Hill, Carthay Circle, Century City, Civic Center, Commerce, El Segundo, Encino, the Fashion District, the Financial District, Glendale, Inglewood, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Long Beach, Los Feliz, Marina del Rey, Miracle Mile, North Hollywood, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Sawtelle, South Central, South Park (Downtown), Universal City, Warner Center, West Hollywood, West Los Angeles, Westchester, Westlake, and Westwood.

Simultaneously, there were other communities where a single high-rise rose. Some of these towers barely top 35 meters — a fairly liberal cut-off for a skyscraper and one well below the height limit set in 1904. Most of these solitary superstructures were built between the 1920s and 1970s. The most recent was completed in 1981. I can’t help but wonder what happened in the intervening four decades. Surely community residents noticed that the sky, though scraped, hadn’t fallen. Having witnessed the erection one high-rise close up, did they afterward lose their taste for tallness? Maybe they just liked the way these isolated towers loom over their sprawling suburban settings like Orthanc over the plains of Isengard.

Orthanc, Vasudvard tornya J. R. R. Tolkien A Gyűrűk Ura című művéből (illusztráció). (By Horem Web)


The fifteen-story Concord-Huntington Park, at 6900 Seville Avenue. It was completed in 1972 and was, at the time, known as Churchman’s Concord. In 1973, it was awarded an award for city beautification from the Huntington Park‘s mayor. By 1974 it was known as the Concord-Huntington Park, having by then been purchased from the Churchman’s Foundation. The residential tower has 162 units, all of which are reserved for residents over the age of 62. When it opened, rents ranged from $96 – $120 per month.

Concord-Huntington Park is served by Metro‘s 60, 102111, 251, 611, 612Rapid 751, and Rapid 760 lines; and LADOT DASH‘s Chesterfield Square line.


Construction of the twelve-story Compton Courthouse, at 200 West Compton Boulevard, began in 1975 and was completed in 1977 at a final cost of $34,000,000. The Compton Courthousebuilding, along with the rest of Compton City Hall and Civic Center, was designed by Harold Louis Williams of Kinsey Mead & Williams, who was hired by the City of Compton in 1968 for the project. Williams was a visionary black architect who apprenticed under another visionary black architect, Paul Revere Williams — the two were not related, though. In front of the courthouse stands the city’s iconic Martin Luther King Monument, designed by artist Gerald Gladstone.

With its higher-level security and severe appearance, the courthouse has long been nicknamed Fort Compton — a nickname which was often been put to the test during the particularly violent 1980s and ’90s. In 1981, for example, a deputy public defender was beaten and robbed by two teenagers whilst using the restroom. In 1986, nearly forty windows of the courthouse were shot out. In 1998, James Eugene Moore attacked people in the courtroom with a homemade knife inscribed with the name of the prosecuting attorney before being shot to death in a courtroom.

The Compton Courthouse is served by Metro’s Blue, 51, 60, 125, 127, 128, 202, and 351 lines; and GTrans‘s 3 line.


Nine-story, forty-meter tall 808 North Spring Street was built in 1916. The concrete office tower was renovated in 1982. In 2011, the building was purchased and in 2013 the former office tower re-opened, along with a shorter neighbor, as a 123-unit senior housing development. An attractive example of adaptive re-use, it was nonetheless saddled with an obnoxious name unfortunately typical of the era — The Metro @ Chinatown Senior Lofts.

The Metro @ Chinatown Senior Lofts are served by Metro’s Gold, 45, and 76 lines; and LADOT’s DASH Downtown B and DASH Lincoln Heights/Chinatown lines.


The solo skyscraper of Skid Row is the ten-story, Beaux Arts-style Weingart Center, at 566 South San Pedro Street. It was designed in 1923 by architect Charles F. Whittlesey WeingartCenterand opened in 1926 as the El Rey Hotel, then managed by the Stillwell Hotel Company. Rates ranged from $1 to $2 per room. In 1951, Ben and Stella Weingart started the Weingart Foundation and in 1983, the former hotel became the Weingart Center. At the time it was the largest and most comprehensive rehabilitation center in the nation.

The Weingard Center is served by Metro’s 18, 51, 5253, 6062, 351, Rapid 720, and Rapid 760 lines.


Fickett Towers, at 14801 Sherman Way, is a residential tower completed in 1974. The building’s 198 apartments are reserved for seniors most of whom, apparently, are Korean. The building is named after a Navy chaplain and pastor of Van Nuys‘s First Baptist Church, Harold Lord Fickett. In 1984, a fire spread from an adjacent condominium to eight of the tower’s twelve stories but thankfully no one was seriously injured. It sold in 2014 to California Commercial Investment Company.

Fickett Towers are served by Metro’s 162 and 163 lines; and LADOT’s DASH Panorama City/Van Nuys lines.


Mount Zion Towers are/is a twelve-story residential tower for low-income seniors. Construction at 4827 South Central Avenue started in 1971 and it was completed the following year. It was designed by Anaheim-based architect Donald J. Fears.

It’s served by Metro’s 53 line.


The twelve-story Pacific Palms Resort at 1 Industry Hills Parkway was completed in 1981. The hotel is situated on the Industry Hills Golf Club, which opened in 1979. In 1996, Sandra Orellana, 27, fell from the window of her tenth-floor room to her death. She was staying there with her boss, Robert Salazar, who claimed his employee fell whilst they were having sex on the balcony. Police and co-workers had their doubts and Salazar was charged with Orellana’s murder but acquitted in 2002. The case was the subject of a segment on Unsolved Mysteries, which I recently binge-watched.

The hotel is served by Foothill Transit‘s 280 line.

PANORAMA TOWER (Panorama City)

The thirteen-story, 53-meter-tall Panorama Tower was built from 1962-1963 and stands at 8155 Van Nuys Boulevard. Its Modern architecture was designed by the visionary-but-under-appreciated Welton Becket (Pan-Pacific Auditorium (destroyed in a fire), Police Administration Building (scheduled for demolition), Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena (demolished) and Capitol Records Building (so far only demolished in disaster films)). Panorama Tower has not been demolished — although it was damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Since then its been vacant but developer Izek Shomof purchased it in 2015 for $12.5 million and announced his intention to redevelop the office building with as a mixed commercial-residential property.

Panorama Tower is served by Metro’s 169, 233, and 656 lines; and LADOT’s DASH Panorama City/Van Nuys line.


PilgrimTowerfortheDeafElderlyConstruction of Pilgrim Tower (also known as the Pilgrim Tower Apartments), at 1207 South Vermont Avenue, was completed in 1967 at a cost of $1,700,000. It was designed in the Modernist style by the architectural firm of Flewelling & Moody (First United Methodist Church of GlendaleRobert Frost Auditorium, Culver City High School. The thirteen-story residential highrise is reserved for seniors and deaf Angelenos.

Pilgrim Tower is served by Metro’s 30, 204 and 330 lines.


Dream Center

The 42-meter-tall/fourteen-story Dream Center, at 2301 Bellevue Avenue, was completed in 1928 when it opened as the Queen of Angels Hospital. It was administered by the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart, a Roman Catholic religious congregation of women based in Frankfort, Illinois.

The Christian non-profit Dream Center was established by Tommy Barnett and his son, Matthew, in 1994. They bought the hospital for the bargain price of $3.9 million in 1996. The church mostly ministers to young drug addicts, homeless, ex-convicts, &c. In 2001, the Dream Center merged with the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel‘s Angelus Temple.

The Dream Center served by Metro’s 200 and 603 lines.


The Hollywood Storage Building, at 1025 North Highland Avenue, was built in 1925. Fifteen stories and 58 meters tall, it was at the time of its completion the tallest building in Hollywood and the largest warehouse on the West Coast. The Spanish Colonial Revivalhollywoodstorage3style skyscraper was designed by the prolific firm Morgan, Walls & Clements (Chapman Plaza, Richfield Tower (demolished), Wiltern Theatre and Pellissier Building). It was built for developer Charles E. Toberman, who in 1926 changed its name from the Terminal Building to the Hollywood Storage Building in order to avoid confusion with the Downtown Los Angeles‘s Pacific Electric Railroad Terminal Building. The penthouse was formerly home to radio station AM 570 KMTR (1925-1946). In 1939, the building was purchased by Bekins Van and Storage Company. It is currently owned by Boston-based storage company, Iron Mountain.

In 1930, 150 officers of the LAPD arrested 366 Angelenos caught cavorting in a “wild stag party.” A writer for the Los Angeles Times noted that of the arrested, all but four were men and that it was billed as a “fraternity benefit smoker.” According to the police report, “in the evening began to take on the aspect of an orgy.”

It’s served by Metro’s 4, 237, 656, and Rapid 704 lines.


A ten-story, 37 meter-tall Terry Building at 18321 Ventura Boulevard is the tallest tower in Tarzana. Designed in the International style by Honnold, Reibsamen & Rex, construction began in 1970 and was completed in 1974. Construction was performed by Terry Construction Company, headed by World War II veteran/sometime author Thurzal Q. Terry. It was poetically advertised as “close to Everywhere via Ventura Freeway and yet out of smog & the congestion” as well as “Class ‘A’ in every way.” The tower’s first tenant was Barclays Bank, the London-based investment bank and financial services company. It’s currently home to Tarzana-based Preferred Bank.

The Terry Building is served by Metro’s 150 and 240 lines.


The sole highrise in Woodland Hills is the 48-meter tall Woodland Hills Financial Center (part of the Woodland Hills Corporate Center). It stands at 21031 Ventura Boulevard, where it was constructed in 1972. It was developed by Gerald J. Chazan. By 1973 it was known as the Valley Federal Savings Building, after its first tenant, who celebrated its new highrise digs with a gala opening with the theme “Going UP in the world.” Celebrating their twelve-story ascent into the stratosphere, copies of Around the World — a book of photographs taken by the Gemini astronauts — were given away free to guests. It was purchased (along with a stumpier building and a three-story parking garage) for $51 million by the New York-based real estate firm Somerset Group.

Woodland Hills Financial Center is served by Metro’s 150, 244, 245, 601 Shuttle, and Rapid 750 lines. 

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRWWhich Way, LA?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubiand Twitter.

Art Prints

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