749 S. Broadway, Downtown: Blue Jeans Blues

749 S. Broadway, Downtown: Blue Jeans Blues
Wendy Gilmartin

Thanks to Metro's online archive of WWII-era downtown photos, at least we know what the building at 749 South Broadway used to look like, if only from a very skewed angle (it's the second lot up from 8th street in the linked photo under the "Tokyo Next" banner).

The original structure was sandwiched between the much larger Merritt building to the south and the Millinery building to the north, and was dwarfed by its bookend neighbors. 749 could've been a theater, boarding house, or businesses offices -- maybe it was raised in a fire or bad development deal. Whatever it looked like in 1945, it isn't a treasure anymore.

Today, 749 is a sickly, greenish-blue diseased tooth in an otherwise pearly-white smile. According to the L.A. Conservancy, Broadway's got some of L.A.'s most lionized and best-preserved architectural gems (the Eastern building and the Bradbury are there, to name a couple), and the 700 block is packed with them too. This stretch of Broadway is home to the historic Globe theater and the Garland building, tarnished but still gorgeous terrazzo sidewalks, decorative cast iron street vents from the 1910s and lavish terra cotta detailing on doorways and windows. But number 749's got none of that. Addresses 737 through 747 on Broadway are all registered National historic structures, but the consistency stops at "Blue Jeans," then picks right up again at 757 -- that's the Merritt building next door.

This whale of an eye sore -- with its massive three-story vertical fins in mildew-green -- does nothing for the street except provide a spot for paint to curl and peel. Depressingly, the old version of the building could easily still sit under the present facade, lying in disrepair just below the bland, bubbling aqua paint and street-level, olive green stucco snooze fest.

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The problem with 749 today is its scale, or lack of it. When scale goes wrong, a building feels disorienting -- distances and sizes become unrecognizable, your eye muscles start to sweat, you try to find a handrail or a doorknob -- anything to ground you. But all you see are soaring stripes of sea foam green and BLUE JEANS. To be fair, the building doesn't seem all that bad just outside its storefront, even under its bulky overhang. But once across the street, from the east side of Broadway, it feels like a grill of dirty teal teeth are about to chomp down on you.

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