Originally published February 8, 2013 at The Los Angeles Beat
Living in the City of Angels, there is a wealth of history and mystery connected to buildings we pass everyday and often take for granted. While we may say to ourselves, “Hey, that’s a cool piece of architecture,” we really never stop to think that there may be an actual story behind it. The Crossroads of the World building on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood fits that description.
Designed by architect Robert V. Derrah and built in 1936, this was Los Angeles’ first outdoor shopping mall. In the late 1930s and 1940s this plaza was very trendy, hosting upscale boutiques frequented by the Who’s Who of Hollywood. Alfred Hitchcock had a suite of the offices here in the ’40s-’50s as well. The building was designed for Ella Crawford, the widow of a corrupt Hollywood political king-pin, Charles “the underworld czar” Crawford. Charles had quite a reputation and rumored mob connections. People also called him “Goodtime Charlie” and “The Wolf of Spring Street.” Supposedly author Raymond Chandler used Crawford as a model for some of his fictional criminals. Crawford had been a murder victim five years earlier, in 1931, on the very land used to build Crossroads of the World. His death created national headlines and scandal when on his death bed Crawford intentionally refused to reveal the name of the person who shot him. He went to the grave knowing the name of his murderer and this is one of Los Angeles’ famous unsolved mystery cases.
The Crossroads of the World complex is a full city block deep and contains nine buildings and amazingly 60 offices. It centers around a main “ship-shaped” building designed in the Art Deco moderne style with portholes, railings, and a 60-foot high spinning neon globe facing the steady stream of traffic on Sunset. The buildings on the sides and in the rear are in the “Storybook” architectural style, playful buildings with craggy roofs that resemble gingerbread cut-out cookies, straight from the stories of the brothers Grimm. The Storybook style took a little foothold in 1930s L.A. and is said to have influenced Walt Disney and his animation. Each of these old-world looking buildings was designed to represent an individual European country, with the ship in the center connecting them all.
In the 1970s and 1980s, though suffering from neglect and a downturn in the neighborhood, several rock-n-roll bands used offices here for their headquarters. These bands included Crosby, Stills & Nash, Jackson Browne, Poco and the band America. In the 1980s Tim Burton set up his production office for Beetlejuice here and in the ’90s albums by Fleetwood Mac, Patti LaBelle, BB King and others were recorded here. Throughout the years, Crossroads of the World has also been used as a shooting location for countless films, TV shows, commercials and music videos.
Crossroads of the World: 6671 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028.