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Art Deco Fantasy: The Oviatt



Photo Above Circa 1928

Oviatt hosted many star-studded gatherings on his private Riviera, and the penthouse is still rented out for private parties. Alexander and Oviatt is now an Italian restaurant called Cicada, but quaint architectural details in the dining room recall its former incarnation. Built-in drawers once used to store hats and gloves, now hold the restaurant's silver and table linens. Cicada's softly lit dining room, gold leaf ceiling, and mirrored bar continue the Oviatt tradition of downtown grandeur. If you're planning an evening of dining and theater, Cicada also provides complimentary shuttle service to the Music Center.

Built in 1928, the Oviatt Building once housed the exclusive men's department store, Alexander and Oviatt. In its heyday, James Oviatt's shop outfitted Hollywood legends like Clark Gable and John Barrymore. On a 1925 business trip to France, Oviatt attended the Parisian Decorative Arts Exhibition and fell in love with the sleek elegance of Art Deco. The Los Angeles entrepreneur had furniture, a store marquee and other design elements custom-made in France. The stylish haberdasher then commissioned a fleet of French architects and engineers to travel to California and transform his Italian Romanesque building into a Deco showplace. Rene Lalique personally designed and installed 30 tons of decorative glass for the lobby of the building. Lalique's sculptured masterpieces are still visible in the building's marquee, restaurant and penthouse. James Oviatt's two-story penthouse was far more opulent than the "rooftop bungalow," described in the newspapers of the day. The lavish merchant not only furnished the apartment with exquisite Parisian furniture, but surrounded his swimming pool with a strand of imported French sand.