If Emerald City had a utility office, it would resemble the DWP’s customer service center in Lincoln Heights. Sheathed in green ceramic tile and opal glass, the streamlined facade of the Daly Street building includes a marquee featuring two-foot-high letters made from green glass that read: Municipal Light Water Power. All that’s missing are Munchkins lined up to pay overdue electric bills. The building, originally constructed in the 1920s, owes its flashy design to architect S. Charles Lee, who apparently applied many of the lessons he learned creating eye-catching movie palaces to this modest, approximately 3,000-square-foot structure.
Lee, who worked on several projects for the utility, transformed the simple brick storefront in Lincoln Heights into a jewel-box with a Regency Moderne facade as part of a $7,000 remodeling project.
The utility’s Lincoln Heights office opened in 1938 complete with a display of an all-electric kitchen and home economic classes, according to the DWP. After serving Lincoln Heights for nearly 40 years, the Daly Street office closed and the emerald-green glass letters removed after the building was damaged during the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake. The office remained closed until 2008 when it reopened following $2 million in repairs and renovations. The original glass letters were found in a warehouse and returned to Lincoln Heights office, which is a city historic-cultural monument.
After walking past the glitzy facade and through a doorway framed in copper, DWP customers enter a pretty standard office albeit with historic photos and period lighting fixtures. It’s still no fun paying your utility bill but at least the architecture of the Lincoln Heights office, according to a security guard who works there, “softens the blow.”
Neighborhood Fixture provides a bit of history and background about buildings and sites that catch our attention, for better or worse.