Painting L.A.'s First Skyscraper

One colorful scene in the soon-to-be-unveiled masterpiece mural by Artist Barbara Carrasco is this detail, which uplifts the story of L.A.’s first skyscraper—City Hall.

Barbara Currasco Mural detail -- Los Angeles City Hall

Published February 7, 2024

This September, our Museum in Exposition Park opens its new wing, NHM Commons, a collection of beautiful and accessible spaces celebrating the intersection of science, nature and culture. In the new Judith Perlstein Welcome Center, visitors will see Barbara Carrasco’s L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective

The once-controversial 80-foot-long masterpiece paints portraits of L.A. in 43 vignettes, woven into the flowing hair of la Reina de los Ángeles (the Queen of Angels). One of those colorful scenes is this illustration (above) which uplifts the story of L.A.’s first skyscraper: City Hall. People flocked to Los Angeles in the early 1900s to escape the packed conditions in the East and its crowded skylines. L.A. city codes, for decades, blocked the construction of buildings taller than 150 feet. City Hall, built in 1928, was the exception. The building heralded the birth of a metropolis and the end of a solely single-story city.

A Downtown Scene at NHM

You can also see the city's first skyscraper—in miniature—in our Becoming Los Angeles exhibition! Visitors can see an 8-by-10 foot model of downtown Los Angeles built in 1939 with City Hall towering above the neighboring buildings. Constructed as part of the Works Progress Administration, a federal program to boost employment during the Great Depression, this 3-D model is the last remaining section of a much larger one. Peer down through the glass case and see an L.A. without freeways, the greenery of Pershing Square, the red clay Spanish tile roofs of Union Station, and streets lined with tiny, perky palm trees. When you visit this one-of-a-kind installation, we'll take you on an audio tour of that era's top 10 downtown hotspots.