The Woman Behind the Bendix Building

Get atop nearly any tall roof in Downtown Los Angeles or just drive along the 10 Freeway past the Fashion District and you'll notice a supertall open panel roof sign that reads "Bendix" with a disproportionately large 25 feet tall letter B. Thanks to a restoration and relighting effort in 2003, it has since filled the nighttime sky of Los Angeles' Fashion District with a particular Art Deco-meets-LA Noir vibe. Sitting at the corner of Maple Ave and 12th Street, the 1930 building features stunning ornamentation, with sculptural etchings of scholars, Renaissance figures, and crests to the arts along its facade. Like several other nearby buildings in the Fashion District, the Bendix Building - named for the former manufacturing company that long housed their LA-area aviation headquarters there - was originally developed by Florence Caster. In a market that even now is still completely dominated by men, Caster was a trailblazing woman in real estate. Two years after moving to Los Angeles in 1921 with her two daughters, she went out on her own and started her own real estate development company. Within ten years, she had singlehandedly transformed Maple Avenue into a Class A office building corridor. To this day, it's one of the only high-rise areas of the Fashion District. Described as "perhaps the only woman involved in heavy construction in Los Angeles at the time," Caster transformed a neighborhood through Gothic revivalist architecture and a pioneering spirit.     •

bendix building get down town la
 The Bendix Building's sign is a beacon towering above the Fashion District.
(image via Flickr)