Fire ravages Arts District’s historic Pickle Works building

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As the destructive Woolsey Fire tore through the hills of western Los Angeles County on Friday, claiming recognizable structures like the Western Town at Paramount Ranch, a structure fire broke out at another historic LA-area building.

On Friday night, firefighters battled a blaze that had broken out at the James K. Hill & Sons Pickle Works building, one of Downtown LA’s oldest remaining structures. They dampened the flames and prevented the fire from spreading, but the historic brick building sustained a great deal of damage.

A statement from the Los Angeles Fire Department indicates that some of the building’s walls are in danger of collapse.

Erected in 1888, the industrial structure was built as a pickle factory. Much later, as the Arts District became a bohemian haven in the 1980s, it became known as the Citizens Warehouse and Art Dock, a gallery and artists’ collective.

The fire is a blow to the efforts of local preservationists to protect the structure from demolition. Now owned by the city, the building was partly disassembled to allow for expansion of the First Street Bridge.

In August, the City Council made preliminary plans to sell the property to Metro. The transit agency aims to demolish much of the structure in order to make way for a new facility that will allow Red and Purple Line trains to turn back more efficiently, speeding up service along the busy subway routes.

The Los Angeles Conservancy had been in talks with Metro about preserving more of the structure, but the fire could complicate those efforts.

Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy for the Conservancy, tells Curbed that damage to the building “appears to be extensive.” The fire, he says, represents “a devastating loss to the early industrial heritage of the city and a community of artists who helped establish the Arts District in the 1970s and ’80s.”

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