A Sign of The Times

Darrell Kunitomi starts the tour in the L.A. Times lobby, which includes a large globe and murals dating back to the 1930s.

By J.K. YAMAMOTO. Rafu Staff Writer

July 3, 2018 is a date that will go down in history at The Los Angeles Times.

That was the day Darrell Kunitomi gave his last tour of the Art Deco building at First and Spring streets that has housed the newspaper since 1935. At the time, the president and general manager of Times Mirror Co., Harry Chandler, declared the building a “monument to the progress of our city and Southern California.”

Under new owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a biotech billionaire who bought The Times from Tronc for $500 million, the newspaper is moving from Downtown L.A. to El Segundo. The newspaper no longer owns the current building, and the owner, Onni Group, wanted to increase the rent by $1 million a month.

Kunitomi — also known as an actor and singer with the Grateful Crane Ensemble — started as a tour guide in 1977-78. He then worked in Circulation and Archives, helped create the lobby display, and returned as a tour guide in 1982, continuing for 36 years.

The tour started in the lobby, which features a huge aluminum globe with bronze bas-reliefs at the base symbolizing industry, religion, science and art; 10-foot-high murals painted in 1935 by Hugo Ballin, who also painted the Griffith Observatory rotunda; and the historical exhibit covering The Times’ first 100 years.

Kunitomi has memorized facts and figures as well as entertaining anecdotes about the newspaper’s storied past. But this tour was a little different; many of the prize-winning photos had been removed from the wall, and the staff were in the process of packing up their belongings.