In Search of Mystery: Immaculate Heart’s “L.A. Noir” Students Tour Historic Downtown for Story Settings

Immaculate Heart High School seniors toured the grounds of the L.A. Central Library in search of mystery for stories they are developing in their “L.A. Noir” class.
Docent Stephen Cirello of the Los Angeles Conservancy shares details of the Bradbury Building’s architecture with IH students during a tour of the city’s historic downtown.

The Halloween season may bring to mind candy and costumes, but mystery was in the air Saturday as a group of Immaculate Heart seniors sought settings downtown for their L.A. Noir stories.

For nearly 10 years, English teacher Callie Webb has been leading students in her senior elective class “L.A. Noir – Studies in Mystery Fiction” to the city’s historic core. There, students scout locations for the mystery narratives they will later develop in class.

Gathering in Pershing Square, the group met docent Stephen Cirello from the Los Angeles Conservancy for a walking tour of a number of historic sites, including the Los Angeles Central Library, the Million Dollar Theatre, the Grand Central Market, and the Bradbury Building.

“By visiting these locations, students become familiar with possible settings and discover details that can be useful in their stories,” Webb explained. “They also get to learn a lot about the city’s history and architecture through the L.A. Conservancy.”

Immaculate Heart senior Butterfly Oldham (center) and her classmates take a closer look at the “butterfly” pattern of the travertine marble floor in the lobby at One Bunker Hill, originally the Southern California Edison Company Building.

“It was so much fun,” senior Isabel Zamora said of the tour. The student said she was particularly drawn to the grand marble lobby of the Pacmutual Center on Sixth Street as a possible mystery setting. “I could also see characters like the Everyman and the Femme Fatale meeting and plotting a murder in the building’s fancy restaurant,” she said.

After touring the park-like grounds of the L.A. Central Library, senior Pamela Flores said she was impressed by the series of reflecting pools and steps leading to the building’s entrance, as well as several hidden locations shaded by trees nearby. “There was a sort of eerie sensation associated with its magnificence,” she said. “I would use this site to demonstrate how even the most unpredictable places could have a dark side.”

The Bradbury Building, one of the oldest downtown commercial buildings, proved to be a favorite site with students. Its rather nondescript brick exterior belies its distinctive interior that features a skylight and Victorian-era ironwork with caged elevators. As she has each tour for a decade, Webb likes to hold open the Bradbury door and hear the “oohs” and “ahhs” as students file into the building. “It just never gets old hearing their reaction each time,” the teacher said.

About Immaculate Heart

Founded in 1906, Immaculate Heart educates young women in grades sixth through 12th from its central location in the Los Feliz foothills near Griffith Park in Hollywood. The school has a long and distinguished history, with more than 10,000 graduates. Today’s student body of more than 700 young women is both geographically and ethnically diverse, drawing on students from throughout Los Angeles County. Last year, virtually 100 percent of Immaculate Heart graduates matriculated to colleges, including the most prestigious schools in the country.


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