THE LADY IN THE LAKE (Opening paragraph)

By Raymond Chandler

The Treloar Building was, and is, on Olive Street, near Sixth, on the west side. The sidewalk in front of it had been built of black and white rubber blocks. They were taking them up now to give to the government, and a hatless pale man with a face like a building superintendent was watching the work and looking as if it was breaking his heart.


The Raymond Chandler 125th birthday celebration on July 23rd hosted by the Los Angeles Visionaries Association (LAVA) in downtown Los Angeles took place in several locations frequented by Raymond Chandler during the 1920s and early 1930s — including the 12-story Oviatt Building (the first Art Deco highrise in Los Angeles, now a designated historic cultural monument) at 617 S. Olive Street. Completed in 1928, the Oviatt Building served as the model for the Treloar Building featured in the opening passage (included above) from Chandler’s 1943 novel The Lady in the Lake.


Oviatt Building historian Marc Chevalier — who wrote and produced a documentary film about the building and its founder, James Oviatt — offered a variety of fascinating anecdotes as we stood in the entrance, including a story about the rubber sidewalk immortalized in Chandler’s novel.

Turns out, James Oviatt had installed just such a sidewalk as a publicity stunt — saying the soft surface would allow people to  stand for hours looking in the windows of his exclusive menswear shop — and years later the savvy businessman had the the sidewalk removed as another ploy for recognition when the U.S. government called on citizens to donate rubber to the WWII effort. Today, Oviatt’s exclusive haberdashery has transformed into the Cicada Club — an chic supper-club in the tradition of classic Los Angeles night spots.

Chandler fans who’d like to read (or reread) The Lady in the Lake, the full text is available at this link.