A Sweet Side of LA Architecture

Sye Gutierrez, Photo Collection

With sugary talk of Halloween treats in the office air, I was inspired to satisfy my archival sweet tooth with a hunt for some tasty images that I could share with you. Hopefully the assortment I put together is more treats than tricks, so grab your trusty plastic pumpkin pail and let’s hit the road.

Just down the street from Central Library on 620 South Broadway is the former Schaber’s Cafeteria. Built at a cost of $400,000 between 1927 and 1928 it was designed by architect Charles F. Plummer in a mix of styles ranging from Art Nouveau to Spanish Colonial Revival. The cafeteria stated it could serve up to 10,000 hungry customers a day with a great selection of sweet and savory items. Though the cafeteria’s motto was, “A good place to eat, a good place to meet” I think the best spot for doing both was located just to the right of the cafeteria’s entrance at the See’s Candy Store. The See’s family had opened their first candy store seven years earlier in 1921 near present day Koreatown at 135 North Western Avenue. By the middle of the 1920s, the See’s family had twelve stores in operation and continued to grow their success to thirty locations during the Great Depression.

Security Pacific National Bank Collection. view original

Over the years the cafeteria along with the adjoining store fronts changed names and owners. Later tenants included a Carl’s Jr fast-food restaurant and a Foot Locker shoe store. The building unfortunately had the distinction of being the only downtown structure destroyed during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The building was looted and nearly gutted by fire, with only the mezzanine and façade surviving. The owners had a long family history with the building and couldn’t let it be demolished, so they spent around $2.5 million on its restoration. Though mostly a recreation of the building, some of the original decorative wrought iron elements were restored and reused. Currently the closed building will see the return of a previous tenant when Foot Locker returns with an Air Jordan shoe store projected to open sometime this year. The new store will feature retail space, a VIP lounge, fitness room and roof top basketball court complete with bleachers and a snack bar.

Sye Gutierrez, 2018.

A quick stroll north to 540 S. Broadway between Fifth and Sixth Street and you’ll find the Arcade Building. The Arcade Building was built in 1924 by architects Kenneth McDonald and Maurice Couchot and is comprised of two twelve story towers connected by a glass-roofed three level arcade. Inspired by 19th century European shopping arcades, it’s said to be primarily based off of the Burlington Arcade in London. The Arcade Building was designed with Spanish Renaissance elements for the lower floors and Beaux Arts flourishes for the upper floors.

Security Pacific National Bank Collection. view original

The candy store is long gone, but luckily many of the building’s decorative elements still remain.

Sye Gutierrez, 2018.

Our next stop will need a little imagination, as our archives are sadly without any images of the next candy shop. At one time accessible from inside of the Arcade Building, the shop’s doorway was bricked up about sixteen years ago so the only way in now is through the original main entrance at 217 West 6th Street. Here we find Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #137, The Batchelder Dutch Chocolate Shop. Long closed, this former chocolate shop has to be mentioned due to its well-deserved strong fan following amongst Angeleno architecture buffs. Before the door was bricked up, I was able to see the chocolate shop when it was an assortment of stalls each selling various items from clothing to toys.

The four story building in which the shop was located in was built in 1898, and the shop was added to the first floor in 1914. Then it was a soda fountain simply called “The Chocolate Shoppe.” What made this shop unique was the chocolate brown and Dutch-themed floor-to-ceiling tile work created by Pasadena tile artist Ernest A. Batchelder. This shop was one of Batchelder’s early large projects and one of his best. For the windowless interior, he decorated the walls with 21 bas-relief murals depicting scenes of life in Holland. The low, groin-vaulted ceiling gave the shop a mini-cathedral look, while keeping the space very warm and soothing like a hot cup of cocoa. The store was supposed to be the first in a series of shops with different European country themes also done in tile, but became cost prohibitive as the tile work was very pricey.

Sye Gutierrez, 2018.

Over recent years, the shop has tried to reopen in some capacity but without it being brought up to modern day safety codes the space has limited use options. So I think it is well worth it to do an internet search for interior images of this architectural hidden gem as it may be a very long time before it has any more visitors. Batchelder’s other main notable work is coincidentally chocolate related, as his tiles are found in The Hershey Hotel in the land of chocolate Hershey, Pennsylvania. Below we see kiln foreman Harland Attlesey showing Ernest Batchelder a large statue.

Security Pacific National Bank Collection. view original

For the next leg of the journey let’s head south to 6600 S. Avalon Boulevard. Here we can find the Art Deco building that was once home to Hoffman’s Candy Company. Today the building appears to be vacant but still remarkably intact and hopefully can be restored and repurposed in the future. The most notable candy that Hoffman’s created during its time was Cup O’ Gold that still can be found today, now manufactured by the Adams & Brooks Candy Company.

Security Pacific National Bank Collection. view original

Finding our way on to Wilshire, we will head towards the beach to see the former sight of MacFarlane’s Store that sold some awfully fresh candy and nuts. While Wilshire Boulevard has plenty of architectural treasures to choose from I chose this photo because it was taken by Ansel Adams and it includes the still existing Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Around 1940 when this picture was taken, Adams was commissioned by Fortune Magazine to take photos relating to aviation history in Los Angeles. For his assignment he captured 217 images ranging in subjects from everyday life to business to street scenes.

The Fortune article, titled “City of Angels,” published only a few of Adams’ images and the rest of the images were filed away and forgotten. After twenty years Adams rediscovered the images in his home and contacted the Los Angeles Public Library asking if they would be interested in the collection. Adams didn’t particularly care for the series citing the poor weather at the time and said if the library saw no value in the photos to please incinerate them. Luckily for us the library didn’t do that and we still have the 135 contact prints and 217 negatives.

Ansel Adams Fortune Magazine Collection. view original

Though MacFarlane’s is now a parking lot its 1929 neighbor the Wilshire Boulevard Temple is still there to visit. The 135 foot high domed building is designed in a mix of Byzantine and Romanesque styles with its interior modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. The 320-foot-long interior mural depicting moments in Jewish history was painted by Hugo Ballin (who also painted Griffith Observatory’s mural) and was donated by siblings Jack, Harry and Abraham of Warner Brothers Studio fame. Other movie studio notables who helped in the construction of the temple were Universal Studios founder Carl Laemmle who donated the bronze chandeliers and MGM head Louis B. Mayer who donated the east and west stained-glass windows. The seating in the temple is missing the typical center aisle to mimic the layout of a movie theaters.

Security Pacific National Bank Collection. view original

Up next we head west to 450 N. Canon Drive in Beverly Hills to see the former location of the Mission Candy Company. The building’s Art Deco exterior still stands mostly unchanged today with the exception of a modern glass addition to the corner facade. I especially enjoy looking at photos that include the cars of the time. Speaking of cars, just a block away you can see the Mid-Century Modernist Googie gem the Union 76 Gas Station on the corner of Little Santa Monica Blvd and Crescent Drive.

Herman J Schultheis Collection. view original

Well. we’ve reached the end of our confectionery inspired tour and hopefully no one’s developed any stomach aches along the way. As you can safely guess that was just a small taste of our collection so please check out the rest of our archives for plenty of other amazing treats.