Sunday, February 14, 2010

What Went Before? 217 W. 6th

While not much to look at on the outside, the inside of this four-story building in downtown Los Angeles is another matter entirely (see the interior photos at the Big Orange Landmarks blog, they turned out way better than mine did). This address has been known since January 1975 as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark number 137. A stroll through its doors reveal walls and ceiling covered in beautiful tiles by Ernest Batchelder which date back to 1914 when this location served as a confectionary shop/cafe known as Chocolate Shop #4 (more on the additional locations on a later post).

The building was leased in late 1913 by the Chocolate Shop Corporation (which consisted of E.C. Quinby, son P.W. Quinby and W.M. Petitfils) and work began to renovate the ground floor into 'one of the finest confectionary shops on the Coast' (renovation of the ground floor was estimated at $40,000 in 1913, which would be about $850,000 today). The three upper floors were to be changed into lofts.

Along with chocolates and the usual soda fountain confections, the Chocolate Shop locations also served lunch and dinner. This particular location served specials such as Filet of Sole a l'Orly and Saratoga Chips (aka fried fish and potato chips); Veal Curry with rice; fried Belgian hare with chasseur sauce; individual boneless chicken pies; and a vegetable dinner which consisted of a poached egg, potatoes, spinach, cauliflower and green peas.

In 1918 this location was immortalized in the Dorothy Gish film 'The Hope Chest' (see accompanying photo), in which Gish plays a girl who goes to work in a candy store to help provide money for her family when her father loses his job and ends up marrying her boss' son.

In 1922 the top three floors of the location were leased to the the Los Angeles Trust and Savings Bank next door and were used for the bank's trust department and an employee lunch/break room. The Chocolate Shop Corporation sold (or leased?) the ground floor Chocolate Shop to C.C. Brown (originator of the hot fudge sundae) who opened up a Brown's confectionary business in the location and urged former Chocolate Shop patrons to come in and get the 'Brown Habit'. Ads from the time called Brown's candies 'The Faultless Kind'.

In 1926 health food guru Paul C. Bragg (his company is still in business even after he is gone and is best known today for his organic apple cider vinegar) opened the second of his vegetarian Health Cafeterias, a 'Correcting Eating Cafeteria' at 217 W. 6th. They served 'non-clogging fruits and vegetables prepared in the Arnold Ehret way. The Health Cafeteria stayed in that location until at least late 1942 before Finney's cafeteria opened in the space and became the restaurant/cafeteria that most Angelenos remember fondly in this location. More on Finney's when I dig deeper....