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Arts and Entertainment

Virtual Tour Shows The Stunning Tile Murals In An Old Downtown Chocolate Shop

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LOADING - Dutch Chocolate Shop

While you can't personally go and check out the ornately tiled Dutch Chocolate Shop, you can get a glimpse of the space and its 21 murals via a new virtual tour.

The Dutch Chocolate Shop, located at 217 W. Sixth Street in downtown Los Angeles, is covered in tile work from Pasadena artist and tile maker Ernest Batchelder. Built in 1914, it is mean to look like a German beer hall, and 21 murals depict various town scenes. Impressively, each tile is handmade. Though it is a Historic-Cultural Monument, the space is not open to the public. As Curbed LA reports, it has been shut down for the last two years while the owner, Charles Aslan, has been trying to get another exit put in, which would allow him to get a certificate of occupancy for a restaurant.

Craig Sauer has been working with Esotouric on a number of virtual tours, offering us a glimpse into many locations that are often hidden from view. For instance, he did a tour of the basement and tunnels Barclay Hotel, as well as the currently defunct Angel's Flight. Sauer uses a Matterport 3D camera and accompanying software to create a 360 view that you can move through by clicking circles scattered throughout the image. Sauer told Curbed LA that he intentionally made points at which each mural can be observed.

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After its days of being the Chocolate Shop were over, the space became Finney's Cafeteria and then a Metro PCS store. At one point, it became an arcade where various odds and ends were sold. The tiles had been covered up, only to be rediscovered when Aslan bought the property and unearthed them in 2012. Ken Bernstein with the Office of Historic Resources told the L.A. Times in a 2012 article, "It's certainly one of the most beautiful and extravagant tile interiors in Los Angeles or anywhere. It's a remarkable example of the use of ceramic tile and a preeminent example of Batchelder's work."

According to a site that extensively catalogues historic tile installations in the United States:

The Chocolate Shoppe, which was Batchelder’s biggest commission up until that time [1914], was/is completely covered in his chocolatey brown work--floor, walls, and ceiling, with larger tiles - around 4” x 4” - laid into the walls while bigger murals beneath the groined arches are more mosaic. The Shoppe was to serve as a prototype for a whole chain of soda parlors, each with a different European country as its theme. For whatever reason - some say it was the high cost of Batchelder’s work - this never came to pass, and the 6th Street location was the first and last Chocolate Shoppe.* Opened in 1914 to satisfy the new fad for hot chocolate, the architectural firm of Plummer and Feil commissioned ceramic tile-maker Ernest Batchelder to do the interior. The tiles, all made in Batchelder's Pasadena studio, were sculptured with fanciful Dutch scenes...the windmillls of Holland, dairy maids in wooden shoes, chandeliers of glass milk buckets, etc.** 

Los Angeles Visionaries Association (LAVA) made a video inside the shop where you can learn more about the space from tile expert Brian Kaiser.

You can follow developments on the possible reopening and see more photos of the space here.

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