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Arts and Entertainment

This Dubious Health Clinic In Downtown L.A. Has Been Abandoned For Decades

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Last week, photographer Craig Sauer and Esotouric showed us the murals of the Dutch Chocolate Shop, currently closed to the public. Now, they're showing us what's on top of the shop, and it gets pretty weird. The Dutch Chocolate Shop is notable because it is covered in handmade tiles and murals from Pasadena artist Ernest Batchelder. The space, located on West Sixth Street in downtown Los Angeles, has been closed to the public for the last couple years as the current owner must first find a way to create a second exit before he can open an eatery in the space, which is his intention. You might have been wondering what else is in the building. According to L.A. historian Kim Cooper of Esotouric, who recently got a peek at the space, "the basement and middle floors proved to be spare lofts, long stripped of detail, with the exception of the occasional patches of vintage wallpaper or stacks of old doors."

It was on the top floor that she found something particularly interesting: an old medical clinic dating from 1939 until the 1960s called the Dr. A. W. von Lange Health Institute. Von Lange had apparently invented his own laxative in the '30s, and his clinic was all about getting rid of toxins. It is not unlike some modern clinics, where pseudoscience seemingly prevails. For the past several decades, the clinic has been little more than a storage space, which means much of it has been left intact, including an old pamphlet detailing how whatever it is they did up there could treat pretty much any illness a patient might have. The treatment, known as 'The Vienna Super-Heat Pack', seemingly meant being wrapped up in hot towels for some period of time. Oddly enough, doesn't it seem like everyone you know in the present has at least one Facebook friend who is trying to sell them a body wrap session?

As for von Lange himself, he married an Indiana widow and lived in Hancock Park until after her death in 1970, upon which the doctor seemed to disappear completely.

We asked Kim Cooper why this particular building was so significant, and what she thought might be a good use for it today. She told LAist:

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The Dutch Chocolate Shop is the commission that kickstarted the career of Pasadena's iconic tile maker, Ernest Batchelder and it's one of the world's most significant Arts and Crafts-style interiors. The best thing that can happen is for it to again become a commercial space that's regularly open to the public. Making this happen has proved tricky due to infrastructure and occupancy issues, but I can attest that there are some viable and exciting ideas being quietly explored. As for Dr. von Lange's clinic, it really does seem to cool to be dismantled after surviving all these decades. I could see it being used as a retro spa, an intimate performance space or even as an apartment with some really strange built-ins. There must be someone reading this who'd like to store their canned goods in an old colonic therapy tub!

To see more photos of the space, including that colonic therapy tub, click here.

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