Bowling, Bands And Booze Will Return To The Historic Highland Park Bowl
One of L.A.'s first bowling alleys, which later become beloved music venue Mr. T.'s Bowl, is being painstakingly restored with plenty of its original charms.
Highland Park Bowl, the historic venue first built in 1927 with a Spanish revival design, is being brought back to life by 1933 Group—the team that numerous vintage spots like the barrel-shaped Idle Hour and Highland Park's La Cuevita—with plenty of clever twists. Located on Figueroa Ave. by N. Ave 56, the venue is scheduled to open towards the end of April, and will feature eight refurbished bowling lanes, a full bar with food, as well as an area for live music (paying tribute to the former music destination).
Bobby Green, Co-owner/Designer with 1933 Group, tells LAist about the inspiration for Highland Park Bowl:
Growing up here, I saw Highland Park as one of the most extraordinary and historic neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Fourteen years ago, we opened La Cuevita and were the first to bring some new nightlife to the neighborhood. We have since seen the area grow and evolve. After bringing back the iconic Idle Hour in North Hollywood, Highland Park Bowl will be our second restoration project, which is incredibly rewarding not only as a company but for me personally as an LA native. We aim to preserve the history of Los Angeles and tell its story. Highland Park Bowl is a piece of that story.
The original Highland Park Bowl facade (courtesy of 1933 Group)
What may have initially been built as a garage, according to the L.A. Times, the building served for decades as a popular neighborhood destination. It was then bought in 1966 by Joseph "Mr. T" Teresa, an Italian immigrant who owned a nearby liquor store, and renamed Mr. T's Bowl. Mr. T added home-style buffets for famished bowlers, and the spot became a popular drinking destination with Occidental students and other thirsty neighbors. But as bowling fell out of favor in the late 1980s, the lanes closed and the location largely became a retiree bar.
Not long after the lanes closed, however, Mr. T's soon evolved into a music venue, attracting everyone from punk rock to hip hop. In the early 90s, a funky underground music-and-dance event known as Fuzzyland arrived at the venue. Up-and-coming artists, such as The Breeders and Beck, also began playing at Mr. T's, and an open mic night was soon added on Thursdays, which also became a big draw. Teresa passed away in 2003, and while his son continued to run the space until 2014, many felt the venue's time had passed. That's when 1933 Group stepped in to buy the place and revive it.
The uncovered Arts and Crafts mural (courtesy of 1933 Group)
The recent renovation has uncovered many of the venue's original features, which will be incorporated into the new design. Restored pinsetters will remain exposed so bowlers can see the inner-workings of the vintage machines, while broken ones have been repurposed into the decor as chandeliers. They also uncovered a massive mural of a forest from the 1930s—painted during the Highland Park-centered Arts & Crafts Movement—which was covered by drop ceilings and wall coverings for decades. The original façade of the building has also been uncovered after being hidden over 50 years and will be restored.
The recently uncovered original signage (courtesy 1933 Group)
In addition to bringing back bowling and a music venue to the space, the 1933 Group also plans to add new touches, including a wood-burning oven for Neapolitan-style pizza and other bites. The bar will also be serving cocktails featuring fun throwbacks and cult classics, like The Dude Abides, which will be an ode to the Big Lebowski’s favorite drink, the White Russian. They also have plans for a micro-brewery at some point.
Highland Park Bowl will be located at 5621 N. Figueroa, Highland Park.