SWEET! Hidden 1914 DTLA Soda Shop Being Restored
Here's some history-geek architecture foodie news that's definitely sweet: A restoration is underway at what was once a beautiful and historic downtown soda shop.
It's been a Metro PCS store more recently, with the secret of the interior Ernest Batchelder tiles "locked up behind steel grates and particle board," reports Curbed LA. In January 1975, the space was designated as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark number 137. Just 20-some years later, and workers were inside covering up the gorgeous tiled murals with junky material to make it a retail space.
The story of the soda fountain is almost bitter sweet, since it did serve up food and treats, but also never made good on its purpose, as explained:
The Chocolate Shoppe, which was Batchelder’s biggest commission up until that time , 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 wind[mills] of Holland, dairy maids in wooden shoes, chandeliers of glass milk buckets, etc
The blog Hollywood Gastronomic Haunts charts the evolution of the Chocolate Shop, and what was on the menu:
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 1922, the Chocolate Shop was leased to C.C. Brown, the well-known soda fountain company, and in 1926 the building took on a vegetarian "correcting eating" cafeteria. By 1942 it was Finney's Cafeteria, which is what the location is likely best-known for. In 1986 the building owners turned it into what Curbed calls "a crappy arcade" (we'd be hard-pressed to disagree), though the Tilenut site points to 1997 when the shop's interior was just totally covered up (crazy!).
That brings us to today, as a group called The Dutch Chocolate Shop is working on refurbishing the space. Sweet! We can't wait to get a look at the finished space.