This Beloved San Pedro Cafe Could Soon Be LA's Latest Historical-Cultural Monument
The L.A. Cultural Heritage Commission has recommended adding Walker’s Cafe in San Pedro to the city’s list of historical-cultural monuments.
The family-owned cafe — which had been a community fixture since the mid-1940s — closed in October, leading to calls from community members to preserve the spot’s vintage style, no matter who the new owner might be.
"You go in and you see the charming counter, and they have the older commercial appliances like a very vintage little refrigerator with four glass doors," said Mona Dallas Reddick, who is with the San Pedro Bay Historical Society. "And there's some very amusing and totally unpretentious murals on the wall.”
The modest structure, across the street from Point Fermin Park, appeared in several movies, including 1974's Chinatown and 1998's Gods and Monsters.
According to the planning department, it was built in 1935 in the Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style by contractor George G. Aitkenhead as a store and residence for local businessman Felicien Landier.
The property became Walker's Café after it was bought by Raymond J. Walker and Bessie Mae Petersen in 1946. Petersen's sister, Christine Price, started helping her sister run the café in the 1950s after Walker died.
Through the years the planning department noted Petersen "established herself as a fixture of community life in San Pedro in the following decades, known for providing meals to anyone regardless of their ability to pay."
Reddick said Walker’s Cafe is one of the last reminders of what the area was like before the urban renewal movement in the decades after World War II.
The designation for the cafe needs the City Council’s approval. Reddick says she’s hopeful Walker’s will remain a part of the community.
It marks a continuation of an effort to preserve more modest structures in L.A. which exemplify moments in history, even if they aren't notable for their architecture.
Other recent examples include:
- The longtime home of famed architect Paul Revere Williamsnear USC. Williams and his family lived there due to red-lining that kept Black homeowners out of other neighborhoods.
- The East Hollywood studio of pop artist and nun Corita Kent.
- Two Highland Park sites that were home to the neighborhood's Chicano Arts Collective, a key part of the Chicano movement in the 1970s.