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LAistory: Hollywood's Fred Harvey Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge

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Vintage Hollywood postcard showing the Fred Harvey Restaurant

Vintage Hollywood postcard showing the Fred Harvey Restaurant
The property at 1743 N. Cahuenga Boulevard [map], on a strip of street in Hollywood we often call the Cahuenga Corridor of late, is boarded up these days and undergoing yet another transformation. Over the past decade it's been the site of numerous trendy Hollywood hot spots, where paparazzi gather to ambush stars and heiresses with their flashes and coaxing into the wee hours. Paint it one color, call it White Lotus, give it a go as Ritual, renovate it and call it Halo. However, undergoing yet another makeover, the property has finally brought in the wrecking ball to take down some of the building's original structure, bringing to an end a piece of local history.

In December, work began to tear down the building that was once a Fred Harvey Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge, situated adjacent to what had been decades ago a Travel Center in the heart of Hollywood marrying transit and service for the many who came and went from the city of dreams.

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Vintage postcard with a map pointing out Hollywood's Fred Harvey Restaurant
Fred Harvey Rooms sprang to life at the end of the 19th century, established as welcoming restaurants, often connected with hotels, that would provide weary traveling men with a comfortable place to eat and sleep staffed with charming--but "clean"--young women. These restaurants continued to be built into the 1940s, though Harvey himself had died in 1901, and there was one at LA's Union Station, as well as a popular Judy Garland musical, The Harvey Girls, focusing on the women who worked there.But in 1939, the Harvey company opened up a Fred Harvey Restaurant in the heart of Hollywood, adjacent to the new Travel Center. The Travel Center, as described, seemed ideal to capitalize on the national and international notion of Hollywood as a mecca of success and excitement; an advertisement announcing the Travel Center's opening touts the convenience of the Santa Fe Trailways bus service and the "delicious Fred Harvey meals in the distinctively different Restaurant."


A newspaper ad announcing the opening of the Travel Center & Fred Harvey Restaurant, 1939
The timing, location, and design of the business all seemed aligned and poised to take advantage of the lure and appeal of Hollywood's glamour. Here tourists, star-seekers, and star-hopefuls could enjoy a meal and a drink, perhaps some dancing, in a nightclub atmosphere just north of Hollywood Boulevard. Inside the club were murals by Edgar Miller, and paintings that hung on the walls by artist Doris Lee were inspired by The Harvey Girls movie itself (Dangcil). A 1941 tour book of Los Angeles, published by Hastings House, gave Hollywood's Fred Harvey this terse description in a time during which surely most people knew what to expect of a Harvey House: "The usual standards of the Harvery Houses carried out here in modern dress." [Los Angeles; a guide to the city and its environs]

But like most places that thrived in what we now know as the "Golden Era" of Hollywood, the Fred Harvey Restaurant faded from memory, and by the 80s had become something else altogether--albeit iconic of the contemporary Hollywood in which it was located. The Crush Bar opened in the same building in the early 1980s, and quickly gained reputation as a sort of gritty nightclub that played Motown and retro dance music. The location was one of the many used in the film Valley Girl, and remained a beloved club into the 1990s. At other stages of its life it was the Continental Club and the Hogie Club, according to Hollywood Gastronomical Haunts.

Flash forward to more recent memory, and you're likely to recall White Lotus and Ritual as a destination for young Hollywood-ites who make for tabloid fodder. Last year, in an attempt to revive the glamour of the space and pay homage to the building's history, Ritual was transformed by owner Chris Breed (of Green Door, Pig 'N Whistle and Cabana Club), who wanted its new incarnation, Halo, to be an "old-school club" with elegant deco-inspired black and white decor (LAist).


Photo by STERLINGDAVISPHOTO via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
This is where you came in present day, just a few months after Halo, too, proved to be a no-go for nightclub go-ers, and the wrecking ball felled what was once a Hollywood destination in a long-gone era of optimism.

LAistory is our series that takes us on a journey to what came before to help us understand where we are today.

Check out our other entries in the series:

Val Verde; Thelma Todd's Roadside Cafe; An eclectic house in Beverly Hills; Echo Park's Bonnie Brae House; Marineland of the Pacific; Grand Central Air Terminal; LA's Own Wrigley Field; How LA got its name; The wreck of the Dominator; The 1925 "Hollywood Subway."; The Pink Lady of Malibu; Lions Drag Strip; Disneyland...when it was cheap to get in; The ugliest building in the city; Union Station; Union Station's Fred Harvey Room; A Smelly Mystery at another train station; The Egyptian Theatre; Pilgrimage Bridge; The "It" Girl, Clara Bow; Elias J. "Lucky" Baldwin; Get Involved!; Houdini's House; Spanish Kitchen; The Platinum Blonde; Chutes Park; Fatty Arbuckle; The Brown Derby; Griffith Park; The Outpost Sign; Cross Roads of the World; Sowden House; Monkey Island; Carthay Circle Theater; The Post-War House & the Home of Tomorrow; Dan the Miner; Tropical Ice Gardens; William Desmond Taylor; Alligator Farm; Schwab's Pharmacy; Tail O' the Pup; Good Reads; Fatty Arbuckle's Plantation Cafe; The Garden of Allah, Mapping LAistory, The Pan Pacific Auditorium; Pickfair; Tower of Wooden Pallets; Hollyhock House; Randy's Donuts; the Ennis House; Helms Bakery Coaches, The Ambassador Hotel; The Cocoanut Grove; Busch Gardens in Van Nuys; The Battle of Santa Monica Bay; Clifton's Cafeterias.