Originally Posted by sopas ej
From the USC Archive, here's a larger photo of the Dutch Chocolate Shop, circa 1914:
The Dutch Chocolate Shop is returning!
The shop first appeared on on page 48 of this thread and I remember doing a huge double take when I saw these photos last year. I was really amazed by the tile work, arches, ceiling design, and the fantastic architectural details. And I have a major addiction to sweets, so a place like this is close to my heart.
The original Noir post didn't include the location but I've been wondering about this place all along, and hoped to uncover more info about it one day. Last month I got some clues from a blog post, followed by a generous helping of good luck.
The main clue was a web page that revealed that after the Chocolate Shop closed in the 1920's, the space became Finney's Cafeteria. Finney's is fairly well documented on the web, so it was easy enough to find the address -- 217 West 6th, just a block from Clifton's. The curiosity was killing me so I drove down there last Thursday to see what I might find. The space was closed and completely hidden by a roll up door but I made inquiries at the phone store next door, and got some great news. The clerk there told me that the interior was still intact, and even better, was currently being restored. They gave me a postcard that showed one of the old murals and included a web link, and told me that construction people were usually there in the morning.
The site on the post card (http://countdowntobatchelder.com
) confirmed that the Chocolate Shop was being restored and had some great info and photos, but I almost fell over when I saw this:
On June 3rd, 4 – 6 PM, The Dutch Chocolate Shop hosts “This is Our Batchelder”, the first in a series of public dialogues about Ernest Batchelder and the history of The Dutch Chocolate Shop. Sharing their perspectives on the matter will be tile advocate Brian Kaiser and Charles Kibby of Preservation Arts. Free and open to the public at The Dutch Chocolate Shop.
Needless to say, I was there this evening with my camera. The place looked fantastic and I was amazed to see that almost 100 years on, nearly all the tile work and murals (which cover almost every inch of wall and ceiling) have survived and are in excellent condition. It was a fun event. The owner set up a chocolate bar with free samples and the speakers filled us in on the history of the space and the plans for its restoration. Apparently Ernest Batchelder, the creator of the tiles and murals, was a relative newcomer when the shop was built. The owner wasn't completely happy with the appearance and coloration at first, and not long after the place was built, the murals were carefully hand painted to enhance their color and general appearance. They were also covered with a coat of shellac, which has since darkened in color.
After the Chocolate Shop closed in the 20's the space became Finney's and remained so until 1986. Then it became a partitioned flea market space, and finally a phone store. The flea market tenant put up false walls, which covered up the amazing tile work, but also did a good job of preserving it. The man behind the current restoration had been using the space as an office but knew nothing about the history of the space until he discovered a section of tile behind one of the walls, and asked the building's owner about it. After learning more about the place's amazing interior and history, he decided to fully restore it. I think he intends to re-open it as a cafe and chocolate shop. (I hope I've gotten these details right.
During today's event several NO PICTURES signs were posted but (more luck) I met the owner and after chatting for a while, he enthusiastically told me to "go for it". The lighting was kind of tough in there but I got a few decent shots, some of which follow. A friend who went with me, who is more Photoshop savvy than I'll ever be, offered to improve some other shots and merge some multiple exposures, to work around the difficult lighting in there. I was unable to get good pictures of the overall space, but here are some close ups of the fantastic tile work. The place looks amazing and I can't wait until it opens.
One of the 20 or so tile murals that adorn the walls.
Another mural. Oddly, none of these wonderful murals are visible in the older USC photo.
A sconce in the front half of the space.
A section in one of the rear murals that shows a traditional Dutch chocolate shop. In his talk, Brian Kaiser told us that Batchelder did considerable research and took great pains to make these murals accurately depict Dutch scenes that were accurate of the period.
Detail from one of the complex interior archways.
Prior incarnation as a phone store. Most of the ceiling tiles were visible but all the original walls were hidden. Who'd ever have guessed the secrets held within this ordinary storefront? I think the same phone store now occupies the space on the left.
More photos coming soon!