Originally Posted by 3940dxer
The Dutch Chocolate Shop is returning!
...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.
Thanks for the wonderful report and photos from the Dutch Chocolate Shoppe, David. As one of the people who organized an earlier tour and historic lecture
in the space, I just wanted to correct a few of the details of the building's interesting history and current status.
After Finney's Cafeteria left, the building was purchased by members of the Aslan family, and they turned the ground floor into small shops. The Aslans still own the building. A younger relative, Charles Aslan, is the individual behind the current move to reveal and clean the tiles and transform the space back into a chocolate shop.
Until earlier this year, the space was broken up into built-out bays with a variety of small shops represented. These included the phone store whose sign is on the exterior, and a hat vendor with really nice vintage-style inventory. It was not a single business (phone store or an office for Charles Aslan). Even with the built-out bays and roll-down security grates in place, a great deal of tile and various figural elements have always been visible to the naked eye.
So this is not a case of a surprise revelation when a piece of tile was found behind a wall, but of something that was clear to anyone who went into the space, and well known to the property owners.
It's really amazing to see the space opening up and how excited people are to learn about the Chocolate Shoppe. Beyond the beauty and potential of the Batchelder-designed space, this place represents an incredible opportunity for educating people about preservation laws and advocacy.
We have been taking people into this space for years on our Esotouric tours and talking about it as a poster child for why the city needs to strengthen its historic preservation guidelines with a interior landmarking ordinance. Although this space is an Historic-Cultural Monument specifically
for its interior, the city currently has no power to enforce any protections of the interior, and if the property owner decided to turn it back into a flea market tomorrow, there would be nothing that could be done about it.
The proposed changes
to the landmarking ordinance have apparently been stuck in City Council committee or in the City Attorney's office since summer 2009, and the story of the Dutch Chocolate Shoppe makes it crystal clear how important it is to pass the updated ordinance.
The updated ordinance is opposed by a powerful business lobbying group on the west side of Downtown (CCA, the Central City Association), representing property owners who do not want anyone telling them what they can do to their historic buildings.
The CCA, whose offices are currently
being picketed by OccupyLA over privatization of public space issues, even drafted a private agreement with the Los Angeles Conservancy to try make the ordinance toothless, but this attempt failed. It's a big concern to me that the most prominent preservation group in the city would attempt to lend its support to a new law that endangers historic interiors, but happily, the Art Deco Society and other preservationists saw what was happening and spoke out
against it. Ultimately, however, no changes to the interior portion of the ordinance were recommended
Long live the Dutch Chocolate Shoppe!