Businesses shaped like cameras, tamales, coffee pots, a stockinged leg, animals, hats, and more emerged in the 1920s through the 1940s as a quintessentially Los Angeles art form, with a novel charm that attracted customers and gawkers alike.
Sadly, most of them have been demolished, and one of them is under threat of annihilation right now. The Chili Bowl, located on Pico Blvd. on the West Side, was one of a chain of chili restaurants that began in 1931. It’s one of LA’s oldest (and all too rare) remaining examples of programmatic architecture.
Both the Los Angeles Conservancy and the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission sought landmark status for the Chili Bowl, but the current property owners want to instead raze the historic building. The matter went up to vote on June 15, but City Councilmember Mike Bonin voted to deny landmark status to the building, and the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee deferred to Councilmember Bonin’s wishes.
The cultural historians behind Esotouric just started Friends of the Chili Bowl, with a petition calling for Bonin to save and move the last Chili Bowl restaurant in the city of LA. You can help this effort to preserve a piece of LA history by signing the petition.