Dozens upon dozens of West Hollywood residents and preservationists from other places turned out on Saturday for a tour of West Hollywood’s Formosa Café that was intended to encourage more votes in a campaign now underway for preservation funding.
Bud Coffey, a volunteer docent with the Los Angeles Conservancy, led multiple tours of people through the restaurant, calling out the history reflected in its design and pointing where the famous mobster Mickey Cohen liked to dine. In a feature titled “The Formosa Café: The Grungy Glamour of a West Hollywood Icon,” https://www.kcet.org/food/the-formosa-cafe-the-grungy-glamour-of-a-west-hollywood-iconKCET described the Formosa’s allure to celebrities such as Ava Gardner, Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra, Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe. “Elvis Presley once gave a waitress a Cadillac as a tip,” it noted.
The celebrities who turned out Saturday were much more local and included West Hollywood Mayor John Heilman, City Councilmember Lauren Meister and Alison Martino, the creator of the ever-more popular Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page and a passionate advocate for preserving culturally significant buildings in West Hollywood. Members and officials of the Los Angeles Conservancy and the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance also were there.
Saturday’s event was to encourage people to vote at least once a day online in the Vote Your Main Street contest, which runs through Oct. 31. Votes can be cast by clicking here. The Formosa Café is one of 25 historically significant places in the United States that is in the running for part of $2 million in preservation funding from American Express.
“Let’s save a West Hollywood staple,” says the campaign’s pitch for the Formosa Café, which is at 7156 Santa Monica Blvd. at Formosa Avenue. “The beloved Formosa Cafe along Route 66 will be rehabilitated, passing on an icon to future generations. Threatened by development pressures, places like the Formosa Cafe are exceedingly rare today. This project will help its owners keep the building alive.”
The Formosa closed in January after 92 years in which it served as a major dining spot for actors and actresses and other film industry professionals at the movie studio next door now known as The Lot.
After the death of its original owners, the Formosa went through a number of menu changes and partners and in July 2015, its classic interior went through a complete transformation. All of the 8 x 10 celebrity glossies were taken down, the red interior was painted a battleship gray, and a rooftop garden bar was added. There are efforts underway to restore that interior. The 1933 Group http://1933group.com/, owner of the Formosa, has signed a long-term lease with Clarion Partners, owner of the Gateway shopping center, and intends to return it to a semblance of its original style. The 1933 Group also is the owner of the Harlowe on Santa Monica Boulevard.
The Vote Your Main Street campaign is a project of Partners in Preservation, an initiative created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express to engage the public in preserving and increasing awareness of America’s historic places. Since its creation in 2006, Partners in Preservation has awarded over $19 million in support of more than 200 sites.
Chartered by Congress in 1949, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has more than 60 years experience saving America’s historic places and promoting preservation.