Designed by architect Leland Bryant, the Sunset Tower opened in 1921 and is considered one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the Los Angeles area. (Photo by Gustavo Turner, Discover Los Angeles)
Nothing says vintage like black and white photos of West Hollywood’s historic buildings at night. This is a trip back in time for a look at many of them. (All photos are from Water & Power Associates unless otherwise noted.)
This 1972 view of Ben Frank’s Coffee Shop (now Mel’s Drive-in), located at 8585 Sunset Blvd., shows what a bustling place it was. Ben Frank’s would become Mel’s Drive-in in 1997. Ciro’s was a particularly swanky nightclub on the Sunset Strip, as shown in a photo from 1940. Cafe Trocadero circa 1937 – Originally known as the La Boehme from 1929 to 1933, the Trocadero was opened by the Hollywood Reporter’s William Wilkerson in 1934. The building was remodeled in 1938 by owners Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen. After years of serving as one of the Strip’s best evening destinations, and another change of ownerships, the “Troc” closed in 1946. The Schindler House on North Kings Road, designed and built by Austrian-born Rudolph Schindler, introduced a Southern California style of modern residential architecture that is admired around the world today.
Wil Wright’s Ice Cream, shown in this 1950 photo, was located at 8651 Sunset Blvd. at Sunset Plaza. Customers said the delicate pink and red decor and little marble tables and wire-frame chairs made them feel like they were inside a Valentine’s Day card. The legendary Formosa Café features a bar made from a converted electric streetcar that used to roll along tracks down the middle of Santa Monica Boulevard. The renovated Formosa is re-opening on July 8 Night view showing the front entrance to Art Linkletter’s La Cienega Lanes in 1946 on the northeast corner of Santa Monica and La Cienega boulevards, now home to CVS. Nighttime view of Gazzarri’s, which closed in 1993 after the original owner died in 1991. It later became Billboard Live and the Key Club. Doug Weston’s Troubadour launched the careers of many classic rock groups. Elton John played his first-ever U.S. concert there and the next day was signed to a record contract. Alison Martino of VintageLA writes that in the early 1960s, one of the first discotheques opened up across the street from the original Fred Segal in the heart of West Hollywood. It was called, P.J.’s. It paved the way for new dance clubs such as Gazzarri’s and the Whisky A Go Go which opened up on the famous Sunset Strip. Fred Segal frequented this popular dance club. Employees of P.J,’s would send club goers over to Fred Segal for the latest fashions during the swinging 60’s. It later became the Starwood, which helped launch the careers of many famous new wave, punk rock and glam rock bands. This renowned Case Study house — the Stahl House — sits above Sunset Blvd., barely within the city limits of West Hollywood. The photo is by Julius Schulman, who specialized in modernist architecture. This view from 1952 shows the famous Mocambo Nightclub at 8588 Sunset Blvd. It opened in January 1941 and was one of the biggest and most famous of the Sunset Strip clubs through the 40s and 50s. It’s shown here when Eartha Kitt was the headliner. When Frank Sinatra made his debut as a solo act, he opened at the Mocambo. A 1964 night view looking at the Sunset Strip from the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Horn Avenue. Texaco Gas is going for 28.9 cents per gallon!