Angel City Press authors Stephen Gee and Arnold Schwartzman have been busy speaking about their new book Los Angeles Central Library: A History of its Art and Architecture. Last Monday, the pair spoke to an audience that included actor George Takei at Chevaliers. The day before, the Society of Architectural Historians, Southern/California Chapter hosted Gee and Schwartzman for their sold out salon which took place in beautiful Bullocks Wilshire.
As Gee and Schwartzman signed books in the Bullocks Wilshire Tea Room, many attendees shared their culinary memories of lunching in the warm ambiance of the pastel-colored dining room. While enjoying SAH/SCC's brownies and lemon bars, we were reminded that ACP's very first book Hollywood Du Jour included a recipe of Bullocks’ famous Coconut Creme Pie. “From the opening day, fluffy coconut cream pie, baked daily, was a teatime specialty,” wrote author Betty Goodwin.
When John and Donald Parkinson designed Bullocks Wilshire, the original dining areas included a Tea Lounge, Club Room, two private dining rooms, and one semi-private dining room. These were modified into the Tea Room by the late 1940s. According to Gee, author of Iconic Vision: John Parkinson, Architect of Los Angeles, Grace Wells Parkinson (the wife of architect Donald Parkinson) regularly ate at the Tea Room and was treated with extra special attention when shopping at the department store.
While there is no record of John Parkinson eating at the building he designed, he did have fond memories of another Los Angeles culinary landmark, Al Levy’s. "Al Levy, the city’s first street vendor to flip a pushcart into a restaurant empire, opened his first oyster cart on the streets of downtown L.A. in 1897," wrote Josh Kun in To Live and Dine in LA. Kun continued, Levy "wanted his customers to know that they were not just easting a meal, they were eating the history of the American west.”
Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Menu Collection
For John Parkinson, Al Levy’s was a place for architectural camaraderie. Gee shared this memory from Parkinson’s papers:
Since 1900, hundreds of architects have come to Los Angeles, many of them of great ability and training. I am sure that Los Angeles architects of today are able to do work of design and construction fully as well as those of any other place or country. But for good old fellowship give me the old times of the nineties at our monthly meetings in Al Levy’s restaurant, each with his mug of beer…