Friday, February 15, 2008

Hollywood HoJo

 Northwest Corner of Hollywood & Vine

(This sign is actually at the northeast corner)

Howard Johnson's 
6301 Hollywood Boulevard

In the 1970's and early '80's, a favorite (and relatively safe) place to hang out at was the Hollywood Howard Johnson's coffee shop. 

Located at the northwest corner of Hollywood & Vine - it was clean and familiar. It offered a short respite from the wild things going on outside. 

And... it was open 24/7 hours with breakfast served all day!

Here, under the familiar orange roof, want-to-be actors, hopefuls, agents, tourist and everyday street urchins congregated.

Directly across the street to the south was another favorite place - the Hollywood Broadway Department store. (Though it left town in 1982).

1976 - USC digital archives

Way Back When on the northwest corner

Long ago - the northwest corner of Hollywood and Vine Street sat the home of early Hollywood pioneer and land speculator George Hoover. Hoover was part of the L.A. Pacific Boulevard and Development Company. He was also president of Hollywood's first bank - the Bank of Hollywood and was one of the builders of the fashionable Hollywood Hotel (located at Hollywood and Highland).  
The Laemmle Corner

In 1925 German immigrant and movie maker Carl Laemmle purchased the property from George Hoover for $350,000. Laemmle was president of Universal Pictures Corporation and had a very successful movie studio in the San Fernando Valley.
Laemmle planned to build an elaborate 900-seat theater and office building  (with a New York department store) on the site. However this never happened.
Proposed Laemmle Building

L.A. Times 

The economic depression of 1929 hit hard and Laemmle's building plans were put on hold.  The site sat vacant except for billboards advertising Universal Pictures in release. 

Looking west from Hollywood Blvd.  and Vine St.

USC digital archives

Carl Laemmle opened the the one story CoCo Tree Cafe on his property at the northwest corner of Hollywood and Vine.

The CoCo Tree was designed by modern architect extraordinaire Richard Neutra. It was designed in the International style. The entire front was plate-glass. It was all very sleek, with tall ceilings letting in natural lighting. There was lots of chrome, linoleum and stainless steel. 

Laemmle lined the top of the cafe with large billboards to advertise his latest Universal Pictures release.

Looking west from Hollywood and Vine from CoCo Tree Cafe

USC digital collection
The CoCo Tree was located a couple doors away from Eddie Brandstatter's and David Covey's Sardi's restaurant. Sardi's was designed by fellow modern architect extraordinaire  - Rudolf Shindler.
Other businesses along this stretch of Hollywood Boulevard included a couple tailoring companies, a men's shop, Radin Jewelry, Vanity Fair Lingerie and Horton & Converse Pharmacy (at 6313 Hollywood Blvd).
 The 12-story Guaranty Building was on the northeast corner of Hollywood and Ivar. 
1939 photo:USC digital archives

Sardi's at 6315 Hollywood Blvd.

 In 1939, Carl Laemmle died. The property stayed part of the Laemmle Family Trust.
Melody Lane Years  (1940 - 1955)

In 1940, restaurateur Sidney Hoedemaker of the Pig 'n' Whistle - Melody Lane chain, leased the northwest corner Hollywood and Vine transformed it into a Melody Lane restaurant.
LAPL digial archives

Hoedemaker did not care for Neutra's International style of architecture and he had the restaurant redesigned more to his liking. He hired coffee shop modern architect Wayne McAllister and S. Charles Lee to do the design. 

UCLA archives

UCLA archives

Melody Lane opened September 1940
L.A. Times

Looking west from northwest corner of Hollywood and Vine


1949 postcard - LAPL digital archives

View west from Hollywood and Vine
1953 photo: USC digital archives

Melody Lane was part of the Pig N Whistle chain of restaurants. In the '20's and '30's  Pig 'n' Whistle restaurants were very popular. They appealed to people of all ages.  The atmosphere was restful and artistic and it served up all American dishes at reasonable prices. 

Kids could get a souvenir booklet called Pig's in Ever Ever Land. It included 16 pages of large type and at least 20 sketches of all the notable Ever Ever Land characters from Little Bo Peep to the Mad March Hare

LAPL menue collection

Breakfast, lunch and dinner was served. In 1939, the deluxe dinner was $1.25.  Children could choose from the Old Mother Hubbard menu at 25 cents to Cinderella's at 45 cents. 

Other Pigs in the Poke

Pig 'n' Whistle was founded in 1905  by restaurant and hotel man John H. Gage. The first was located at 224. S. Broadway (next door to City Hall). In 1912 Gage opened his 2nd Pig 'n' Whistle at 212 W. 5th Street. In 1914 a third restaurant was opened in Pasadena and a 4th at 712-14 S. Broadway in downtown L.A. 

Pig 'n' Whistle was famous for it's elaborate interior finish of solid mahogany.

The Pig also offered fine candies and a bakery with French pastries.  

Pig 'n' Whistle inside the Fine Arts building on 7th Street downtown.
USC digital

A Pig 'n' Whistle opened at 6714 Hollywood Boulevard - next door to the
Egyptian Theater.  Once upon a time there were 3 little Pigs along Hollywood Boulevard.
Pig 'n' Whistle next door to the Egyptian theater
1933 photo: LAPL 

The Pig acquired the Melody Lane chain of restaurants including the one at 744 S. Hill. 
Sidney Hoedemaker was the vice-president and general manager of the Pig 'n Whistle Corporation.
By 1929, after several mergers and acquisitions - there were 23 Pig 'n' Whiste restaurants in operation -  locations included; Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, Pasadena, Hollywood and Los Angeles.
In 1933 John Gage resigned his presidency of the Pig 'n' Whistle Corporation and Sidney Hoedemaker took over as the restaurant chain president. 
John Gage passed away age 60.  

The chain started to loose some of it's charm - but it carried on for the next 20 years. 
Several Pig 'n' Whistles shut down during the 1950's.  
There were only three Pig 'n' Whistles left in business -  all located in downtown L.A. 
The Pig 'n' Whistle/Melody Lane chain restaurant was sold to King Kastle Corp of Illinois.  
Down Melody Lane

Melody - Miracle Mile
One of the most beloved  Melody Lanes was located at 5351 Wilshire Boulevard (at Detroit).  It was designed by architect mid century modern architect extraordinaire - Wayne McAllister. It included a dining room, coffee shop and cocktail lounge in a complex that flowed off the drive-in. 

Melody Lane - Miracle Mile
LAPL Herman Schultheis
The Starlite Room cocktail lounge had a cool zodiac themed motif featuring silk rayon wall coverings and peach colored mirrors. 
Melody Lane - Wilshire at Western 
WayneMcCallister was famous for his futuristic designs of drive-in coffee shops which reflected the car culture of the '50's and '60's.

5351 Wilshire Boulevard
LAPL digital archives

Sidney's wife, Margaret Hoedemaker died at age 56.

That same year Sid Hoedemaker retired as president of the Pig 'n' Whistle Corp. 
The Hody's Years (1955 - 1969)

In 1949, Sidney Hoedemaker founded Hody's Restaurant Inc.  (Hody - as in Hoedemaker).

Hoedemaker's restaurants were all about service, efficiency, cheerfully and courtesy. One was always greeted with a smile.
 1962 photo: LAPL digital archives

Hody's coffee shops had some very cool mid-century modern architecture.

Hody's opened at the new Lakewood Shopping Center (architect Wayne McAllister).
Hody's - Lakewood Blvd.
1954 postcard 
Hody's opened at 6006 Lankershim Blvd. at Oxnard St. in North Hollywood. 
Hody's - North Hollywood


In 1955, Hody's restaurant group signed a 20 year lease for the property on the northwest corner of Hollywood Blvd and Vine Street. Hoedemaker had it remodel extensively. 

Kid's got a kid's clown menu that could be worn on their face. (Kind of scary)
Next door to Hody's to the west was a Harris & Frank Clothiers and a Arthur Murray School of Dance studio.
1957 postcard

USC digital archives

There were 8 Hody's restaurants in Southern California at this time.

Hody's opened in the Panorama City Shopping Center at Van Nuys and Roscoe Blvd.
Sideny Hoedemaker was named National Golden Host by the Restaurant Management Association. This was quite an honor.
Hody's opens at Victory and Sepulveda Blvd in Van Nuys.
Hody's - Van Nuys
Hody's Restaurant was primarily a car service coffee shop with counter, dining room and cocktail lounge. There was also take-home service and bakery. Hody's promised beauty, efficiency and quality. Gold leather uphostered bar stools and booths, stereophonic sound and original wood mosaics by artist Allan Noonan. Redwood is extensively used throughout.
Hody's opened at Victory and Sepulveda Blvds in Van Nuys. This Hody's replaced the former Hody's at Venura Blvd. and Sepulveda Blvd.

The Hody's at 3553 La Brea (at Rodeo) featured expanded service, circular drive-in and a sign pylon rising from the roof was designed by Wayne McCallister.
Hody's - La Brea and Rodeo

 mid 1960's 
Cheap eateries and coffee shops had become big business in the mid-60's. These restaurants were all about inexpensive, quick and easy meals. Popular cheap eateries popping up all over the south land  included; Gullivers, Howard Johnson's, Van de Kamp's Shakey's, Denny's, McDonalds and Jack in the Box.  

Throughout his career, Sidney Hoedemaker continued to be involved in civic matters.  He belonged to many civic organizations including; the Southern California Business Men's Association, president of the National Restaurant Association, director of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and L.A. Convention Bureau. He was presented with many awards.
In 1969, Sidney Hoedemaker died. He was 82. 

Howard Johnson's Years (1970 - 1985)

The northwest corner of Hollywood and Vine was leased by the Howard Johnson Company. 


Howard Johnson corporation redesigned the existing building and added a small stage for entertainment. It was open 24 hour a day.

In the early '70's, Howard Johnson's was one of the largest restaurant chains in the world. The orang roofs stretched from coast to coast, primarily along the highways and major freeway intersections.

However 1970's were hard times for Hollywood and Hollywood Boulevard. Most of the fine shops had closed up and moved out. The neighborhood deteriorated. Many of the hotels and apartment buildings were badly run down. Drug dealers and prostitutes were everywhere. There area was a mecca for teenage runaways and castaways.  

Most movie studios have long since moved out. Many low rent apartment had become slums. 

One of the victims of the Hillside Strangler was a waitress at this Howard Johnson. 

After 50 years at this location, The Broadway Hollywood department store abandoned its location at the southwest corner of Hollywood and Vine. Most banks left as well.
There was a perliferation of cut rate t-shirt shops, posters shops, discount jeans, falafels, drug gadgetry, bikers, tattoo parlors, pawn shops, new immigrants, Hari Krisnas, Scientologist, crime and fear.

Hollywood was one of the worst centers of crime in the city. 

1978 William Reagh LAPL

Howard Johnson died in 1972.

Most Howard Johnson restaurants were located along highways and catered to auto travelers.  

By the late 1970's the Howard Johnson brand had lost its luster.  The chain was losing money. The meals were mediocre, surroundings deteriorated and the customers olders. Shiny new Denny's and McDonalds restaurants attracted away   new customers. 
Howard Johnson's was bought by Imperial Group of Great Britain. 
Howard Johnson's was up for sale. 

It was purchased by the Marriott Corporation. However,  the Howard Johnson chain was not making money and Marriott was not interested in maintaining it.

In the '80's Marriott eliminated most of the Howard Johnson's restaurants and motor lodges.

The Howard Johnson at Hollywood and Vine limped along until the mid 1980's.

1987 William Reagh LAPL

Most Howard Johnson's restaurant and lodges had closed down.
Last Gasp
In 1988  the northwest of Hollwyood Blvd. and Vine was vacant.
For a short while it became a Brown Derby (after the closure of the Vine Street Brown Derby).

Grand Final
Then the site became a slew of struggling retail and nightclubs such as; Premiere, Jack's Sugar Shack, the Deep, and finally the Basque nightclub

2008 photo: TLC

It all went up in flames in April 2008. 

(AP Photo/Nick Ut)
The site is currently vacant.

Empty site - northwest corner of Hollywood and Vine St.

2008 photo: tlc

Empty site - northwest corner of Hollywood and Vine St.

2009 photo:tlc



Ellen said...

This is a nice little history of one of roadside America's vanishing icons. I was looking for HoJo pictures and logos, etc. for a scrapbook about a family trip in the late 70's and found just about nothing till I happened across this site. Howard Johnson's was a huge part of my family's vacations from the early 50's on. While I like the food courts on the toll roads, I still miss HoJo's hotdogs and 29(?) flavors of icecream. Thanks for the memories.

Robin Randall said...

I was looking for photos to go along with a song I wrote for my high school reunion from Hollywood high in the 70s.Your site is great, I loved going down memory lane and all the history you have documented.
thank you for posting....Robin Randall

Tom said...

Hi, I used to live in hollywood in the early 70's period. I worked at a place on Hollywood and las palmas called, "Georges Restaraunt" World famous hamburgers. I lived ia place called " The House of Awareness" on Wlcox. Hippy painted apt. bldg. full of a biker group called, "The Chosen Few" A guu named Andy was group leader.
In those days beautiful young run aways would come into Geores, fucked up on RD'S, YELLOW'S, RAINBOWS, 714'S A basic " stumblers

Anonymous said...

Hello Tom. I was just in Hollywood and took pics of Georges Burgers. Its currently abandoned. It was called Bellas recently. I become interested in Georges after seeing it in the 1984 movie Angel and in Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts.

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Unknown said...

Can you tell me more about the House of Awareness please? My now deceased grandfather co-owned it and just a place I've always been curious about.

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