In Los Angeles, the eccentric bars that changed the face of the city streets in the 1940s come back to life

Old Time Spirits

Idle Hour, the bar that dominates the heart of North Hollywood with its gigantic wooden barrel shape, is one of the few remaining examples of the programmatic architectures that arose in the States between the 1920s and 1940s, characterized by the strangest and most bizarre shapes, such as cameras (Shutter Shak), hats (The Hollywood Brown Derby), hot dogs (Tail of The Pup), burritos (The Tamale) or donuts (Randy’s Donuts): in short, an updated version of the talking architecture, of the neoclassical eighteenth century that in the form of the buildings it declared their function.

“In Los Angeles, programmatic architectures have had enormous diffusion”

explains Bobby Green, one of the owners of Idle Hour

The 1933 Group, studio specialized in the restoration of these particular rooms. «The movement began with the mass spread of the automobile and the consequent increase in people’s mobility; For fear of losing customers, the shopkeepers on the boulevards decided to build buildings that could attract the attention of buyers. The decline of programmatic architectures occurs after the Second World War, with the arrival of modernism and the streamline style: Los Angeles lost 99 percent of these buildings, all of which were demolished between the 1950s and 1960s ».

In addition to the Idle Hour, built in 1941, Green and associates have recovered other venues such as the elegant and decadent Harlowe inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood, the Sassafras, which recalls the environments of the bayou of the state of Georgia and Highland Park Bowl, the latest recently opened project. In the Idle Green courtyard he also installed the Bulldog Café, another building completely restored to its original state.

«For us it is important that each place has a life of its own, that the atmosphere is unique and inimitable. Our customers don’t just want to eat well or drink sophisticated drinks, but they want to live a unique experience: attending our bars is a bit like going to Disneyland, a way to escape reality; that’s why I even kept the name Idle Hour (literally “time of inactivity”, ed.) which was the moment when the factory workers took a coffee break before starting their shift again ».

Bobby Green founded the 1933 Group with Dimitri Komarov and Dmitry Liberman, in 1998. «In the 1990s I ran an art gallery café, but my real dream was to own a themed bar; since I loved Colorado, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and the rustic environments of mountain huts, we restored our first place, the Bigfoot Lodge: we wanted to create a place that had never been seen before, that did not yet exist in Los Angeles, mixing American and vintage heritage and cultural history ».

That’s why the Highland Park Bowl restoration, the oldest bowling alley in Los Angeles, is a major project. “Highland Park Bowl arose in ’27 during Prohibition; in the seventies it became a punk rock hangout: it was ambiguous, dirty and sometimes people were stabbed. Bringing it back to its former glory, restoring dignity not only to the building, but also to the whole neighborhood was an interesting bet. It’s our way of bringing some aspects of Los Angeles history back to life. Or, at least, what little magic is left of a world that was disappearing ».