Posted by: Brad Nixon | March 5, 2018

Java Jive! Long Beach Style

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup (boy!)

Let’s drive east, across the Vincent Thomas suspension bridge, over the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, to the city of Long Beach. I went there recently in search of some of the city’s large stock of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne buildings.

Long Beach Art Deco Brad Nixon 5964 (640x454)

We’re headed to 4th Street, which starts near the Los Angeles River, north of the port, and extends due east for a couple of miles, skirting the northern edge of downtown. 4th Street’s lined with one- and two story commercial buildings, backed by residential neighborhoods of single- and multi-unit dwellings. Many of 4th Street’s structures survived the earthquake of 1933, or were built soon after that.

The street changes character numerous times: sometimes for better, while some areas are a bit beaten-down. A long block between Cherry and Junipero Avenues has become a lively zone full of vintage clothing, furniture and collectible shops, plus a few restaurants. The architectural highlight is a classic Art Deco movie house, the Art Theater.

Art Theater Brad Nixon 9116 (640x517)

The Art began life in 1925 as the oriental themed Carter Theater. It received its Art Deco restyling in 1934. I don’t know this for a fact, but it’s reasonable to speculate that it suffered some damage in the earthquake and emerged from repairs in the Art Deco style of the day, as did numerous other buildings in Long Beach.

Renovated in 2008, the theater has about 600 seats and shows current, classic and art films. As you can see, the day I shot the photo in January, 2018, they were showing “The Shape of Water,” which won the Academy Award for best picture just an hour or so before I was writing this post.

Let’s head seven or eight blocks west from the Art Theater to see another architectural gem. With the automobile becoming a common mode of travel in the 1930s, motels and restaurants vied for the attention of passing travelers with dramatic, sometimes silly or downright wacky structures shaped to let you know what sort of service or product was on offer. There are myriad examples. As I’ve written before, Los Angeles preserves its share of programmatic buildings,  including a few survivors of the “Big Donut” and “Donut King” chains.

Donut King II Brad Nixon 2274 (640x480)

Why, yes, they do sell donuts there. How did you know?

4th Street boasts a hard-to-notice little programmatic building that’s beaten the odds, and, despite having been significantly modified, it’s still there.

Koffee Pot LB Brad Nixon 0612 (480x640)

You’re right again. It started life in 1932 as a coffee shop. It’s had several names, including The Coffee Pot, Koffee Pot and, my favorite, Hot Cha. Programmatic? Yes.

Hot Cha LB Brad Nixon 0614 (640x517)

Apparently the place survived the earthquake, but I went looking for Hot Cha without much expectation of finding it. The latest edition of An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles (2003) describes it not likely to endure, having been derelict when they published. I’m happy to say that those photos, shot in January, 2018, show a recently refurbished structure with a sign indicating “Available.” Coffee entrepreneurs take note: Might be the location you’re looking for.

Some sources describe the building as hexagonal, but the Architectural Guidebook is correct: eight sides, octagonal. See it at 955 E. 4th St. in Long Beach, on the north side just east of Alamitos Ave.

The Art Theater is at 2025 E. 4th St. Click on the link for listings and show times. Cruise past the Koffee Pot to see if they’re serving. As the song says, shoot me the pot and pour me a shot!

Is there a programmatic building in your town? A big fish? Cactus? Giant hot dog or famous local produce? Tell us in a comment, and remember to let us know where, so we can visit.

Photographs of the Koffee Pot and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Shutterstock.com. Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2018. Lyrics and music for “Java Jive” by Milton Drake and Ben Oakland. The Ink Spots recorded it in 1940, but you may know the later version by Manhattan Transfer, 1975 and after.


Responses

  1. I love that Koffee Pot. If I lived in Long Beach and it was back in business, I’d visit regularly. We’re a little short on programmatic buildings around here — both Houston and Galveston — but The Orange Show might come close. It’s certainly an oddity, and is deeply intertwined with the arts community.

    Liked by 1 person


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