Landmark Award 2016

OffvineOFF VINE: REMINDER OF HOLLYWOOD’S GLAMOUR IN A CRAFTSMAN BUNGALOW

By Carol Henning

A craftsman-style bungalow, built in 1908, hosts the restaurant called Off Vine at 6263 Leland Way. In its early days this bungalow was surrounded by fruit trees and located near a newly made country road called Vine, a street named after Senator Cornelius Cole’s vineyard. (In exchange for legal services, Cole was given 500 acres of Rancho La Brea by the Hancock brothers, Henry and John. His property was bounded by what are now Gower, Seward, Rosewood and Sunset. With his son, Seward, Cole established the town of Colegrove in the 1880s.) The property where Off Vine is situated was part of the Leland Tract, in Colegrove.

Alas, the names of the architect and builder of the house seem to have vanished in the fog of the past. The L.A. Department of Building and Safety has no records for the property prior to the mid ‘70s, and no one connected with the family that owns the property, or the business that occupies it, knows about its earliest days.

The first name associated with the property in the Los Angeles County Tax Archives is Albert C. Bollinger. From 1913 to 1928, the Leland Tract was apparently owned by Charles E. Toberman. Known as “Mr. Hollywood,” C.E. Toberman was a nephew of Los Angeles Mayor James Toberman. C. E. Toberman developed Hollywood and many of its landmarks, including the Hollywood Bowl, the Roosevelt Hotel, the El Capitan Theatre and the Egyptian and Grauman’s Chinese theatres.

Beryl Wallace—born Beatrice Heischuber in Brooklyn, New York—got a role in the 1928 Earl Carroll Broadway Theatre production of “Vanities.” Beryl and Earl began a personal relationship and, when Carroll moved his Ziegfeld Follies-type shows to Hollywood in 1938, Beryl Wallace was both his star and his life partner. On Sunset Boulevard, the Earl Carroll Theatre was a luxurious, thousand-seat, multi-tiered supper club featuring Busby Berkeley-style numbers on an elevated, revolving stage. The theatre’s façade was adorned with a 20-foot high neon facial portrait of Beryl Wallace.

After their arrival in Hollywood, Earl Carroll bought a house for Beryl’s mother and eight siblings. This was the craftsman bungalow at 6263 Leland Way. The family home contained a full make-up mirror upstairs so that Beryl could get ready to go on stage and take a short walk north to the theatre, where her neon face was surrounded by the words: “Thru these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world.”

Wallace appeared in 22 movies, including Monogram Pictures’ “Romance of the Rockies” with Tom Keene, and Republic Pictures’ “Sunset in the Desert” with Roy Rogers. She acted in 22 films but also continued to perform at the theatre and on the radio. In 1948, while en route from Los Angeles to New York City, Beryl Wallace and Earl Carroll died in a plane crash.

The house where Beryl’s mother and siblings lived, and which became the Off Vine restaurant, is still owned by the Beryl Wallace family. The proprietors of Off Vine–Richard Falzone, opera singer Greg Fedderly, and Tony Hernandez–have decorated both downstairs and upstairs with photos of Beryl Wallace, of her family, of artifacts of the Earl Carroll Theatre, and more. Scott Zone, Wallace’s nephew and himself an archivist and conservator, preserved and provided the photos to Off Vine to display. Zone’s sister, Fran, wrote a short biography of Beryl Wallace, which is available in the restaurant.

After the mid 1950s, the Wallace family moved from 6263 Leland Way, but they continue to own it.. A series of commercial tenants moved in. These included a recording studio and, for many years, the Howard Valentine Music Store. In 1985, Belainesh Belatchew got a permit to convert the property into a restaurant, and he opened an Ethiopian eatery. It had a brief life.

Off Vine opened as a restaurant in 1989. “We have taken the Arts and Crafts sensibility as our own,” announced the proprietors. One of them, Richard Falzone, started working at Off Vine as a waiter in 1997. He told us that, “People always seem very grateful that we kept the structure intact.”

A fire damaged the building, mostly the second floor, in 2009 and the restaurant had to be closed two years for a rebuilding project. This was led by architect Brant Douglas Gordon of Santa Monica, contractor Prestige Apartment Services, and engineer William Carl Howe of Woodland Hills. The second floor was expanded and converted from an A-frame design. The building got new bathrooms and a new kitchen. An unusable pantry door was blocked off and shelves were installed. Coffered ceilings, moldings and lattice windows downstairs were preserved. Fireplace and sideboard, which at some point had been painted over in pastel colors, were carefully scraped down to the original bricks and wood. Falzone looked at books about craftsman homes in order to see the colors that had been commonly used. Those colors now grace the restaurant’s interior. The result is a craftsman-style bungalow that feels even more authentic.

Just a short walk from busy, noisy Vine Street in Hollywood, sits a lovely survivor of a bygone era and a reminder of Hollywood’s most glamorous years.

 

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