The Remains of West Hollywood’s Kitschy New Orleans Themed LGBT Headquarters

Recently I was out photographing a building for an upcoming post, and as I was shooting Patrick and I began to talk about where to go for lunch. I snapped away as he looked on his phone and said “Well, the place right next door is a New Orleans place. Oh, wait, it’s closed.” And when he said closed, it really meant closed for good. Once I wrapped up shooting what I originally came for, I wandered to shuttered New Orleans themed restaurant, complete with curling wrought iron. Patrick even found some images of what it once looked like inside, and I was heartbroken that it was closed, as I love a good themed restaurant.

I snapped some photos of the outside, where boards cover up stained glass windows, white washed outdoor fans slowly rotated in the breeze, and empty bottles scattered about. The original intention was just sharing the sad remains of a once glorious themed restaurant that has fallen by the wayside, but as I read more about the place, I uncovered was a story much more heartwarming and important, and perfect to share this month.

Front of the French Market Place, with arched window frames, brickwork and wrought iron, a high pitch black roof comes down.

The wrought iron railing to enclose the outdoor patio.

The main entrance today. White double doors with trim, an arched faux window that is really a mirror is above.

Side of the building, with shutters, harlequin pattern in two town yellow, streamline deco tower/pillar, and remains of the sign.

Close-up of small brass plaques on the front doors reading "out" on the left, and "in" on the right.

Wider exterior shot showcasing the roofline and wrought iron.

Side of the building, showcasing a 30s streamline art deco portion jutting from the side, which is rounded at the top.

A close-up of the outdoor patio fans, which are white washed and feature slight embossing and details.

The remains of the sign, a now empty framework. The same streamline deco town stands to the left.

Close-up for the wrought iron, featuring leaves and grapes.

Originally built in the streamline deco style (which can still be seen jutting out from the side) in 1936, it served as a grocery story with various owners until 1973 when Tom Simms bought the building. The interior was totally revamped into a New Orleans theme with that faux outside feel inside, ala the Blue Bayou of Disneyland. Swirling wrought iron, brick, stained glass, and murals all helped to create a kitschy version of the Big Easy in West Hollywood. The entire building was dubbed The French Market Place, with Simms opening The French Quarter Restaurant as a central focal point of the location, surrounded by small shops which faced toward the restaurant.

With new owners a few years ago, and declining business, The French Market Place shuttered its doors in July of 2015, and soon rumblings of the building being torn down began. But the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance and locals alike voiced opposition, citing the building was of historical and cultural significance. But just how was a grocery store turned kitsch-tastic restaurant historically and culturally important? Not long after opening, the restaurant became a haven and activist center for the gay community, serving as a respite during the AIDs crisis, and a meeting place for the Members of the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles to work on fundraising for gay-friendly candidates. It maintained this HQ-like quality for decades, so much so that when Jerry Brown (California’s current governor) threw his hat in the ring for the White House in 1991, and met here with members of the LGBT community seeking their support.

What did this place look like inside? I took to Yelp, which had some half-way decent pictures!

Outside dining of The French Market Place. Exposed brick walls, with fleur de lis stained glass. White linen covered tables with woven chairs. Image from Yelp.

Interior of the French Market Place. A tall ceiling painted midnight blue evokes a feeling of being outside, with exposed brick and wrought iron gazebo centered. Image from Yelo.

Images via Yelp

I also stumbled upon this exterior shot of it in 1982.

Vintage black and white photograph of the exterior of The French Market Place. High pitch roof comes down in wrought iron, and a large sign with fancy script reads "The French Market Place"

Image via The New Mr Burlesk

Now if I could only find images of what the building looked like when it was originally built!

Thanks to caring locals there are new plans on the books for this site. The building will be remodeled with new additions for a mix use of restaurant and office space. The facade will feature faces of both local and national LGBT activists, honoring their struggle, and the historical significance of the location. The whole building will simply be called The French Market.

Currently, the building is used as temporary office space.

Sources
Bishop, Bob. “The French Market’s Story.” WEHOville.
Chandler, Jenna. “Developer scraps plans to tear down West Hollywood’s French Market Place.” Curbed Los Angeles.

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