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Monday, March 24, 2008

HUGE VICTORY FOR SAN FERNANDO VALLEY HISTORY

Phil's Diner Victory
Richard Bogy has just shared this great news for the Valley's Museum Community.

A New life for Phil’s Diner

The 1920’s was the era of the dining car style “diner”. One of the grandest examples was in North Hollywood and was called Phil’s Diner.

The North Hollywood (then called “Lankershim”) Southern Pacific train depot opened in 1892. For the first thirty or so years it served principally as a shipping point for the area’s rich farming products. By the early 1920’s North Hollywood had become a bustling well-to-do town. In 1923 nearby Toluca Lake was created as a first “bedroom community” for Los Angeles in the Valley. In that same year Lakeside Golf Club opened. By the 1920’s the Lankershim train depot served as many passenger trains as freight trains and the depot needed a restaurant for passengers to eat while they waited. To serve that need, Phil’s Diner was created.

Phil’s Diner was designed by Charles Amend, and like so many other famous diners of the day (including the famed Pacific Dining Car in downtown Los Angeles ) the building was essentially pre-fabricated and moveable on the back of a flatbed. A diner like Phil’s was often moved from the original location. The diners were even made to look and feel like a railroad “dining car”.

As the years passed by, the train depot finally closed and then North Hollywood transitioned from a thriving community to a blighted and forgotten industrial area, Phil’s fell on hard times. The original distinctive pink and black colors become faded and began to peel. Many of us – who just loved the history behind Phil’s – would still make the occasional visit and sit either at the wooden counter or at the single line of small tables. By the end you usually found yourself alongside a blue collar worker or a new immigrant, enjoying what was certain to be a one way ticket to heartburn; but it didn’t matter, because it was Phil’s.

Finally, Phil’s died. The last “blue plate” special was served and the doors were locked – it seemed likely – for all time. After several years of boarded doors and windows, the little building was raised on timbers and moved several blocks from the original site, where it now sits on a vacant lot behind a locked construction fence.

On March 20th Phil’s Diner was given new life. The CRA Board approved a plan for a new modern office building, a luxurious Laemmle’s 8-screen Theater, and a restored and operating Phil’s Diner. The Diner will be moved to the corner of Lankershim and Weddington – across from the El Portal Theater – where it will be restored to its 1920’s condition and reopen as a restaurant, and to become the centerpiece of the theater courtyard.

The effort to save Phil’s was the work of many, including Councilman LaBonge, the CRA, the property developer, the current owner of Phil’s and Laemmle’s Theaters. The community must also be acknowledged for their diligent efforts to protect and restore Phil’s. At the CRA hearing to approve the project, a broad section of the community came to speak in favor of the motion. In fact, twenty five people spoke all in favor of the project, with an (almost unprecedented) no one opposed. Thank you to Councilman LaBonge, the CRA, and everyone else who came together to bring Phil’s Diner back to where it belongs!

1 comment:

Ken Roskos said...

Fantastic!

Hope to get one of those grilled steak and cheese sandwiches again.