Chili Bowl (West Los Angeles) | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Marcello Vavala/L.A. Conservancy

Chili Bowl (West Los Angeles)

The Chili Bowl was constructed in 1935 and initially located in Silver Lake for Arthur Whizin's Chili Bowl restaurant chain. In 1939, just four years after its completion, the building was moved to its current location in West Los Angeles.

In 1931, at the age of twenty-five, Whizin opened his first Chili Bowl restaurant at 3012 Crenshaw Boulevard. Within a decade, Whizin opened eighteen locations using his Chili Bowl design for each of his locations. To grow his business, Whizin promoted his eatery by sponsoring a baseball team, raffling rides on the Chili Bowl airplane, and advertised on a speedboat that crossed the Catalina Channel with showgirls aboard. During WWII, Whizin downsized his business chain. By 1947, all the Chili Bowl restaurants in the chain were permanently closed.

The Chili Bowl is an example of programmatic architecture, in which the building is fashioned in the shape of a business’s product or identity. Coinciding with the rise of automobile use, programmatic architecture or mimetic architecture was popularized during the 1920s along roadsides throughout the United States. During this period, the Los Angeles area was home to one of the highest concentrations of this architecture style. 

Some of the Los Angeles’s most notable programmatic buildings included Van De Kamp’s Dutch Bakeries, the Big Cone ice cream stands, and the Chili Bowl restaurants.

Because so few examples remain today, Programmatic architecture is considered a rare resource type. The Chili Bowl in West Los Angeles is one of the oldest surviving examples of the style in L.A.

Image courtesy Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

The Tamale

A rare remaining example of programmatic architecture, The Tamale was designed to advertise its products to passing motorists.