La Villa Basque | Los Angeles Conservancy
La Villa Basque
Photo by Larry Underhill

La Villa Basque

Built in 1960, La Villa Basque was a landmark in the industrial city of Vernon for over half a century. Its unique hybrid of coffee shop, lounge, fine dining establishment, and event venue served everyone from truck drivers to wedding parties.

The building's exterior featured rough-textured walls clad in stone aggregate. The door surrounds and lower elevations featured stone-like "flagcrete," a masonry building material popular with coffee shops whose trade name is derived from "flagstone" and "concrete." The façade included perforated, geometric openings in projecting walls and roof canopies. The exuberant signage was unmistakably sixties, incorporating the four-pointed Lauburu (traditional Basque cross). This motif also graced the wrought iron grillwork at the entrance to the main dining room. The interior contained a formal dining area, lounge, and coffee shop.

Original finishes included hallmarks of Googie coffee-shop architecture, such as polished terrazzo flooring; Formica-clad countertops; wall surfaces of flagcrete, wood-paneling, and perforated Masonite; and mosaic tile-clad accents.

Most of these finishes have been covered or replaced. The main entrance featured a custom fireplace with a mosaic tile-clad basin and metal ventilation hood. The fireplace basin was supported by a flagcrete post, designed with gas jets rising above the water-filled pool. La Villa Basque also contained original custom light fixtures, many of which have been replaced.

La Villa Basque was also significant for its cultural associations as a Basque-themed business, representing one of Vernon's most prominent families and Basque heritage in Los Angeles. It was established by Leonis C. Malburg, an important political figure in Vernon's twentieth-century history, whose great grandfather, Basque immigrant John B. Leonis, was one of the city's original founders in 1905.

Photo courtesy Sally Egan

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