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WeHo’s Formosa Cafe gets $150K toward preservation and restoration

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It would help refurbish a centerpiece of the landmarked cafe

Steve & Michelle Gerdes / Flickr creative commons

As the iconic Santa Monica Boulevard dining spot the Formosa Cafe readies for renovation, it’s won a $150,000 grant aimed squarely at preserving a key part of the landmark red building, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced today.

The Los Angeles Conservancy, which led the charge for the Formosa in the campaign, will receive the money. The windfall will go toward rehabbing “the long-neglected 1902-06 trolley portion that still functions as the centerpiece of the cafe,” says the National Trust.

The Formosa Cafe opened in West Hollywood in 1925. Its founder was a one-time prize fighter who renovated a decommissioned Pacific Electric Red Car and used it as a lunch counter. (The cafe was expanded in 1945.)

The eatery was a popular hangout during Hollywood’s Golden Age and often played host to “a who's who of Hollywood glamour,” Vintage Los Angeles’s Alison Martino told KPCC in January, when the cafe closed.

The cafe remains shuttered, but it is expected to undergo a sensitive restoration and reopen soon. Its new operators, the 1933 Group, are known for their vintage-inspired bars—North Hollywood’s Idle Hour, Silver Lake’s Thirsty Crow, and Highland Park’s Highland Park Bowl. They’ve said they could have the doors at the Formosa open again as soon as next year.

The WeHo landmark was one of 25 historic spots competing for a $150,000 prize in a campaign called Partners in Preservation. The venture will award a total of $2 million total toward preservation of 11 sites across the country. Winners were chosen by a popular vote online.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of the founder of Vintage Los Angeles. It is Alison Martino, not Allison Martino.