The last of the four Los Angeles area Brown Derby restaurant buildings — once on the brink of demolition but now a protected city monument — has been put on the market for $10.6 million.
The building at 4500 Los Feliz Blvd. is being sold by the group of investors that attempted in the mid-2000s to build 80 residences and a supermarket at the site of the famed restaurant. Neighbors caught wind of the effort, created the Save the Derby preservation group, and rallied Los Angeles City Council to save the building, which dates to 1928 and was once owned by Cecil B. DeMille.
The 14,000-square-foot building, now home to a Chase Bank branch and Louise’s Trattoria restaurant, was declared a historic cultural monument by the City of Los Angeles in 2006, protecting it from demolition or significant alteration.
"Thanks largely to the efforts of community members and volunteers, the building's significance is formally recognized and the city will review any proposed alterations to make sure they maintain the building's character," said Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy, a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to preserve and recognize the historic architectural and cultural resources of Los Angeles County.
The Los Feliz branch of the Brown Derby closed in 1960; the building at the corner of Los Feliz and Hillhurst Ave. later housed the Derby nightclub.
Although in their heyday the four Brown Derby branches were each famed Hollywood hangouts, all except the Los Feliz restaurant have been demolished or significantly altered. The original Brown Derby, located at 3427 Wilshire Blvd. in what is now Koreatown, was partially incorporated into a shopping center in 1980. The restaurant was shaped like a man's derby hat and featured a sign that beckoned passersby to “Eat In The Hat.” The Hollywood location was destroyed in a 1987 fire, although a portion of the building has been integrated into the W Hollywood Hotel & Residences project on Vine Street. The Beverly Hills Brown Derby was razed in 1983.
The Brown Derby chain was founded by Herbert Somborn, a one-time husband of silent film star Gloria Swanson, and Robert H. Cobb. He is said to have created the Cobb salad at the Hollywood branch of the restaurant. Legend has it that one day, Cobb was forced to quickly throw together a salad for theater owner Sid Grauman, and with only leftovers at his disposal, Cobb created the now-ubiquitous salad of greens, tomato, bacon, roasted chicken breast, hard-boiled egg, avocado and Roquefort cheese.
The 4500 Los Feliz Blvd. building is owned by investors Duncan Lemmon and John Battle, both of commercial real estate brokerage Lee & Associates; and Mike Adler and Rick Gable, both of Adler Realty Investments Inc., a real estate investment firm. Lemmon, president of Lee & Associates’ West Los Angeles office, and Battle, a Lee principal, have the listing.