On Wednesday, September 12, the Los Angeles Conservancy and Miracle Mile Residential Association submitted an application to the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission to nominate Tom Bergin’s Old Horseshoe Tavern and Thoroughbred Club (more recently known as Tom Bergin’s House of Irish Coffee) as an Historic Cultural Monument.
The tavern, which closed earlier this year after being in business since 1936, was a neighborhood fixture since its inception, and holds the second oldest liquor license in the city. It has been nominated both for its importance to “the broad cultural, economic or social history of the nation, state or community,” and for the building’s distinctive Tudor-Revival architecture.
“Bergin’s is probably the best known ‘landmark’ in town that doesn’t actually enjoy the protections of official historic monument status,” said Ken Hixon, MMRA vice president, in a statement provided yesterday to the Buzz. “It was the place for locals to gather and rub elbows with its more famous patrons like Cary Grant, Bing Crosby, or Julia Roberts. Tom Bergin’s plays a very celebrated role in the history of the Miracle Mile. The MMRA is dedicated to the preservation of the building.”
Adrian Scott Fine, speaking for the Conservancy in the same statement, agreed, saying, “Tom Bergin’s reflects L.A.’s history, culture, and people. As economic and development pressures intensify across the city, it is important to support long-operating, legacy businesses and recognize their significant imprint on our heritage.”
The Mid-City West Community Council provided funding for the nomination effort, and Keith Nakata, co-chair of the Mid City West Planning and Land Use Committee said, “The Mid City West Community Council overwhelmingly felt that it was important to participate, along with other community partners, in the funding and the preparation of the Historic Cultural Monument application. This application will preserve a written history of the iconic Tom Bergin’s, a treasured gathering place of the community for over 80 years. From locals to celebrities, everyone felt welcome at this Los Angeles landmark.”
According to the application packet, prepared by consulting firm Architectural Resources Group, “attorney-turned-restaurateur” Tom Bergin first opened his Irish tavern in 1936, at 6110 Wilshire BIvd. In 1949, Bergin moved the business to a new building he erected at 840 S. Fairfax Ave., which was specifically designed for the bar and restaurant.
The iconic building, in use until this year, was designed in the Tudor-Revival style common to many homes in the area, which were mostly built in the 1920s-1940s. But Bergin’s is one of the neighborhood’s few commercial buildings in the style. Distinctive building materials, which help evoke the Irish countryside, include clinker brick, wood and stucco.
The interior of the Bergin’s building is divided into three public spaces: the tavern, a main dining area, and a private dining room. The defining feature of the tavern is the bar, described in the nomination as “a large, horseshoe-shaped cocktail bar that wraps around the room in a 360-degree configuration.” It is made of paneled wood, capped with copper, and has a metal foot rail around its base. The private dining room features a large brick fireplace. (And yes, it was functional. This writer remembers several lovely dinners eaten on chilly winter nights near the cozy fire.)
In general, according to the HCM application, both the interior and exterior of the building are largely intact, with only minor alterations over the years…most of them generally sensitive to the building’s original character.
Through the years, also according to the application, Bergin’s “became one of the city’s most iconic and beloved local businesses,” where “generations of Angelenos shared the common experience of patronizing the tavern, soaking in its weathered, hand-hewn interior, ordering a pint of Guinness or an Irish coffee, and decompressing and socializing amid a friendly, low-key setting.”
In addition to running his business, Bergin was also an avid horse racing fan, and the pub quickly became especially popular with racing and sports enthusiasts. It was also famous for its Irish Coffee, its huge St. Patrick’s Day celebrations (which attracted lines down the block and ran nearly all day), and it was even, at one point, the “off-field home base” for the Los Angeles Rams and their owner Dan Reeves, Sr., when the team first moved from Cleveland to L.A. The tavern had many other famous patrons, too…and regulars, both locals and celebrities, were honored with their names on cardboard shamrocks, pasted to the ceiling…where they remain today.
Through its more than 80 years in business, Tom Bergin’s has had only four sets of owners. Bergin himself ran it for the first 37 years. When he stepped down in 1973, two longtime customers – Mike Mandekic and T.K. Vodrey – took over. Mandekic retired in the late 1990s, and Vodrey stayed until 2011. That year, the business was sold to restaurateur Warner Ebbink and executive chef Brandon Boudet, who closed it for several months for a major remodel. The pub re-opened in 2012 with a “contemporary Irish menu” and new drink selections, but it did not attract enough customers to remain profitable. The pub closed in the summer of 2013, and was sold to actor and longtime patron Derek Schreck. Schreck re-opened Bergin’s in January, 2014, but it struggled during this period, too, and closed again this year. (Shreck still owns the property and has been notified of the landmark application, but has not yet commented on it, according to Hixon.)
According to the Hixon, the first step for the HCM application will be a hearing at the Cultural Heritage Commission, which has not yet been scheduled. If the CHC approves the nomination, it would then go to the City Council’s PLUM Committee for approval, and then, if approved, to the full City Council for a final vote. Hixon said the process typically takes about six months to complete, if everything goes smoothly.
For more information on the Tom Bergin’s landmark application, as well as more cultural context, history and photos, see the full nomination package at https://miraclemilela.files.wordpress.com/2018/09/tom-bergins-hcm-nomination.pdf There is also a new Facebook page, Friends of Tom Bergin’s (a.k.a. Save Bergin’s) for people who would like to support and track the preservation effort.
Our thanks to the Larchmont Buzz for permission to reprint this article.
Beverly Press/Park LaBrea News, Sept. 20, 2018:
Tom Bergin’s Nominated for Historic Status
Before its recent closure earlier in 2018, Tom Bergin’s Public House was long a site for Miracle Mile and Carthay Circle residents to gather, celebrate, and maybe even mingle with a few famous patrons, from Cary Grant and Bing Crosby to Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts…
MESSAGE FROM THE MIRACLE MILE NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH COORDINATOR:
Hello Miracle Mile Neighbors!
Our Miracle Mile Neighborhood Watch is alive and well!
While it is summer and many are able to take a vacation, the criminals are not taking a vacation. Therefore, our efforts to continue to organize the Miracle Mile block by block – is just as important now as it was a few months ago. Good news – blocks who have an active Neighborhood Watch are successful in deterring crime. This works – so let’s keep up the momentum!
CHANGING HOW WE NEIGHBOR TO DETER CRIME & BUILD COMMUNITY – that’s Miracle Mile Neighborhood Watch!
SUCCESS! Band APP – We have had significant success with the use of the group texting app called BAND where neighbors can text JUST YOUR BLOCK for alerts (ie: suspicious behavior, someone who needs assistance, urgent issues). Always call LAPD (either 911 for crime in progress or emergency – or call 1-877-ASK-LAPD for non-emergency AND call your patrol company). Please sign up when you receive a text invite from your block captain.
Need help with the process? Come to the Neighborhood Watch meeting for tech support after the meeting.
NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH is active and working in the Miracle Mile. If you don’t have the 3 STEP NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH PACKET – contact your block captain and/or come to the Neighborhood Watch meeting.
A CLEAN STREET IS A SAFER STREET: Pot holes, graffiti, missing street signs, bulky item dumped on parkway, construction sites not maintaining lot? What’s a neighbor to do? Use your app! The MyLA311 app is for all your city needs & services. It works.
CALLING ALL BLOCK CAPTAINS! Block captains are the single most critical component of our neighborhoods communication and have everything to do with safety and deterring crime. Who is YOUR block captain? See attached list. Our goal in Miracle Mile is to have 56 ACTIVE blocks with ACTIVE block captains who simply – maintain an email roster and send out occasional emails.
We need 27 more block captains. Don’t have a block captain? Sign up today. Contact: kari.garcia@MiracleMileLA.com
ILLEGAL PARKING: Vehicles over 22 feet (ie: most RV’s) are NOT allowed to park in residential areas. If you see parking violations please be a good neighbor and inform either abandoned vehicles (1-800-222-6366) if parked over 72 hours and/or LA Dept of Transportation at 213-485-4184 press ‘1’ then press ‘2’.
ANIMALS & KIDS LEFT IN CARS…with the excessive heat we have recently experienced, it’s always a good reminder to be extra careful. Remember it takes only minutes for a dangerous situation to occur with humans and animals “In the worst-case scenario, if a child is small and on the sunny side of the car, death can occur in 15 minutes or under,” Read here for tips: How to Stay Cool…
NEXTDOOR.COM HAS AN URGENT ALERT TEXT system! It is very useful. Join Nextdoor.com and sign up for urgent alerts. When someone in your immediate area has an urgent alert – you receive a text alert.
THANK YOU to our block captains for making the Miracle Mile an even better neighborhood! We are happy to report that active blocks who have been trained on Neighborhood Watch are effective in deterring crime and building community. Reach out and thank your block captain and help them – or be a block captain for YOUR block!
MIRACLE MILE NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH COMMITTEE is looking for new committee members! Anyone interested in joining our committee to deter crime and build community in the Miracle Mile – contact: kari.garcia@MiracleMileLA.com
Click the link below to view the list of:
24/7 RESPONSE ARMED PRIVATE PATROL IN THE MIRACLE MILE
ADT & ACS Patrol companies are in our area and they are offering special rates to Miracle Mile neighbors. [The MMRA does not officially endorse any patrol company; this material is provided for informational purposes.]
24/7 response private patrol is a huge part of how we will deter crime in our neighborhood. The many ways you benefit from 24/7 response private patrol and more will be explained at your block Neighborhood Watch meeting. (Date and time TBA – make sure your block captain has your email.)
Here is the contact info for your convenience:
ADT – Miracle Mile Rep: Mario Escobar, 818-402-3536
Alarm and patrol options, new ‘GO app’ which allows you to summon police help from any location.
ACS – Miracle Mile Rep: Eino Hill, 310-903-8649
Offering full service with dedicated 8 hour ACS car patrolling our area (as of last week).
What is private patrol? Isn’t it expensive?
Private Patrol is a service meant to supplement the efforts of the LAPD to deter crime. Once hired, security officers drive through our neighborhood several times a day to keep watch.
You can call private patrol to handle suspicious activity; in an emergency; for an escort to and from your car/home; or to stop by your house while you’re on vacation. Officers are armed and able to detain suspects until LAPD can arrive on scene. LAPD is still to be your first call for an emergency or crime in progress (call 911) but receiving immediate response from private patrol can make a difference.
Many neighbors in the Miracle Mile are already signed up for this service and can provide positive references. The more households signed up, the more daily patrols we get. The goal is to have 24/7 patrol in the Miracle Mile. Costs vary from $50 – $62 per month.
You do not need to have an alarm to have patrol service.
Patrol is recommended for renters and homeowners alike. Apartments, duplex, quadplex and house – all will benefit from 24/7 response private patrol service.
For crime, safety, and policing questions in the Miracle Mile contact:
Senior Lead Officer Perry Jones, LAPD Wilshire Division
Phone: 213-793-0782 | Email: 27507@LAPD.online
The ABCs of the Miracle Mile HPOZ
The Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone [HPOZ] went into effect on May 1, 2017. Although the city’s Office of Historic Resources mailed official notices to every property owner within the HPOZ advising them of this zoning change there are some who are unaware of these new guidelines regarding alterations and additions to the exterior of your property. Here are some helpful points to help you navigate living in an HPOZ:
Every property within the boundaries of our HPOZ [see map] – multifamily and single family homes – is guided by a Preservation Plan that will serve to protect and preserve the historic integrity and scale of our neighborhood.
Property owners should visit the Miracle Mile HPOZ page at the Office of Historic Resources website to familiarize themselves with our HPOZ, the Preservation Plan, and the approvals required for exterior changes to your property.
When contemplating or planning changes to the exterior of your property first contact Christina Park, the city planner in charge of administrating our HPOZ. Christina is the point person referred to as “Staff” in the Preservation Plan. She can help you understand what approvals (if any) are required. She is also a great resource for information on how to maintain and restore historic properties.
The best way to contact Christina is by email at: email@example.com. She can also be contacted via telephone at 213-473-9987.
The HPOZ guidelines do not apply to any building permits issued before May 1, 2017. This work is grandfathered in and no further approvals are required.
HPOZ does not regulate interior renovations or remodeling as long as these changes have no impact on the exterior appearance of your property (i.e., altering window openings or door placement).
The Miracle Mile Historic Resources Survey Report provides a rich and detailed history of our community. A professional evaluation was made of every property within the HPOZ that determined whether it is a contributor, altered contributor, or non-contributorto our historic district. These categories determine how changes to your property may be made. There are different guidelines for contributors and non-contributors, as well as for new infill properties. The Miracle Mile HPOZ webpage has links that allow you to look up the history of your property by address and see how it was designated.
Remember that the Preservation Plan provides guidelines that are meant to be flexible and still conform with the principles of historic preservation. Paint colors are exempt from HPOZ regulation as is landscaping (as long as 60% of your front yard and parkway consist of some sort of plantings and/or grass). Drought tolerant landscapes are permitted.
Second story additions and Accessory Dwelling Units are allowed to single family homes as long as they are sensitive to the guidelines set out in the Preservation Plan.
Also, many property owners are not aware that – HPOZ or no HPOZ – city ordinances already regulate fence heights, what percentage of your front yard may be paved, what kind of trees can be planted in your parkway, and many other aspects of your property. The city also requires permits for routine work that some property owners consider DIY projects (installing new hot water heaters, replacing plumbing fixtures, window and door change outs, etc.). Unpermitted work can negatively impact your property value, compromise your insurance coverage, and cost you additional expenses to remedy. So, when it doubt, whether it be city building permits or HPOZ guidelines: check first.
For more information on HPOZ permits and approvals visit the Frequently Asked Questions page at the Office of Historic Resources’ website. You can also visit the Information for Property Owners page.
Please share this information with your neighbors. If you are a renter make sure that your landlord or property manager is aware of the HPOZ guidelines, too. There is a learning curve to living in an HPOZ and it is important that everyone knows the ABCs of HPOZ…
Time travel at our Miracle Mile Historical Photo Collection
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The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] is a non-profit community organization composed of your neighbors, both homeowners and renters. We are dedicated to maintaining the quality of life in the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles through careful monitoring of development, safety, traffic and other important neighborhood concerns.
The MMRA stays current on these matters and then disseminates this information to the neighborhood residents. The MMRA is a volunteer organization. It is composed of its members, board members and officers.
Northern: Wilshire Blvd; Eastern: La Brea Ave; Southern: San Vicente Blvd; Western: Fairfax Ave.
Topics of interest:
- The MMRA Channel on YouTube: The Billboard Wars ~ A Conversation with Dennis Hathaway
- Preliminary Results of Miracle Mile Neighborhood Traffic Mitigation Plan
- Govan Eyes Residential Area of Miracle Mile for Future LACMA Expansion
- Preferential Parking Primer
- Why Can’t the Miracle Mile be More Like Beverly or 3rd Street…?
- When the Miracle Mile was LAX: Aviation History of the Miracle Mile
- Lights, camera, action! The Miracle Mile in Film