Preservation Magazine, Fall 2016

First Look: Bowled Over at Highland Park Bowl

Highland Park Bowl

photo by: Wonho Frank Lee

Prohibition was well under way when Highland Park Bowl opened in Los Angeles’ Highland Park neighborhood in 1927. But a prescription for medicinal whiskey could be obtained from the doctor upstairs and conveniently filled at the bowling alley’s “pharmacy.” The eight-lane bowling alley and bar thrived long after Prohibition’s repeal in 1933. Renamed Mr. T’s Bowl in 1966 for new owner Joseph “Mr. T” Theresa, it later became a well-known punk music venue before closing in 2014.

That year, local bar proprietors 1933 Group acquired the space and soon began rehabilitating its Spanish Revival facade, bowling lanes, and ball-return machinery. They restored a 1930s mural and uncovered a bow-truss ceiling and skylights.

“We wanted to preserve all its history, from 1927 on,” says 1933 Group’s Bobby Green. “When you walk in, you feel all the history and all the people and all the things that were here before you.”

The space reopened under its original name in April as a bowling alley with a dining area, a space for live music named for Mr. T, and multiple bars—no prescription required.

Lauren Walser is the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

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