A building along the Venice Boardwalk that once housed the Venice West Café, where “Beat” poets would meet for readings in the late 1950s and early 1960s, has been recommended for historic-cultural monument status.
The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted January 7th to support historic-cultural monument nomination for the building at 321 Ocean Front Walk in Venice. The nomination is subject to City Council approval.
Built in 1922, the one-story building at Dudley Avenue and Ocean Front Walk is the former site of the Venice West Café, which opened in 1958 to cater to the emerging Bohemian scene in the Venice area. As the Beat Generation evolved in Venice, many poets gathered at the café to write and recite their works, while listening to jazz.
Among the local artists who spent time at the café and read their works were Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, and poet Allen Ginsberg.
John Haag, a co-founder of the Peace and Freedom Party, purchased the business in 1962 to maintain its Bohemian-style atmosphere, cultural heritage commission staff note. Haag was arrested for distributing reading advertisements at the café without a city permit, but the case was later dismissed and he eventually closed the business in 1966.
City staff say that during its existence, the Venice West Café served as a local symbol of the growing counter-cultural movement in the 1960s. Many artists displayed their work on the building’s interior walls.
While various changes have been made to the property’s commercial units over the years, the former café site has not changed significantly and the space remains intact, commission staff note.
The Cultural Heritage Commission found that the former café successfully meets one of the specific historic-cultural monument criteria by reflecting the “broad cultural, economic or social history of the nation, state or community.” The property qualifies for monument designation as a building associated with the Venice West Café and the development of mid-20th century Bohemian counter-culture in Venice, the commission found.