What can you do with a walk-in tamale?

Photo from Google Maps

That will be the question facing the buyer of this Whittier Boulevard property in East Los Angeles that is home to a classic piece of roadside architecture, the former Tamale Cafe.  The answer will likely be “Tear It Down,” fears Esotouric tour company co-owner Kim Cooper, who noticed when the property recently went up for sale.   Cooper says that the the former Tamale Cafe is the last of several such oddball buildings that once dotted Whittier Boulevard, prompting her to  launch a campaign to preserve the tamale-shaped, building, which now houses a beauty salon.

Cooper, in a blog post,  concedes that preserving the building won’t be easy:

Although it’s among the last of an indigenous California architectural form, unfortunately there is no structure in place for protecting or preserving the Tamale. Located in unincorporated Los Angeles County, it is not subject to the city’s historic preservation guidelines. State and National monument status is dependent on the whim of the property owner. And so she sits, caked in plaster, under the blazing east side sun, waiting for something to happen.

Cooper has reached out to County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who was involved in efforts to preserve the First Street Store murals and reuse the former Theater, to win some protection for the Whittier Boulevard tamale.  The tamale and a back house are for sale at an asking price of $459,000.


  1. Some things are worth preserving; some are not…

  2. thanks for doing this Kim.

  3. Save the tamale! I wish I could buy it!

  4. Paint it all white with the end of the left side red painted and turn it into a dispensary.

  5. love that tie on the right side

  6. Oh MY! Can it be saved, moved, something???? I took a class in college (a MILLION years ago) on the very quirky, and VERY unique to (only) L.A. “folk art” aspect of many of L.A.’s historic commercial buildings of the adolescent 40s and 50s — including the impressive camera store on mid-Wilshire (now an Indian food restaraunt), the original Brown Derby (“I’ll bet I can get you to eat out of my hat”), the MASSIVE donut rooftop “sculpture” near LAX and, of course, the beloved/transplated and saved “Chicken Boy” rooftop sculpture in my home-area of NE Los Angeles. There are ALL things we will never see again, and many of which have been lost to the wrecking ball.

    L.A. — if not “quirky” — is just big City #2, (YAWN!) In olden times, AVIS “tried harder” to be distinct . . . so can we!

  7. Tamales are tasty, but they’re not that healthful. I’d like to see a cafe shaped like a mushroom – or a carrot. How about shaping a cellphone tower to look like asparagus? Maybe a developer could use the small-lot ordinance to build a few small bungalows in the shape of brussels sprouts. We could hire tree-trimmers to shape the tops of local trees so they look like broccoli. And eggplant – oh, the potential!

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