Toed Inn, Los Angeles, California, 1953
The Toed Inn was an example of LA’s famous programmatic or mimetic architecture – whimsical restaurants created to look like the food they served. You could walk into the stomach of this rather imposing frog and order frog’s legs – as well as hamburgers, steaks and seafood.
Programmatic architecture blossomed during the 1920s when there was still plenty of space in LA and buildings costs were cheap. The buildings were designed to cater to the city’s expanding automobile culture, catching the eye of drivers.
The Brown Derby restaurant, created in the shape of a hat in 1926, was the first example of this type of architecture and the Toed Inn was erected on Channel Road in Santa Monica in the 1930s. Apparently, the frog’s toes really did turn in.
The building was damaged in the floods of 1938 when two Pacific storms swept across the Los Angeles basin and generated almost a year’s worth of rain in two days. The flood caused $78 million of damage –nearly $2 billion in today’s money - and was designated a 50-year flood and one of the costliest natural disasters in the city’s history.
Restaurateur Ben Rosenfeld bought the Toed Inn after it was damaged and relocated it to 12008 Wilshire Boulevard in Echo Park. The restaurant’s telephone number was Arizona – 9-6712.
The Toed Inn was still in operation in 1953, the date of this menu. Designed as a souvenir of one of LA’s iconic restaurants, the message we found on the back says ‘I love you too. Grandpa’ so it must have been mailed to a child.
Other examples of LA's programmatic architecture were restaurants shaped like a pickle, a chilli bowl, an ice cream cone, a hot dog and a tamale, complete with corn husks.
They fell out of favor in southern California in the late 40s and early 50s as demand for housing increased and building costs rose.
Courtesy Private Collection.
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