I still remember Nickodell, nestled between KHJ Channel 9 and Paramount Studios on Melrose almost as if it were a part of the studio complex. I was lucky enough to go there (way past its heyday) in the 80’s to grab an ice cream at the counter on a trip to the Paramount lot. I still remember snapping a shot of the mighty neon sign atop the building. Traveling up Melrose nowadays, I can almost still see it through the fog of history.
In 1936, restauranteur Nick Slavich took over the joint originally called the Melrose Grotto, and made it his own, at some point re-dubbing it Nickodell, a mash-up his and his wife’s names. (He owned another Nickodell a bit north on Argyle, but that’s another story.) It was an eatery (and boozery), largely popular with studio types, dishing out old school American fare like steaks, baked potatoes, and beloved Caesar salads.
Nickodell closed in November of ’93 and was subsequently demolished by Paramount in ’94 to make way for a few more spots in their parking lot, leaving us only with a few matchbooks and fond memories.
Some old friends from Berkeley days were in town and wanted to reconnect with our 1930s Union Train Station. It’s a time capsule classic, beautifully preserved with little of the reconstitution work seen in many revived historic sites. One member of our troupe had read the biography of Mary Colter, the woman who designed the station’s adjacent Fred Harvey restaurant and bar. We looked at her work through locked glass doors and also wondered what other work she might have contributed to the interior of station such as the magnificent tiles, stenciled ceilings, floor design and acoustic siding that effectively quiets reverb in airplane sized structure. Meanwhile, I recalled a color slide I took of a pair of blue ceramic drinking fountains set against a backsplash of magnificent train station tile and was determined to show off my memory to my pals. Unfortunately, the fountains were no where to be found except on my old slide which I had miraculously saved from a trash heap of accumulated history I’ve been weeding through these past several years. Long live ceramic blue fountains and their four armed handles for all to drink from.