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Artifacts From Fantasy Cafe Donated to Disney

December 26, 1985|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

Artifacts from the Egyptian Village Cafe, Glendale's famous fantasy-style restaurant of the 1920s which was torn down last year, have been donated for use in another fantasy kind of place--one of the theme parks owned by Walt Disney Productions.

The Glendale Historical Society acquired and stored architectural features from the cafe after it lost a long battle to preserve the building. The cafe was on Brand Boulevard, north of Broadway, on a block cleared for a high-rise office redevelopment project.

A total of 349 ornate architectural pieces salvaged from the cafe have been donated to WED Enterprises of Glendale, a Disney subsidiary that designs and fabricates exhibits for Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Florida and Tokyo. Another Disney park was proposed this month near Paris.

The pieces have been catalogued and stored at a WED warehouse in North Hollywood.

Orlando Ferrante, vice president of WED, said the production company learned about the artifacts from one of its employees, show designer Robert Weiss, who is a member of the historical society.

Ferrante said the company is "thrilled to get these artifacts," which he described as "very hard to find."

The elaborate friezes and capitals, which architects say more closely resemble Greco-Roman style than Egyptian architecture, decorated fluted columns in the cafe, built in 1921 above an arcade of ground-floor shops. The cafe was a popular dining spot for entertainment personalities during its heyday from 1921 to 1927, when it was believed to have closed, possibly because of high operational costs.

Used for Storage

The cafe had been used only for storage since then, so the original features were left untouched through the years, according to Carole Dougherty, a society member who led the unsuccessful fight to preserve the building.

George Rester, director of architectural design and construction for WED, said he expects the pieces will be used as molds in the design of a new structure at one of the theme parks. However, he is not sure how or where they will be used.

Rester said the pieces, made of plaster from hand-carved molds, are "rather unique and charming." He added: "We haven't received anything like that before. The people at the historical society were very, very generous and considerate to give us the opportunity to use such nice artifacts."

Beautiful Oddity'

In a report issued before the building was demolished, the society had praised the cafe as "a beautiful oddity that is unique in the experience and history" of Glendale. The society and the former owner of the building, John Alpeza, for years had attempted to persuade the Glendale Redevelopment Agency to require that the building be preserved.

Developers argued that preservation was not financially feasible.

Preservationists failed in the courts and in petition drives.

However, in granting approval for demolition, the redevelopment agency ordered the developer, American Trading Real Estate Co. Inc., to cooperate with the historical society to salvage pieces of the structure.

Artifacts Secretly Stored

For the past year, the pieces had been secretly stored by the developer in the basement of a razed building in the same block. City officials and society members refused to identify the location because they feared vandals would destroy the artifacts. City officials said there is no estimate of the value of the salvaged pieces.

About 80% of the architectural artifacts in the building, as well as ornate light fixtures and railings, were salvaged.

Vonnie Rossman, a member of the historical society and president of the city's Historic Preservation Commission, said the society kept about 10 pieces for possible display in Glendale.

One piece, a plaster molding panel taken from the double doors of the cafe, has been mounted and is on exhibit at Doctor's House in Brand Park. Rossman said it was the only panel from the doors that was still intact. The piece features ornate scrolls trimmed in gold leaf.

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