A photo of the Koffee Pot Cafe being boarded up in 2014. Photo: Brian Addison
It was once considered a public nuisance and earmarked for demolition by the city, if its owners didn’t rehabilitate the structure that was deemed “substandard” for its landmark designation by Long Beach. However, a revitalization effort spearheaded by the historic preservation nonprofit organization We Are The Next (NEXT) to perk up the Koffee Pot Cafe’s percolator-shaped building has yielded a surprising discovery.
The foundation of the building located at 951 East Fourth Street seems to have been built on the skeleton of an old home, meaning the Koffee Pot’s bones—originally known as Hot Cha—may date back to the early 1900s or earlier according to We Are The Next Executive Director Katie Rispoli.
“We are all baffled by this incredible find,” Rispoli said in a statement. “Reintroducing this unique artifact as a fixture in the building moving forward will provide a sense of place and history, and will return a lost gem to Long Beach.”
Her group is serving as the construction manager and preservation consultant of the project, similar to the role it played in saving the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot in January 2015, and in the saving the original Taco Bell location in Downey from demolition late last year.
Rispoli and We Are The Next helped the owners, Long Beach Development LLC, attain approval for its renovation plans in August of last year. She said the discovery was made during the process of sprucing up the historic building when contractors and the historic preservation team found the remains of a Victorian-style residence in the roof touching the base of the iconic coffee spout.
Photos and captions courtesy of We Are The Next.
It’s the belief of the preservation team that the shingles were originally exposed in the Hot Cha Cafe because the roof rafters that now support the coffee spout were painted to match the home’s rainbow color layout, which would’ve only been visible to patrons on the inside. The spout was installed in 1932 but the address for a home standing at least in part on the site of the Koffee Pot date back to the 1920s.
“Builders of the Hot Cha Café most likely used the frame of the existing residence as the frame for the restaurant to save costs during the Great Depression,” the release said. “The reason for retaining the upper portion of the home’s primary façade is unknown.”
The false ceiling that kept the rainbow shingles hidden is believed to have been installed after 1932. The current owners of the building, Long Beach Development LLC, are expected to work with future tenants of the building to remove the false ceiling to once again expose the early 1900s architecture. Potential future inhabitants could include a cafe returning to the Koffee Pot.
The cafe has served as home to many businesses before being vacated in 2010 after its most recent stint as a medical marijuana dispensary. It served as a barbershop during the 1980s, a cafe during its origins, and now its become apparent that prior to all of that, it was just a plain old home for some early-century Long Beachers.