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Above: Isaac Mejia (owner), Kevin Lee (bar manager) and Al Almeida (owner), The Wolves restaurant and bar in Downtown LA. Right: Daniel Salin, owner/designer.
he most remarkable thing about The Wolves Restaurant and Bar in Downtown Los Angeles is that, less than three years ago, this extraordinary example of turn-of-the-century architecture and design did not exist. Or rather, it did, but only in the mind of Daniel Salin, its co-owner and designer, its interiors scattered in pieces throughout the country, yet to be acquired and assembled.
of the manual labor themselves, with an almost an unheard of level of perfection, included installing the massive, 1880s stained glass ceiling.
Housed in what was most likely an original entry to the historic Hotel Alexandria’s famed Palm Court, the space was just an empty shell when he and partners, Al Almeida and Isaac Mejia, found it. What it lacked in aesthetics, it fully made up for in rich, dense Hollywood history. Even so, it would take true visionaries to unlock the full potential of this architectural lacuna.
Further incredulities lay in store for them as well. After a visit to the lobby of LA’s Fine Arts Building, Salin realize that the floors in the space were, in fact, original Batchelder tile crafted by ceramic artist Ernest Batchelder, a leader in the American Arts and Crafts Movement.
In the 1910s, when The Alexandria was in its heyday, Los Angeles’s first five-star luxury hotel quickly became a playground for the rich, powerful and famous. Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Rudolph Valentino roamed the corridors. Its grandiose ballrooms played host to some of the most important social and political events of the times, including speeches by William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson and General John J. Pershing. It is where Paul Whiteman, later known as the “King of Jazz”, got his start as a bandleader. Monumental changes were happening in the country. Ford would launch the first moving assembly line, immigration to the US would hit its all-time peak and Hollywood would be replacing the East Coast as the center of the movie industry. Salin, a former antique-store owner, Set Designer, Art Director and Banksy cohort, took charge of the main design, while Almeida, a fellow Art Director and Set Designer used his additional bar experience as part owner of The Falls, just down the street from The Wolves, to round out their collective expertise. “Food is my passion.” Says Almeida, who runs the day-to-day operations of the business. “This time around, I wanted to do something with a kitchen.” Aces and spaces, they used each other’s knowledge and gaps to curate an atmosphere that is both authentic and inviting. Physically doing most
“It came out of a train station in Paris, Illinois,” Salin explains. “It was originally one long piece with the two end caps positioned at opposite ends. When I realized that it was 11 feet wide and our space was 22 feet, we decided to cut it half and do a double arch instead, placing both end caps on one end so that you can look into the dome of the arch from the balcony. It was a huge gamble but it fit perfectly.”
“When we found out that the original walls were in about a foot in on each side, we demoed them and also found original 1911 wallpaper beneath,” says Salin. Carefully and painstakingly removed, the thick, brown, pressed sheets where rehung near the ceiling in the main room. Tin panels taken from above the bathroom were then repurposed to line the front room walls, directly below. The balcony itself is equally remarkable. Accessible from the antique spiral staircase to the right of the front door, it is the only balcony dining inside and outside on Spring Street. Its railing, from NY in the 1860s, is the oldest item in the space, and was specially selected based on its adherence to Los Angeles’ strict coding laws with a maximum of 4-inch gaps. The lamps on the front bar and front doors are from 1890s Argentina. The beer taps are antique billy clubs. The main back bar is from Chicago in 1905. Two original, oversized, 1920s Los Angeles Street lamps adorn the top of the bathroom like beacons while a marble angel guards over you while you stand at the double, 100-year-old sink adorned with gold swan faucets. “A lot of marble guys ask me if I want to repair the sink. I say no. I want to leave it like it is. It has character.” says Salin. And this is the theme throughout; an abundance of imperfect character, layered with tangible
42 LA HOME | SPRING/SUMMER 2019