Tuesday, April 29, 2008

No. 138 - Coca-Cola Building

Coca-Cola Building

Coca-Cola Building
1936 – Robert V. Derrah
1334 South Central Avenue – map
Declared: 2/5/75

What was the deal with Robert V. Derrah and ships?

Coca-Cola Building

Architect Derrah created this manufactory for Coca-Cola right around the same time he designed Crossroads of the World, also ship-shaped, on Sunset. For this landmark Coke plant, Derrah built the project around a handful of existing buildings, including the company’s 1927 plant, so I reckon it’s more of a re-design. Streamline Moderne in design, it’s got all the boat things, with portholes, catwalk, promenade deck, hatches, rivets, and the confounded bridge.

Coca-Cola Building

Make sure you celebrate Coke’s 122nd birthday next Thursday. May 8, 1886 is the accepted date for the drink’s discovery by Dr John Pemberton in his backyard in Atlanta.

Coca-Cola Building
Coca-Cola Building

The first Coke syrup plant in Los Angeles opened in 1895. Seven years later, the Los Angeles Times tackled one of big issues of the day with its front-page exposé evocatively titled, “They Thirst for Cocaine.”
Soda Fountain Fiends Multiplying.

Slaves to the “Coca Cola” Habit.

Los Angeles Physician Says it is as Dangerous as Any “Dope.”

Soda-fountain proprietors struck a bonanza when the drink known as coca cola was introduced, for of all the beverages sprung on a public desiring variety and change it stands first in favor, and its popularity, instead of waning, is on the increase…

A well-dressed business man yesterday dropped into a Spring-street ice-cream parlor, where soda water may be had in all its alluring variety of concoctions. As soon as he had entered the door, one of the white-coated attendants said to another, “There comes one of our coca cola fiends…”

It is perhaps not statistical, but the statement is made that three-fourths of the men who drink soda-fountain concoctions call for coca cola. Also, that of these, a large percentage are brain workers…

… it is conceded by those who understand its nature that coca cola contains a small percentage of cocaine. This accounts, they say, for the hold it has upon its drinkers. It is also claimed that very few women indulge to any great extent.
“brain workers”?

Coca-Cola Building

In September 1915, the company was finishing constructing a brand new, three-story, $35,000 plant at the northwest corner of Fourth and Merrick Streets. It would serve as headquarters of Coke’s west coast’s business. George H. Reed had been running the local operations for more than a dozen years. The new plant replaced the facility at 612 San Pedro Street.

Coca-Cola Building
Coca-Cola Building

In October 1926, the John M. Cooper Company announced it had recently completed a $75,000 bottling plant for Coca-Cola at the corner at Fourteenth and Central. What’s odd is that six months later, the same outfit announced it was going to start construction immediately on a new plant for the company. The $100,000 factory would be three stories and rise on the northwest corner of Fourth and Merrick – the exact size and location of the 1915 building. Conclusion? Something’s wrong.

Coca-Cola Building

In any event, L.A.’s 1929 city directory lists the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Los Angeles at its current site, 1334 South Central, at 14th. S.N. Barbee was president, A.P. Pratt served as vice president, and the secretary-treasurer was D.E. Slocum.

Coca-Cola Building

I heard a long time ago there are basically three tastes in a cola soda: the cola, citrus, and vanilla. If citrus is your thing, you choose Pepsi, and if you prefer vanilla, Coke’s your drink. All I know is, if all the Coca-Cola I’ve drunk were in 8-ounce contour bottles laid end-to-end, they would reach to the moon and back 1,677 times.

Coca-Cola Building
Coca-Cola Building

I did call in advance to see if I could get a look inside Monument No. 138. Transferred a few times, I finally wound up leaving a message with the maintenance department. I never heard back and quickly gave up, lacking determination as a rule. Had I gotten inside, I might’ve seen this view, from the city’s Department of Planning website:

Coca-Cola Building

One last thing. A Coca-Cola security guard came out when I was taking shots from across the street. A nice guy, just doing his job, of course, but he needed to know the purpose of my taking pictures. “Are you a tourist?” Thinking quickly, I answered, “Yes, I am.” While he was fine with that, I wondered later what would’ve been an unacceptable answer (graffiti artist on recognizance, al Qaeda representative, or Indra K. Nooyi operative) and what my punishment would’ve been (despite its shipliness, the building showed no signs of planks for walking).

Coca-Cola Building


“They Thirst for Cocaine.” Los Angeles Times; Feb 25, 1902, p. A1

“New Housing for Coca Cola Plant” Los Angeles Times; Aug 15, 1915, p. V1

“Five Structures Finished” Los Angeles Times; Oct 23, 1926, p. E9

“Structure for Coca Cola Company” Los Angeles Times; Apr 3, 1927, p. E12

Up next: Shrine Auditorium


gc said...

Ship-like indeed. Looks like the Queen Mary to me. It's funny - I've driven by the facility of 4th hundreds of times, but not this one. This one is so cool!

Anonymous said...

in all my years living here in L.A. i really apprecitate something that always stands out from everthing else! & this building is one of them! a true Classic, just like "coca~cola itself!.

Mrs. Cleo E. Coggins Jackson said...

7/13/11 - In 1947, As a 12 year old,I would go out of my way to walk on Cental Aveue just to pass the Cola Cola building,then turn to go to school. Lafayette Jr. High School. The Building was all gray. With two Colc Cola bottles on each end. I am now 76 years old and still faninated by this landmark.
Mrs. Cleo E. Coggins-Jackson

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Thanks for the comment, Mrs. Coggins-Jackson. I'm glad this is still in your old neighborhood.

celery said...

May I use some of these images in a lecture I am giving on streamline style? It would be in the classroom, no publication. I don't see a contact email on your site....thanks. They are so great.

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Sure, celery.

Linda said...

I'm looking for the name of the family who owned coca cola back in the day and may still own or run Coca Cola now. Just need last name as trying to find old friend and they can help me. thanks

TKA said...

Great web site. I grew up in the LA area (Fullerton actually) but I had never heard of this very interesting building.

I recently picked up a cardboard replica of this building at a yard sale. You can see pictures of it here:


I have been trying to find out who made the cardboard replica. Did the City of LA make it or did the Coca-Cola company make it? Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I drove past it today and while the building looks the same, Coca Cola have fenced off 14th st so it is now their own private gated street between their two buildings.