Pacific Dining Car restaurant recommended for monument status
Some members of the family that ran the Pacific Dining Car for nearly 100 years until it closed in 2020 said Friday that they support historic-cultural monument status for the original dining car because they don’t want to see that piece of Los Angeles’ and the family’s history being lost.
On Thursday, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission recommended the original building and kitchen be designated a historic-cultural monument.
The Pacific Dining Car, at 1310 W. Sixth St. in Westlake, operated as a restaurant at the location from 1923 to 2020, but the original building, which was designed to resemble a railcar, was first used as the restaurant a few blocks away beginning in 1921.
The property’s nomination was considered by the commission for playing an important role in Westlake and Los Angeles as a whole.
The application was prepared by Andrew Goodrich of Architectural Resources Group, which attempted to designate all of the restaurant’s buildings, including additions made in 1940, 1950, 1964 and 1982. The applicant claimed that the restaurant’s 99-year history made the it historically significant from 1921–2020.
Goodrich called the restaurant’s near-100 year operation, “pretty remarkable for any business, but it’s pretty impressive for a restaurant given the notoriously fickle nature of the restaurant industry.”
The Idol/Cook family operated the restaurant for the entire 99 years, evolving “from a humble eatery into an iconic local institution known for its fine dining and particularly its high quality steaks,” Goodrich noted.
Wes Idol III, who began working for the restaurant in 1994 and became president in 2000, told commissioners Thursday that he “wholeheartedly support the restoration of Pacific Dining Car … as a historically designated monument.”
His father Wesley owned the restaurant until his death in 2019. Wesley Idol had purchased it from his father, who purchased it from his father.
“From my great grandfather to my grandfather to my father and then to me, we all added to the development and running of this historical family legacy,” Wes Idol III told commissioners. His sister Conlee Idol told City News Service on Friday that the siblings support the designation because they do not want the restaurant as a piece of the family’s and Los Angeles’ history to be lost.
However, the property is owned by Wesley Idol’s widow, Toby Idol, who opposed the designation. Representatives for her successfully asked the commission Thursday to reduce the historically significant period from 1921–2020 to 1921–1934, meaning only the original dining car and kitchen would be included in the designation, instead of all the property’s buildings.
“(Wesley) and I do not and never wanted our property to be designated,” Idol said in a statement read to commissioners by her attorney.
Toby also alleged that Wes Idol III “is responsible for the business’ failure.”
“He is the person who is apparently advancing this nomination because his father disinherited him for that very reason. Having killed a 100-year family tradition, he’s trying to save a shred of a legacy for himself and his ego.”
Wes’ sister Conlee told City News Service that they didn’t know why Toby made “aggressively negative statements toward Wes III.” She also said that Wes III was not responsible for the nomination and didn’t hear about it until after it was nominated.
“His father had no rancor against him and did not disinherit him,” Conlee said, adding that Toby was the one responsible for closing the restaurant.
The meeting received several calls from people in support of the nomination, including many who expressed fond memories of visiting the restaurant.
Commission President Barry Milofsky reminded the callers that the commission is not able to designate uses for buildings.
“Even if we are to move this forward, it could be turned into a shoe store. We don’t have control over that … we’re really looking at just the structure, not the uses,” he said.
Milofsky motioned to have the property’s buildings that existed between 1921 and 1934 — the original dining car and the kitchen — recommended for monument status. It passed the commission unanimously and will next be considered by the Los Angeles City Council for final approval.