A remarkable survivor from the year Santa Monica was born, this small brick building was constructed as a beer hall by William Rapp. An 1877 newspaper ad promoted the “Los Angeles Beer Garden” with fresh Los Angeles beer always on hand.
The arches give this vernacular building an Italianate air. It has gone through many incarnations in its long life, even serving briefly as City Hall in 1888-1889. From 1911 to 1914 it was used by the Vitagraph Film Company, an early movie studio. It’s also been home to the Salvation Army, a radiator repair shop, a piano tuning shop and an art gallery. Old painted signs on the north wall memorialize some of the previous occupants.
Saving the Rapp Saloon took several decades of effort. Vacant and abandoned since 1959, the owner hoped to sell and relocate the building so that this prime location could be redeveloped. It was named the first landmark in the city in 1975, and the city offered to support the relocation. Ideas floated to use the building as a historical museum. By 1984 no viable purchaser had emerged with a realistic plan for re-use; and the owner threatened demolition. Finally, in 1986, the American Youth Hostel acquired the property with the intention of preserving and re-using the historic landmark. New construction wraps around the Rapp Saloon, visible in its entirety – a model of combining new construction with historic preservation.