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More Vintage Brown Derby Photos

Without question, Hollywood's most famous restaurant was the Brown Derby, on Vine St, just south of Hollywood Blvd. . Actually there were four Brown Derby locations during the restaurants illustrious history.

Vintage photo of Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant

Wilshire Blvd. and Hollywood Brown Derby.

The first was located on Wilshire Boulevard and the building was in the shape of a large derby. It was opened in 1926 by Herbert K. Somborn. Three years later, due to the success of the Wilshire Blvd. Brown Derby, Somborn open the Hollywood Brown Derby, at 1628 North Vine St.  The building was owned by Cecil B. DeMille. Opened on Valentine's Day, 1929, the Hollywood Brown Derby became one of the countries most well-known restaurants. Shortly after opening the restaurant, Somborn hired Robert Cobb as a combination steward, buyer, cashier, and occasional cook. After Somborn's death in 1934, Cobb became the owner of the two Brown Derby restaurants. It was Cobb who invented the very famous Cobb salad, which has been emulated by thousands of restaurants throughout the country.

 Interior photo of the Brown Derby restaurant

Brown Derby Food

Because so many famous and powerful people dined at the Brown Derby, the restaurant installed telephones that many of the tables. This allowed executives to be able to conduct business while having lunch or dinner.  It wasn’t unusual to see studio executives “making deals” while having dining on Turkey Derby or the restaurant’s famous Pumpernickle bread.

One of the most unique features at the Brown Derby was the hundreds of  hand-drawn caricatures portraits of movie stars, that hung on the walls. There were two or three artists that drew the portraits. 

Vintage photo of Clark Gable & Carole Lombard

Customers

One of he Hollywood Brown Derby’s most frequent customers was business executive and real estate developer, Charles E. Toberman. He and his wife, Josephine, ate dinner there once a week. Whenever one of their grand children had a birthday, the Tobermans would treat them to dinner at, either the Brown Derby or Don the Beachcombers restaurant. Mr. & Mrs. Toberman always sat at the same booth, which was in the front, by the maître ‘d’s desk.

Due to the success of the Hollywood and Wilshire Blvd. restaurants, two more Brown Derby locations were added to the list. In 1931, a third Brown Derby restaurant was built on Wilshire Boulevard, in Beverly Hills. Nine years later, a fourth Brown Derby was opened in the Los Feliz area of Hollywood.  This location also had a “drive in” restaurant.

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All the restaurants seem to flourish for several years. However for various reasons, the restaurants began to see less patronage. The Hollywood Brown Derby closed in 1985. For the next two or three years, the building was occupied by transients and drug users. It was destroyed by fire in 1987, and demolished in 1994.

The largest collection of Brown Derby photos is on the hollywoodphotographs.com website. There are more than 10,000 vintage photos of Hollywood all of which are available for purchase.

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