When it first opened in 1927 during Prohibition, Highland Park Bowl was one of the few speakeasies that also had a bowling alley in it. The upstairs floor of the building housed doctor’s offices where patrons could get a prescription for “medicinal” whiskey that could then be filled and enjoyed in the lanes below.
In the decades that followed, the venue saw many different uses and eventually fell into disrepair. But today, balls are rolling down those vintage lanes once again. The venue has been gorgeously restored to its Roaring Twenties aesthetic, making it the oldest operating bowling alley in Los Angeles.
Highland Park Bowl continued after Prohibition’s repeal. In the 1960s it was renamed “Mr. T’s Bowl” after its new owner. Over time, the “bowl” part was more or less dropped and Mr. T’s became an iconic local dive and punk music venue. By the time it closed in 2014 much of the bowling alley’s original decor was covered up and hidden—but not lost forever.
In 2015, the venue was bought by local bar owners the 1933 Group and revived in a truly beautiful example of historic preservation. The group uncovered the building’s original decor and restored or refurbished every possible detail. When it reopened the following year, the space was transformed into a wonderful homage to Jazz Age style.
The group was able to retain the building’s original wooden arches and eight wooden lanes, while the original pinsetters and pins became chandeliers and lamps. Old candy and cigarette machines and vintage league banners line the walls, and the current pin machines are prominently displayed in all their steampunk glory, backdropped by a landscape mural painted in the 1930s and unearthed during the restoration.
The historic venue pays its respects to its late 20th-century history, too. In addition to the classic craft cocktails and Neapolitan-style pizza, the venue includes a live music space appropriately called “Mr. T’s.”