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Peel Away the Layers to Find East L.A.’s Giant Tamale

Somewhere under the sea foam green paint and beauty parlor sign is the giant tamale-shaped building where countless tamales and hamburgers were once sold in East Los Angeles, but where today hairstyling is the main activity.

The property, often referred to as the “Tamale House”, was recently put up for sale to the dismay of some local residents who fear their neighborhood novelty could be torn down and replaced with just another run of the mill structure.


The tamale-shaped building can be seen on the 6400 block of Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

They want to see the Tamale House designated a historical landmark, as does Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina who told EGP she hopes the current owner will sign off on the idea.

The uniquely shaped building was constructed in 1929 and opened as “The Tamale,” a tribute to the cornhusk wrapped Mexican food it resembled and served in large quantities to its customers in its heyday.

Molina told EGP that numerous people have contacted her office to express support for the iconic building in the 6400 block of Whittier Boulevard becoming a historical landmark as a way to preserve a piece of local history.

“I have fond memories of the building and I think it deserves historic designation,” said Molina. The supervisor, however, cannot pursue the designation from the state without first getting the permission of the property’s owner.

While the Supervisor’s office has yet to contact the buildings owners, Buena Park-based Sky Realty Investments, according to Molina’s Press Deputy Roxane Marquez, they hope to engage in discussions with the owner in the near future to try to obtain the necessary consent.

“I hope it happens, it’s a win-win for everyone.” Molina said. “The community benefits by continuing to enjoy a piece of our local history and the property owner benefits by receiving certain tax credits that can be applied towards maintaining their historic structure.”

She is hoping to boost the incentive for preserving historically significant properties like the Tamale House by establishing a county ordinance that would provide tax benefits for buildings designated as historic in unincorporated East Los Angeles.

She told EGP she expects the ordinance to go before the Board of Supervisors sometime this summer.

In the meantime, Molina hopes more residents and people who work in the community will contact the property owner to express their support for the designation of the Tamale House as a historical landmark.

Century 21 Reality Masters listed the property last week. According to their listing, the $459,000 asking price includes a two-bedroom house in back of the commercial building.

EGP was unable to reach Sky Realty Investments for comment.