Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Surprises Abound Inside Hollywood’s American Legion Post 43

Highland Ave. entrance of the American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood

Anyone who’s ever driven up or down Highland Ave. between the 101 Freeway and Franklin Ave. has probably seen the old American Legion Post 43 on the west side of the street, tucked somewhat incongruously between a much more modern Best Western Hotel and the Belmont Village senior living facility.  The building has obviously been there for a long time, but beyond that, it’s hard to tell much from the street.  Is it still actually an American Legion post?  What do they do there? And what does it look like inside?  We at the Buzz have always been among the curious…so when we were invited for a private tour recently, we jumped at the chance.

First and foremost, we learned that yes, the building, built in 1929, is still a very active American Legion post…but these days, there’s a lot more to it.  As the Post’s website explains:

“Hollywood Post 43 is part of the American Legion, the  nation’s largest wartime veterans’ organization devoted to serving vets, youth, and the community.  We’re also the coolest private club in Hollywood.”

And if that doesn’t pique your curiousity further, it also claims to be the “longest continuously operating speakeasy in Hollywood.” Color us intrigued.

Buzz tour hosts Michael Hjelmstad, Lauralee Gooch, and Eric Evavold

As we learned when we arrived for a weekly Friday night Bar Night recently, the Legion was created in 1919 to support veterans of the first World War.  Since then, all members of the military (both men and women) who have served during periods of armed conflict (and the Cold War) have been eligible to join.  “Mothers, grandmothers, wives, sisters and daughters of veterans” are also eligible to join the American Legion Auxiliary, and “male descendents (including stepsons) of eligible veterans” can join the Sons of the American Legion.  And all of them are welcome at Post 43.

We were greeted at the post by its 2019 Commander Michael Hjelmstad, along with members Lauralee Gooch and Eric Evavold, a Hancock Park resident who’s also an active local preservationist.  They explained that the building, which still retains many of its original 1920s Art Deco features, underwent a somewhat unfortunate remodel in the 1970s, but then – a few years ago – members realized it was well past time for another re-fresh.  According to Gooch, “posts around the country are dying, and if you want to survive, you have to change.”  And what Post 43’s members realized is that they owned an amazing Art Deco space, which could not only be restored to its original glory for members (in hopes of attracting even more new members), but it would also be a great event space for public rentals.

So the members voted to finance the project (using a combination of savings and deficit financing), and now that it’s done, they’re eager to get the word out and show the world what they have to offer.

Our tour began in the basement bar, which definitely feels like a cozy 1930s speakeasy, with an adjacent pool room sporting the original 1920s Brunswick pool table.

The basement bar/speakeasy

Upstairs, we saw the stunning Trophy Room, a serene library-esque space, with custom-designed wallpaper (the area also served as a U. S. Navy recruiting office during World War II)…

The Trophy Room

…a large central rotunda…

Looking into the Trophy Room from the large, open Rotunda

…and small upstairs Museum, where many military treasures donated over the decades are still being sorted out and displayed. Hjelmstad noted that many of the items the Post has collected were donated by descendants after older relatives passed away.  And Gooch added that “people donate treasures here all the time, but we just don’t have the resources to document them.” (Another reason a nice influx of new members would be handy.)

Eric Evavold, Lauralee Gooch and Michael Hjelmstad, examinging a scrapbook in the Post’s Museum.

The final stop on the tour was the Post’s pièce de ré·sis·tance – a beautiful 500-seat, state-of-the-art movie theater, capable of showing 70 mm movies, and which also boasts a high-end sound system that Hjelmstad says is the best in town, with twice the usual number of speakers throughout the auditorium.

The Post’s 500-seat, state-of-the-art movie theater

Hjelmstad and Gooch said the combination of the theater space and the other spaces in the beautiful building make the location ideal for events such as cast and crew screening parties. But it’s all part of the larger strategy to draw more people and more events of all kinds to the organization. And the doors are wide open.

Currently, Post 43 has about 1,400 members, and the goal for this year is to hit 1,500.  Memberships are also surprisingly inexpensive – just $30/year (or $33.50 online, including credit card fees), and that entitles you to member prices of just $3 per drink in the bar.  Membership activities, in addition to bar access,  include two meetings per month (with free dinners at the meetings), free outings to Dodgers, Kings, Clippers, USC and UCLA games, “NFL Sunday Funday” events at the Post, member film screenings, karaoke nights, monthly comedy nights, running and sports teams, Broadway theater performances, poker and billiards teams and tournaments, golf tournaments, community service activities and more.  Oh, and there’s also a huge, free parking lot behind the building, which is a major plus in such a crowded part of town.

All in all, “It’s the best kept secret in Hollywood,” said Hjelmstad…and we had to agree.  “Tell your friends!” added Gooch.

OK…done!  And here are a few more images from our tour.

For more information about Post 43, how to join the Legion or its Auxiliary organizations, or event rentals, contact:

Hollywood American Legion Post 43
2035 N. Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90068
[email protected]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

Related Articles


  1. TV and film crews have used the building in productions ranging from the 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise to the famous scene in The Shining where Jack Nicholson is in the bar.

  2. Hi, Madam Schumann Heink was a larger woman with a double chin, and the marble bust in the museum is definitely not of her, although (like the “Humphrey Bogart made the notches in the bar” rumor, this is a legend that persists over time. (As a side note, the “Bogart notches” in the downstairs Deco Bar were actually made to allow the carpenter(s) to bend the wood around the edges of the bar. )

    In the early 1980s, the environmental play “Tamara” was held at Post 43’s Memorial clubhouse for several years, and this statue of an unknown woman was among the props used. (I was a secretary at Post 43 for a few years, did a tremendous amount of scanning of our materials (photos and documents) to preserve them on hard drives, and also helped organize and run the museum and archive; I’m currently scanning over 8,000 membership cards of our past membership.)

  3. Hi Maria-
    I live in the Hollywood Dell area and never knew about this place until now. The membership is shockingly low, advertised for only $30 . Why? There must be dozens more stories you could tell and I’d love to hear them all!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Latest Articles

.printfriendly { padding: 0 0 60px 50px; }