Mod! 1965 Denny’s, Ontario

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I never paid much attention to the Denny’s off the Fourth Street exit of the 10 Freeway in Ontario, but it’s worth a look as it’s one of the oldest surviving examples in the Inland Valley.

Built in 1965, this 1409 E. Fourth St. restaurant is relatively unaltered architecturally, according to the Ontario Planning Department. It’s got an angled roof with a zig-zag profile, large plate glass windows and stone veneer columns (over concrete brick). Architects were Colwell and Ray of Orange.

“The design is a Denny’s prototype building that was created in the mid-1950s as part of the Googie movement. The Denny’s prototype design was built for several years in many California locations (mostly freeway adjacent),” according to Planning Director Scott Murphy.

No permit for the freeway pole sign could be found, but the signage has been updated.

There are squat palms by the entry, a feature that strikes me as midcentury. The interior has been updated quite a bit. But the ceiling, like the roof, angles steeply, the lamps hanging on long cords from the ceiling add style and the windows offer natural light and a modest view.

This Denny’s is certainly freeway close. You can walk out onto a little lawn that abuts the off-ramp, which is just feet away from the edge. It’s rare to be that close to a freeway, unless you happen to reside in the song “Freefallin’,” where there’s a freeway runnin’ through the yard.

I can’t recommend the food, not being a Denny’s fan, but it was worth a single visit to admire the place.

There are former Denny’s of the same or older vintage in Montclair (now a sushi bar across from Shakey’s) and Pomona (now a birrieria restaurant at Holt and Indian Hill), for the record.

Denny’s began as Danny’s Donuts in 1953 in Lakewood, became Danny’s Coffee Shop in 1956, switched to Denny’s Coffee Shop in 1959 to avoid confusion with the Coffee Dan’s chain, shortened its name to Denny’s in 1961 and began franchising in 1963, according to its Wikipedia entry.

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  • Joanne Dallas

    I want that orange light

    • davidallen909

      One good yank and it’s yours.

      • Joanne Dallas

        Nothing quite like that special orange plastic. The turquoise plastic was a cooler shade.

  • Ren

    The inside, reminds me of the old Mission Family Restaurant on Mission Blvd. in Pomona, but now closed.

    • davidallen909

      You’re right, it’s a similar look.

    • Theodore Melendez

      The front door is interesting you come in from the side, instead of straight ahead

  • DanF

    This was walking distance from my house. Awesome to see that it hasn’t changed after all these years!

  • Bob Terry

    Ren, since you mentioned Taco Lita in a previous reply, I’m sure you’ll remember that Mission Family Restaurant was originally the Hull House. We maybe even rode bikes together years back.

    • Ren

      Sure do, and it use to be on the northwest corner of Garey Ave. and Commercial St. before they built the underpass. A school yard now is there on what was the corner back then.