Mod! McDonald’s

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Red and white tile, slanted roof, arched sign…looks kind of familiar. Opened in September 1954, this stand at 1057 E. Mission Blvd. in Pomona was one of the earliest McDonald’s, back when they were still franchised by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald of San Bernardino.

The architect of the early franchises was Stanley Meston of Fontana. Pomona’s operated as a McDonald’s until 1968, when the tops of the arches were removed. In recent years it’s been AMA Donuts. As Alan Hess characterizes the building in his book “Googie Redux”: “remodeled but still a recognizable example of the classic design.”

The first McDonald’s opened in 1948 in San Bernardino, after their 1940 carhop stand was converted into a drive-up. After that, McDonald’s No. 1, subsequent restaurants were opened in this order in 1953 and 1954, according to Hess’ book: 2) Phoenix, Ariz., 3) Downey, 4) North Hollywood, 5) Alhambra, 6) Sacramento, 7) Azusa and 8) Pomona.

Some sources reverse Azusa and Pomona; both opened in September 1954. My information from a decade ago, which I believe came from pop culture scholar Chris Nichols, is that Pomona’s opened Sept. 1. Unless Azusa’s opened the same day, it’s likely Pomona’s is No. 7, not 8. Whichever, it’s still old, and unlike Azusa’s, it’s still standing.

Downey’s is the oldest surviving example and operates as a McDonald’s. Pomona’s is the second-oldest. Third-oldest is at 1900 S. Central Ave. in L.A. and can be seen from the Blue Line just south of downtown; it’s a Mexican restaurant and looks less like a McDonald’s now after alterations a year or two ago.

Thus, Pomona’s building may be the best-preserved original McDonald’s other than Downey’s. Perhaps someday, Pomona’s will get the Downey treatment.

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Mod! Chino Post Office

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Chino’s Post Office, 5375 Walnut Ave., is a grabber. I like the decorative pillars, which link horizontally toward the top. Very mod. The facade sign that reads “United States Post Office, Chino California 91710” is cool too.

The facility opened in 1970. It says so right on this plaque by the entrance. I took a peek at the interior and it was drab, although the air conditioning was vigorous.

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Mod! American Recovery Center, Pomona

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Originally this was the Brasilia Bradyo Hotel, opened in 1962, named after Brazil’s capital city and nodding toward Oscar Niemeyer’s designs for same, according to Charles Phoenix’s “Cruising the Pomona Valley.” Dig the glass entry, which looks two stories high, and wavy roof treatment.

The Brasilia’s original motto: “The most spacious and complete luxury hotel in the valley.”

After 1965 the Brasilia became the Pomona Valley Inn. Now it’s a drug rehab center. (The most spacious and complete?) The address is 2180 W. Valley Blvd., just west of the 71 Freeway. The building also rated a mention in Alan Hess’ “Googie Redux.”

The promotional sketch in Phoenix’s book shows a large courtyard with a pool and patio surrounded on four sides by buildings. No doubt it’s all been altered quite a bit. Still, someday I’d love to see the interior — as a visitor, not as a client.

brasilia* A July 16, 1962 Progress-Bulletin article touts the amenities of the hotel, at that point nearing completion, at a cost of $1.5 million: “Besides 100 hotel rooms, the Brazilia (sic) will contain conference rooms, a beauty shop, a steam bath, a travel agency, a putting green and men’s and women’s ready to wear shops. Its banquet room will seat 350.” Click on the thumbnail below to read the full story. Thanks to the Pomona Public Library for the find.



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Googie’s Coffee Shop, Sunset and Crescent Heights, LA, 1952, via Getty Research Institute; photograph by Julius Shulman.

My recent reading of the book “Googie Redux: Ultramodern Roadside Architecture” by Alan Hess has prompted a new category for this blog, with this its first entry: Mod!

First off, what’s Googie? It’s the name for a type of midcentury commercial architecture with a futuristic touch, generally employed for coffee shops, fast-food stands, car washes, bowling alleys, hotels and the like, concentrated in Southern California and popular from about 1949 (when a Sunset Boulevard coffee shop named Googie’s opened; see above) until the 1960s. These days it’s become more respected and revered.

As the Wikipedia entry describes Googie:

“Features of Googie include upswept roofs, curvaceous, geometric shapes, and bold use of glasssteel and neon. Googie was also characterized by Space Age designs symbolic of motion, such as boomerangsflying saucersatoms and parabolas, and free-form designs such as ‘soft’ parallelograms and an artist’s palette motif. These stylistic conventions represented American society’s fascination with Space Age themes and marketing emphasis on futuristic designs.”

Hess’ 2004 chronicle of the form takes an expansive, popular view of what qualifies as Googie, much in the way that almost any building from the 1930s is called Art Deco even if it’s Streamline Moderne or something else. And in the back, he lists Googie examples throughout SoCal — including 10 in Pomona and environs (some of which have since been demolished).

I’m going to use the category name Mod! to allow even more flexibility. Now and then I’ll present photos here of the local survivors from Hess’ roll cal of greatness, as well as other swingin’ examples. Feel free to nominate a favorite. The first in this irregular series will pop up here Tuesday.

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