When defining the wacky architectural stylings of Googie, just think The Jetsons meets modernist coffee shop!
In fact, the word Googie comes from the original 1949 John Launter designed West Hollywood coffee shop, “Googie’s.” Unfortunately, that establishment was torn down years ago.
Las Vegas still has an array of eye-popping Googie buildings though – defined by their Atomic Age-inspired geometric shapes, exaggerated rooflines and generous use of glass – but they’re disappearing fast. Here’s a list (in no particular order) of some of our favorites… click on addresses below for Google Map locations.
Pete Findlay Oldsmobile Building (3024 Fremont Street) – This former car dealership on Boulder Hwy, currently vacant (as of June, 2016), is an exceptional example of Googie architecture, boasting an over-sized, cantilevered, folded plate roof, natural stone and walls and walls of glass, just marvelous!
Denny’s Restaurant (1826 S. Las Vegas Blvd.) – Purveyors of Googie architecture, Louis Armet & Eldon Davis were credited with creating over 4,000 Googie coffee shops in the mid-century, many of which were built in Las Vegas. Unfortunately most have seen better days or have been re-purposed while others were bulldozed completely. This busy Las Vegas Boulevard location near the south entrance to downtown, though, is still a great example of classic 1960s Denny’s Googie and doing just fine.
Tacos Mexico – This fast food restaurant has been around since 1975 and has two Googie locations that are awesome. 3820 W Sahara Ave at South Valley View Blvd. is a former Denny’s (early 1960s) that boasts the boomerang roofline designed by Armet & Davis, and another gem is located at 1205 E. Charleston Blvd. at South Maryland Parkway (dating to 1967).
La Concha Visitor’s Center (770 N. Las Vegas Blvd.) – An extreme example of Googie architecture that speaks for itself is the former La Concha Motel lobby, designed by noted modernist architect Paul R. Williams, and currently re-purposed as the visitors center at the Neon Museum. It could be argued that Willaims’ Guardian Angel Cathedral next to the Encore Hotel & Casino is also very Googie-centric with its exaggerated A-Frame and “steeple”; see for yourself, here.
Chapel of Love (1431 Las Vegas Blvd.) – Formerly a Bob’s Big Boy diner, then a Denny’s restaurant, this repurposed “wedding chapel” was designed in the late 1950s by none other than the purveyors of Coffee Shop Googie, Armet & Davis.
McDonald’s (2248 Paradise Rd.) – So what if this classic Stanley Clark Meston McDonald’s design wasn’t actually built in the 1950s, or ever actually existed in Las Vegas? Its Googie lineage – located at the corner of Paradise and Sahara – was all the rage in California back in the day. This retro version even sports McDonald’s’ original mascot Speedee (before Ronald McDonald was introduced in 1967) as well as a genuine ’55 Chevy Coupe out front, so what’s not to like?
Speedee Cash (1500 E. Charleston Blvd.) and Erick’s Auto Repair (1401 S. Main St.) – Dating from the mid 1960s, it’s their wacky exaggerated folded rooflines that caught our attention, and there are plenty more gems like these around Vegas. Just keep a look out and let us know what you find! 😉
A Mall Sign (1234 E. Sahara Ave.) – At the northeast corner of S. Maryland Pkwy. and E. Sahara Ave., there’s a stupendous 1960s Googie tripod sign that looks like it stumbled right out of War of the Worlds; its stylized font reads, “A Mall.” Not a building, but a very, very, very cool Googie sign. UPDATE, December, 2017: This once awesome sign is a shell of its former self. The midcentury font was removed and discarded and the structure was painted in ‘Planet Fitness’ colors (we are not kidding). Sorry folks, if you missed this one you might as well not even bother anymore.
For more on Googie Architecture, there’s a great 2012 article written by Matt Novak, over at Smithsonian.com.
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