Googie's Coffee Shop

(1950s)^ - Matchbook cover image advertising Googie's Coffee Shop located at the SE corner of Sunset and Cresecent Heights boulevards.  


Historical Notes

The origin of the name Googie dates to 1949, when architect John Lautner designed the West Hollywood coffee shop Googies, which had distinct architectural characteristics.  The name "Googie" had been a family nickname of Lillian K. Burton, the wife of the original owner, Mortimer C. Burton.*




(1950s)* - View showing Schwab’s Pharmacy and Googie’s Coffee Shop near the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights. Note the signboard on the right advertises the sport of Jai Alai at the Fronton Palace in Tijuana, Mexico.  

The Origins of Googie Architectrure

Alan Hess, the author of Googie: Fifties Coffeeshop Architecture, traces Googie back to three Coffee Dan's restaurants designed by John Lautner in the early forties.

"He selected the vaults and glass walls and trusses and angles of his buildings to fit the original, often unusual, concepts of space he favored," writes Hess.

Lautner originated the style that would be refined and reinterpreted by many others. Unintentionally, he also gave the style a name when, in 1949, he designed Googie's Coffee Shop at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights in Los Angeles.

Professor Douglas Haskell of Yale was driving through Los Angeles when he and architectural photographer Julius Shulman came upon Googie's. "Stop the car!" Haskell yelled. "This is Googie architecture." While Haskell was dubious about the style, he made the name "Googie architecture" stick by using it in a 1952 article in House and Home magazine.*




(1952)^* - Close-up view of Googie's Coffee shop and its neighbor Schwab’s Pharmacy located near the SE corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights.  


The Googie Look

Although Googie buildings were often quite different from one another, Douglas Haskell noted that the style had certain rules:

1. It can look organic, but it must be abstract. "If it looks like a bird, it must be a geometric bird. It's better yet if the house had more than one theme: like an abstract mushroom surmounted by an abstract bird."

2. Ignore gravity altogether. "Whenever possible, the building must hang from the sky."

3. Multiple structural elements. Inclusion is the rule, rather than minimalism. New materials, including sheet glass, glass blocks, asbestos, plywood and plastic gave the architect a whole new palette to work with. Other innovations allowed steel and cement to be used in new ways. Suddenly, architects had more elbowroom for their dreams. A room made of plastic could look like a log cabin, a space ship, or almost anything.*




(ca. 1957)^^ – View looking east on Sunset at Crescent Heights in West Hollywood as seen from the passenger seat of a long nose V8 bomb sight Buick.  On the right is the original high style Googie's Coffee Shop and landmark Schwabs Drug Store.  


Googie Architectrure

Googie was about the past, the present and the future -- But mostly the future. It was part of the popular culture, which reinforced a unified vision of a utopian future built on mankind's work and ingenuity.




(1955)* - Young Hollywood hipsters (Maila Nurmi and Jack Simmons) pose outside of Schwab's Pharmacy and Googies Coffee Shop.  Photo by Earl Leaf  





(1954)^.^ – A man in a light sport coat and bow tie walks by Schwab’s Pharmacy and Googies Coffee Shop.  


Historical Notes

Googie’s Coffee Shop was located next door to celebrated Schwab’s drug store, on the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights Boulevards. It was all the rage among young, up and coming stars in 1950s Hollywood who went to table hop, not necessarily to eat.




(1954)^.^ - View looking east on Sunset from Crescent Heights showing Googie’s Coffee Shop and Schwab’s Pharmacy. Short, shorts seem to be in fashion.  





(1950s)^ - Interior view of Googie’s Coffee Shop whose quirky angles lent its name to a whole architectural style that became a distinctive addition to the Southern California landscape.  


Historical Notes

Googie captured the post-war high that made people feel that the future was now and they were living in it. As time passed, Googie came to reflect a very 1950s and ’60s view of what “the future” meant.

Like most art forms that told a story or inspired with optimism, Googie went out of fashion in the mid-1960s.*




(1950s)^.^ – Picture of James Dean in front of the Googie’s Coffee Shop at Sunset and Crescent Heights.  




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