Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Some history to go with our Tower Bowl t-shirt

The Tower Bowl once located in downtown San Diego was a true highlight of the streamline moderne era. Below is a portion of the history we've put together behind this amazing work of art.

If you happened to be in San Diego in 1942, whether as a resident, a vacationer, or a serviceman stationed at one of the local military bases, and were looking for an evening’s activity, you would find the answer downtown at the corner of Broadway and Kettner. There you would find an incredible Art Deco building with a dramatic eighty-foot curved steel tower, adorned with rotating bowling balls five feet in diameter, spelling out "The Tower Bowl" on one side and "Bowling" on the other . In case you somehow missed the sign, the entire building, along with the sign, were adorned with over a thousand feet of brilliant neon.

Tower Bowl was designed for A. J. Hanson by one of the premier architects on the West Coast - S. Charles Lee. Mr. Lee designed many of the beautiful theatres found throughout Southern California. Showplaces such as Tower Theatre in Los Angeles, Fox Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills, Studio Theatre in Hollywood, and what is considered to be the ultimate in Streamline Moderne design – the Academy Theatre in Inglewood. The majority of Mr. Lee's buildings were opulent palaces and Tower Bowl was no exception.

When it opened in 1941, Tower Bowl was billed as a complete entertainment complex, offering two cocktail lounges, a billiard room, fine food, a dance floor, seating for 400 spectators, and 28 maple lanes. Entering from Broadway, visitors walked across a beautiful terrazzo floor past the cocktail lounge towards the bowling lanes at the ........

Further history, additional historic images and our Tower Bowl shirt, available for purchase can be found on the Vintage Roadside website located here.

If you have additional history or information about the Tower Bowl we'd love to hear from you.

7 comments:

tedrob said...

I was practically raised at the Tower Bowl. My mother relocated to San Diego from Texas in the early 1940's. She took a job as cashier at the Tower Bowl, and she also participated in a number of leagues as well. As a young child, I spent hours with her at the Tower, and on slow days, I was allowed to use any vacant lane to bowl. In those days, the alleys were tended by "pin boys", who would clear the alley of knocked down pins, reset the remaining standing pins and send the ball back to the bowler after each attempt. One pin boy would work two alleys. When I bowled by myself, I would have to bowl my first ball, run down to the back of the lane, reset the pins, roll back the ball, and run back to bowl my second ball. This continued for the entire 10 frames. Many a San Diego Padre baseball player could be found relxaing in the Tower Bowl Cocktail lounge in those days. There was a soft drink bottling/distribution plant righe next door to the Tower and, when I took friends with me to watch my mother play in league competitions, we would sneak out back, jump over the fence to the bottling plan, and help ourselves to a couple bottles of orange soda that were stored openly in the plant's yards. A great experience it was growing up at the Tower. Teddy Roberts, Martinsburg, WV

Gregory in San Diego said...

Another awesome building bites the dust! Why can't they appreciate great architecture when they have it!!

Vintage Roadside said...

Gregory - It really was an absolute gem of a building. It's too bad they couldn't have hung onto it. It would have been a wonderful downtown destination....

Roger Bates said...

I started playing pool at age ten. I became pretty good after several years of playing. I entered the Navy in 1957 after high school in the midwest. Upon completing basic training at Great Lakes, IL., I was sent to a Navy school located at Imperial Beach, CA, just below Coronado. I longed for my liberties, when I would take the Coronado Ferry over to San Diego, walk up Broadway to the Tower Bowl to shoot some pool. The men wore the old green shades that worked there. They looked like a baseball visor with a green see thru shade. The tables were great, the competition was spectacular, and the atmosphere was terrific. I still remember the Tower Bowl today as an icon of not only bowling, but billiards also. It was a great spot for many a serviceman.

Roger/Pleasanton, CA

Gregory in San Diego said...

They just tore down the last Art Deco, Streamlined-Moderne building on Broadway... The Ford Dealership building by Walter Teague... (Park & Broadway)... I'm so sad.

Vintage Roadside said...

Roger - Thank you so much for sharing your memories of the Tower Bowl. We've seen a photo of the billiards area and it was as grand as the rest of the building.

Anonymous said...

I'm writing about book whose story is set in San Diego in the late '60's. Thanks for putting a face on Lower Broadway. I remember a large penny arcade was found nearby to Tower Bowl. Shame when they cleared out the sailor bars south of Horton Park to put up the tasteless, commercialized Horton Plaza.