Friday, April 24, 2009

Vintage Roadside wraps up Palm Springs

Hello Everyone!

We're back from attending the California Preservation Foundation annual conference in Palm Springs and wanted to share a sample of the things we saw while we were in town. After a few days without internet access let's get right to it!

Here's a shot of the beautifully reconstructed El Mirador Hotel Tower. The original tower was built in 1928 and stood over the hotel until its closing in 1973. The tower was lost to fire in 1989 but was rebuilt from the original plans in 1991.

We had heard good things about the Caliente Tropics, designed in 1964, and chose that as our home base for the conference. What a great choice it was!

The Caliente Tropics is regarded as one of the finest surviving Polynesian/tiki themed motels in the country. From the tropical plantings to the onsite bbq's we couldn't have asked for more relaxing lodging. Plus it gets bonus points for having been visited by Elvis Presley and Nancy Sinatra.

The awning over the entry is a great example of 1960s tiki architecture.

Our mascot posing with one of the many tiki statues surrounding the motel.

Our mascot gets into an Apocalypse Now state of mind.

Another look at the entry and the former Reef Bar restaurant on the left. We've read a few websites that covered the demise of the restaurant, along with concern that the building may be remodeled into a diiferent architectural theme. We were thrilled when we were told by the motel that they expect a new tiki themed restaurant to open in the coming months.

Here's a wonderful roof line on one of the Alexander built steel houses - one of seven unique homes constructed in 1961. Designed by Donald Wexler, the original plans called for 38 homes to be built. Thanks to preservation efforts all seven still remain.

Here's a shot of the Kaufmann Desert House designed by Richard Neutra in 1946. The home became well known in 1947 with the publication of photos by photographer Julius Shulman. Considered by many architectural critics as being one of the five most important houses of the 20th century. The home has undergone painstaking restoration and is currently for sale.

One of the most awe-inspiring buildings we saw was the House of Tomorrow, designed in 1962 by William Krisel for Robert and Helene Alexander. One of many Krisel homes in the area. This home also served as a honeymoon retreat for Elvis and Priscilla Presley.

The 1965 Tramway Gas Station building designed by Albert Frey now serves as the Palm Springs Visitor Center. Inside you'll find a large selection of Palm Springs literature along with the invaluable "Map of Modern Palm Springs" produced by the Palm Springs Modern Committee. The map provides locations for 75 of the best examples of mid-century architecture, both residential and commercial, in Palm Springs.

Driving through one of the neighborhoods on the map we were stopped in our tracks by this colorful cluster of metal statues. We later learned that we had gotten our first look at the amazing creations of artist Kenny Irwin Jr. which cover his four-acre property.

We would like to finish up our Palm Springs post with heartfelt thanks to everyone who made this such a fantastic road trip for us.

For everyone who followed along with us on the blog, we hope you enjoyed the trip as much as we did! We loved your comments and look forward to our next road trip together.

And to just some of the special people we met at the conference:

Michele Gates, Judy Chen, and Cindy Heitzman of the California Preservation Foundation. We couldn't have felt more welcome as first time exhibitors. A special thanks to Michele for encouraging our idea for a preservation-themed road trip to Palm Springs.

Mr. & Mrs. William (Bill) Krisel for spending 45 minutes talking with us about everything from video games to front porches.

Gary Johns and Kip Serafin of the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation. Thanks to them, we are currently researching ideas for a fun Palm Springs Vintage Roadside t-shirt.

Stephen Schafer of Schaf Photo, an incredible photographer.

Marci & Austin of Sputnik Housewares for making the trip down from if we could only convince you to come along on every road trip!

Bob Bogard of the Palm Springs Art Museum for sharing his enthusiasm for the museum's architecture...and for looking so great in our Pixieland t-shirt.

Nickie McLaughlin of the Palm Springs Modern Committee - we hope to see you next year during Modernism Week.

Sheila McElroy of the California Preservation Foundation for running one of the most exciting silent auctions we've ever seen.

Gloria Scott of Caltrans for sharing her encyclopedic knowledge of roadside architecture.

Kristin Leuschner of the Society for Commercial Archeology. Great to see you again after Tulsa. Looking forward to seeing you in Nashville!

And to everyone who stopped by the Vintage Roadside booth. It was wonderful to see friends we had met in Tulsa last year at the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference and to all the new people we met over the conference - you really made the trip special!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Vintage Roadside thwarted by wi-fi!

Hello all,

We wanted to let you know we've been beaten by technology the past two evenings as far as internet connection go - but it appears to have been remedied late tonight so we'll be back tomorrow evening with an update.

We've moved on from Bakersfield out to Palm Springs and have wrapped up day one of the California Preservation Foundation conference. It was a great first day and the weather here in Palm Springs is perfect!

See you soon,

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

From Portland to Palm Springs along Highway 99 - Day 3

Welcome to day three of our trek to Palm Springs and the annual conference of the California Preservation Foundation. Today's section of Highway 99 took us from Stockton to the northern edge of Bakersfield where we've bunked down for the evening.

Stockton proved to be a challenge due to a court session which resulted in the closure of numerous parking lots and a perimeter of streets in order to provide media access to the courthouse. We had a tough time finding a place to park but, wow, what a downtown!

After circling...and circling...and circling, we finally found a 30-minute spot, threw the car into park, and worked our way over to the Hotel Stockton, a 1910 Mission style hotel noted as the Central Valley's first reinforced concrete structure. The hotel once featured 252 rooms and an extensive roof garden.

With the advent of the motor hotel, or motel as we now know it, the Hotel Stockton fell out of favor and eventually closed in 1960. Used as county offices until 1992, the hotel was restored and reopened to the public in 2005. With its upper floors dedicated to apartments for low and fixed income residents, the hotel continues to play a vital role in the life of downtown Stockton and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Next up was a look at the Stockton Savings & Loan Society Bank known for two important firsts: Stockton's first revolving door was located here and the building was regarded as Stockton's first skyscraper. The building is now home to the Bank of Stockton and is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

Although we didn't get to spend as much time as we would have liked exploring downtown, Stockton is home to an impressive list of 29 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places - definitely worth another visit.

From Mission style to a building shaped like a giant ice cream cone!

We stopped in Manteca to take a look at this little place mainly as a result of our A&W Burger Family. When we "adopted" our family, the gentleman we acquired them from mentioned he had built a drive-in shaped like an ice cream cone in Manteca. This was our first trip back since bringing the Burger Family home and the ice cream cone was the first thing to catch our eye on the drive into town along Main Street. We're happy to report it was open for business with people lined up for eats.

You'll probably have noticed by now that we really like the Welcome Arches found in various places along old 99. We were excited to get a look at this circa. 1912 Modesto arch after learning that the slogan "Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health" was decided after a contest, but was actually the runner-up slogan. The first place winning slogan was "Nobody's Got Modesto's Goat." Wish we could have seen that in neon! Thanks to for the great story.

Modesto is also home to the Greater Valley Center Highway 99 Task Force, a regional non-profit organization working to transform roughly 280 miles of Highway 99 into the "Main Street of the San Joaquin Valley." A worthy project that we look forward to watching develop.

Following Modesto, we spotted this wonderfully maintained neon sign outside of the Rice Bowl restaurant in Merced along old 99, or 16th Street as it's now named.

We promised fiberglass giants and we deliver! It's no secret that we would love to add a Muffler Man to our fiberglass family, and while we've not yet found the right one for us, this one at the local agricultural museum made our day. The museum was closed, but we managed to catch this shot before that ominous cloud you see in the background (we think it followed us from Portland) blocked out the sun.

Next up - Madera. The sun had finally broken back through the clouds which prompted us to execute a somewhat questionable driving manuever in order to stop by Farnesi's Restaurant and Coffee Shop just off the Gateway Drive exit.

We were also happy to find this car dealership in Madera with an appreciation for vintage neon signs. In addition to the Buick sign they also display a vintage GMC Trucks neon sign.

Moving on to Fresno, we checked out a stretch of old 99, now named Golden State Blvd., and found this old motor court sign, one of a cluster of great old signs and mostly closed motels that once thrived along the highway.

Sadly, we just learned that the Storyland Inn has been condemned by the city of Fresno. We hope it might be possible to preserve the two wooden soldiers still guarding the entrance.

In that cluster of signs we mentioned along Golden State Blvd, we liked this combination of signs side by side: a Googie style coffee shop sign in front with the iconic Fresno Motel sign featuring a diving girl in back.

Toward the end of the day we passed through the small town of Fowler. We like to pretend that the town was named after Jim Fowler from Wild Kingdom, but are guessing that's probably not the case. As fans of the allure of neon, we were excited to see that the town had installed a new neon sign with an arrow leading to their downtown business district. Way to go, Fowler!

Signing off for now - on the road again in the morning for the final leg of our trip. Palm Springs or bust!

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Monday, April 13, 2009

From Portland to Palm Springs along Highway 99 - Day 2

Day 2 of our Portland to Palm Springs road trip is in the books and we're calling it a success as we had a blast driving along some of our favorite sections of Highway 99 as well as a few sections that were new to us. It's always interesting to discover something that's been waiting for you, in some cases, for over 60 years!

The drive today covers Mt. Shasta through Lodi - only about 275 miles, but by the time we calculate all of the u-turns and numerous trips back and forth across each town we probably covered closer to 400 miles. We're pretty sure we lapped Lodi at least three times.

Last night we mentioned we stayed close to a spot rumored to be the site of a Bigfoot didn't think we'd just leave it at that, did you? Below is our best evidence to date - camera shy, but, oh, so handsome.

After heading out this morning, the first place we stopped was a building we've missed every time we've driven this short section of Highway 99. The Mt. Shasta Richfield station was built in 1930 and was one of eight Richfield stations built in the state - although the only one built in this style. Richfield hoped to corner the market on both automotive and airplane fueling, hence the 125' tower to attract aircraft. The station operated until 1964 and now serves as a private residence.

Next up was a stop at one of our favorite Highway 99 towns: Dunsmuir. The town of Dunsmuir (or Pusher as it was originally named, albeit for one year only) was established on Monday, August 23rd, 1886 when the Southern Pacific Railroad reached Cedar Flat (later Nutglade - the current Dunsmuir south yard), and opened the station of Dunsmuir in a box car.

The commercial district, which is roughly bounded by Sacramento and Shasta Aves., Spruce and Cedar Sts. (both sides), is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Our favorite place in Dunsmuir is the Cave Springs Resort on old Highway 99 (current day I-5 Business Loop.) We'd love to show you a photo, however we've been bested yet again by sunlight shining directly into the camera as we try to photograph the resort. If only they could move it across the street!

Cave Springs was opened in 1923 by Clint and Ida May Brown and operated under the name of Brown's Auto Camp. In 1925 the first six cabins and a few tent platforms were built along the river. A store and a home were built next to the highway where the pool is now. The year 1926 brought more cabins at the top of the hill, and in 1929 the Brown's granted some land to the state to expand the highway in front of their place. By now the Brown's were calling their business Brown's Auto Park which would later be changed to Brown's Modern Motor Lodge and finally in 1952 the Cave Springs Resort.

Just down the road from Cave Springs sits the closed Corral Cafe with a fantastic cocktail sign mounted on one of its stone chimneys.

We understand that the Dunsmuir Visitor's Center has recently re-opened and hopes to highlight the importance of historic preservation in the community. We wish them the best of luck!

Following Dunsmuir, our next stop was Redding. We came into town on old Highway 99 (now Highway 273), and were greeted by this amazing sign above Lim's Cafe.

This approach also gave us a chance to stop and take a look at a place we comment on every time we pass by. The business sits along a frontage road with no clear access from I-5 and we were thrilled to crack the riddle of how to get there. We're happy to report that numerous guests were enjoying a round of golf today.

Designated a National Trust Main Street in 2006, downtown Redding has an eclectic and well-preserved collection of buldings. From the Streamline Moderne fire station to the Art Deco Cascade Theatre, there's something for fans of every almost every architectural style.

Preservation Note: Developed in the 1970s by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Main Street program emphasizes how an architecturally interesting, pedestrian friendly, locally owned business district supported by the community is sound economics.

We've visited a number of these Main Street towns across the Southwest and can attest to the success of the National Trust's common sense approach.

Now, back to the Cascade Theatre. According to the Cascade's website, the theatre was "constructed in 1935 as a 1,348-seat movie palace and vaudeville stage. One of the few theatres built during the heart of the depression, the Cascade Theatre was a magnificent example of art deco architecture in California, complete wiht gold and silver gilded walls, period chandeliers, ornate plasterwok, a grand neon facade and marquee and beautiful murals. "

Even with all this beauty, the Cascade was unable to compete with new mall-based cinemas and closed its doors in the late 1990s after years of declining ticket sales.

An enormous preservation effort led by the the Cascade Theatre Restoration Steering Committee and Southern Oregon University's public radio network saved the Cascade for future generations - and road trippers like us - allowing the beautifully restored theatre to reopen in August 2004.

The Cascade Theatre has the triple honor of being on the National Register of Historic Places, the California Registry of Historic Resources, and a recipient of an Art Deco Society of California Preservation Award.

Just a couple of blocks away from the Cascade is a fun stretch of Highway 99 with a couple of outstanding 1950s and 60s era motel signs. We can't fit all the photos in this blog, but here's a great example of why tracking down the path of old highways can be so much fun.

After Redding, we headed down to Red Bluff to visit another impressive community project focused on preserving a town's architectural heritage: the Cone-Kimball Clocktower.

Destroyed by fire in 1984, the community (led by the Red Bluff Rotary Foundation) was successful in raising grant monies and donations to rebuild what we've learned is referred to as the "heart of Red Bluff." In a neat twist of history, the tower's groundbreaking was held on April 30, 2005 - the 21st anniversary of the fire that destroyed the original structure.

One thing we forgot to show you yesterday were these handy Historic 99 signs. Although spaced somewhat few and far between, they've definitely tended to show up just when we need them.

Thanks go out to Assemblyman Statham for introducing ACR 19 in Feburary 1993, a measure that highlighted the importance of recognizing the significance of US 99 to the history of California.

With our light fading, we decided to wrap up the day's photos in Lodi. Along a stretch of Highway 99 now known as Cherokee Lane, we found this remnant of the highway's glory days:

And finally, we'd read that the Welcome Arch in Lodi was something special and not to be missed. Trying not to break the speed limit or endanger any pedestrians, there was much cheering in the car as we made it just in time for this sunset photo showing some of the arch's detail.

And about five minutes later looking east.

Tomorrow will be another big day as we look to cover another 250 miles or so, searching for more great sights and preservation stories from Stockton to Bakersfield and points in between. Hope you'll join in!

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Sunday, April 12, 2009

From Portland to Palm Springs along Highway 99 - Day 1

And we're off and running with Vintage Roadside's latest preservation-themed road trip blog!

This time we're traveling from Portland, Oregon to the California Preservation Foundation's annual conference in Palm Springs, California...where rumor has it the weather is a touch warmer than Portland's current balmy 51 degrees.

The plan for this trip is to travel along as much of historic Highway 99 as we can find (with occasional detours along the way) highlighting preservation organizations, preservation projects, neon signs, roadside architecture, fiberglass statues, and mom and pop eateries - just about anything that's stood the test of time and in turn made the road a little more interesting.

Why the focus on Highway 99? As the West's main north-south highway from 1926 to 1964, there are a lot of great stories to be discovered and remnants of the highway's glory days to be photographed. One of the resources we found most helpful in our quest is a wonderful series of books by Jill Livingston titled, "That Ribbon of Highway." If you enjoy our blog and want to dig even deeper into the history of Highway 99, we highly recommend it.

Now, onto the road:

This morning got off to a late start, but we manged to cover roughly 335 miles, ending the day at the site of a purported bigfoot crossing in Mt. Shasta. Luckily the Woodsman Lodge, recently renovated and rustically charming, was right next door so we're definitely ending the day on a high note.

We have lots of preservation stops planned for tomorrow, so for this first leg of the trip, let's take a look back at some of the great neon signs we found today. At the end of the blog, we'll wrap things up with a quick preservation stop in Yreka.

With its huge red arrow and intact neon, the Marco Polo Motel along Highway 99 in Albany, Oregon definitely caught our eye. For those thinking of a career change, please note that the motel is currently advertised for sale.

Another great sign along 99 in Goshen, Oregon advertises what was once the Hill Top Motel. The motel is now rented out as apartments so we're fortunate that the owners of the property have elected to keep the sign in place. The sign is largely hidden behind trees, but you can still catch a glimpse from the road if you travel at 1940s speed.

Roseburg offered up this gem of a sign above the Anderson Place Market. Although no longer lit, the charming gentleman with a wide smile once had an animated neon arm...must have been wonderful to see in action.

We came across this well-cared for Rexall sign above a pharmacy in Canyonville, Oregon. Although a quiet town, it's worth swinging off I-5 for a quick drive along this short section of 99.

We're always on the hunt for interesting animal mascots so we laughed out loud when we came across this sign in Grants Pass. The poor little guy on top of Bunny's Motel looks like he's suffered some sort of mortal injury, but he still keeps smiling. The motel appears to no longer serve overnight guests.

This next sign may look a little familiar. It seems that the Yreka Motel may have gone in on a package deal with the Marco Polo in Albany, Oregon when it came time to order letters for their sign. While the Marco Polo went with a swoopy arrow the Yreka Motel opted for a sputnik made from galvanized pipe. We're awarding bonus points to the Yreka for the yellow backlit plastic at the bottom.

Following that great introduction to Yreka, you won't want to miss their outstanding welcome arch.

Just over the California border, Yreka became a boomtown after gold was discovered in 1851. Although not dating back as far as that, the welcome arch made it's first appearance in 1917.

Taken down during a road widening project in the 1930s that transformed the Pacific Highway into US 99, the arch languished in storage until 1976 when a successful push for restoration led by the the community's Soroptomists resulted in a rededication of the sign in 1977. For a great read about the story of the arch, try this article written by Claudia East on her blog, Yreka History.

The Yreka Carnegie Library is our first stop at a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Preservation note: The National Register of Historic Places is essentially a list of cultural resources (districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects) that have gone through a nomination process and been deemed to be of historic importance to America and worthy of preservation.

Administered by the National Park Service, the National Register of Historic Places was created under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

Yreka is also lucky to have an entire section of their city designated a Historic District by the National Register. Just west of Main Street (formerly Hwy 99), Yreka's historic district can be found from 102 to 402 West Miner Street and 122 to 419 3rd Street. We definitely recommend spending some time walking the district.

With the light fading, we headed down the road to Weed, crossing our fingers that we would find one of our favorite neon signs lit along a short stretch of Hwy 99 we'd driven on a day trip last year. Lucky us, the Hi-Lo Motel was shining away.

That wraps up today's post. Tomorrow starts off with a tour through Dunsmuir's historic district, a stop at the Cave Springs Resort (the site of a 1920s auto camp), a visit to Redding, part of the National Trust's Main Street program, and Red Bluff's State Theatre, recipient of a 2001 Art Deco Society of California Preservation Award...stay tuned!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Is everyone buckled in?

We're wrapping up the final details for the road trip down to Palm Springs and wanted to let everyone know the first post of the trip will be waiting for you as you begin your Monday.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts and hope you enjoy what we discover along Highway 99!

See you soon,

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Vintage Roadside at Viva Las Vegas!

Howdy all,

We know some of our friends will be heading out to Viva Las Vegas this weekend and we wanted to let you know that even though we can't be there ourselves - you can still pick up your favorite Vintage Roadside t-shirt at the show!

Our friends from down Burbank way, 8 Ball, will be there again this year with their amazing selection of cool stuff and we're thrilled to be a part of the offerings this year!

So, if you're in Las Vegas this weekend stop by the 8 Ball booth and say hello. You'll also have the chance to be one of the first to pick up our newest Polynesian design - the 7 Seas.

Hope everyone is having a great week,

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Friday, April 3, 2009

Vintage Roadside at Crafty Wonderland Sunday April 5th!

Hey everyone,

Just a quick note to let you know we'll be at Crafty Wonderland this Sunday from 11:00 am - 4:00 pm at the Doug Fir Lounge. It's Crafty Wonderland's third birthday and they've got some great things lined up for the show.

So, if you're in the Portland area stop by and say hello. We're excited to be taking our three new designs - Gwinn's Restaurant, 7 Seas Cocktail Lounge, and the new black Kibby's Drive In (for women) out for their first test drive.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside