Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Got Googie? Appreciating the Recent Past

I subscribe to Preservation, the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. I highly recommend it. The recent issue focus was modern architecture. This article caught my attention – “Gaga Over Googie?”, by Krista Walton.

This Newsweek article also explores the same topic, "Is Googie Good?", by Sarah Kliff.

A debate is stirring in Seattle, Washington. Is this building a landmark? Is it worth preserving? Read and then weigh in yourself.

photo credits - Grace Architects (middle); Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times (right)

I know what my answer is. What about you?

Its architecture is described as being Googie. Features of Googie include upswept roofs, curvaceous, geometric shapes, and bold use of glass, steel and neon. Do we have some Googie in New Albany? Maybe not, but we do have some quality recent past buildings.

One of my favorites? A model Valentine Diner, serial number 2031. Location – 147 E. Market Street. Name – “Little Chef Diner”. It's been operating since 1957. Does this look familiar?

From the Kansas State Historical Society Website:

Valentines were small eight- to twelve-seat diners with a limited menu, making them ideal for a one-person operation. It provided an opportunity to operate a profitable business with very little capital.

The diners were manufactured in Wichita from the late 1930s into the mid-1970s. Sales of the buildings expanded nationwide, and Valentines soon were all over the United States. The diners often were located along major highways, and many of them are still in use today

It’s a building I’ve taken for granted. I’ll be honest and say that it’s been almost invisible to me, sandwiched between the Fair Store and the Odd Fellows building. And no, I’ve never been inside. They are not smoke free so a visit, in that small of a space, will be difficult for me. But I do resolve to get in there for a visit soon.

Additional Art Deco and Moderne architecture in downtown New Albany: 1. 601 E. Spring Street, Dental office of Dr. John Sisk, DDS. 2. Mike Smith Firestone at 227 State Street. 3. 130 E. Main Street

Architectural relevance certainly did not end in 19th century. My own appreciation of modern architecture has changed greatly over the last few years. These buildings are just as significant as any Victorian, Italianate or Queen Anne structures in our community. They contribute to the fabric of our history, telling the complete, unique and up to the minute story of our place.

Have a recent history architectural favorite in the area? Please share.

Additional Reading:

During my internet browsing, I stumbled upon an interesting website called the American Roadside - there was a feature on our own Little Chef Diner.

Googie Architecture Online

Recent Past Preservation Network


ceece said...


That sounds like something Conner brings on his finger to show me.


April said...

What is the building on 130 E. Main Street? I really like the way the Mike Smith Firestone looks.

As for the Little Chef Diner, I heard the food was good there. So one day I went in [during Harvest Homecoming]. I couldn't take the smoke smell at all. Then again, I'm a non-smoker so any smoke makes me gag. So I didn't get anything to eat. :(

TedF said...

April - The building at 130 used to be service station. It's been restored recently, but is currently not in use. We can eagerly anticipate its opening something soon (I hope).

Ceece - you can pick your friends. You can pick your Googie's. But you can't pick your friends Googie's. :)