The Broiler is back! Nearly three years after its
partial demolition, the original Harveys and longtime Johnie's
Broiler, reopened in its third incarnation as Bob's Big Boy Broiler
in October 2009....The Broilers comeback is nothing short of
miraculous, standing as a testament to the tireless efforts of the
Coalition to Rebuild the Broiler, the City of Downey, franchise
owner Jim Louder, Modern Committee chair emeritus Adriene Biondo, and
others who work to ensure its resurrection.
When it opened in 1958, Harvey's
Broiler was the largest drive-in ever built in Southern California..
It quickly became a integral part of the region's cruising culture..
The combination coffee shop/drive-in restaurant featured a
boomerang-shaped car canopy with ninety-eight covered parking
spaces. The restaurant was sold in 1965, and the new owner renamed
it to Johnies Broiler.
On December 31,2001, its owner closed the Broiler and
leased it to its new tenant who operated it as a used car lot.. This
period saw several unauthorized alterations to the building,
including the dismantling of the kitchen, removal of the counter
seating, and removal of portions of the terrazzo floors... The final
blow came on January 7, 2007, when a rag-tag wrecking crew started
bulldozing without permits, fencing off the property, disconnecting
the electricity, or completing asbestos abatement.
Only a portion of the front facade and its distinctive signage,
including the famous "Fat Boy" mascot, remained...
After intense public outcry, the Downey City Council
moved quickly to impose a year-long development moratorium on the
site.. Spurred by the cities commitment of $900,000 toward the
reconstruction project, Bob's Big Boy franchise owner Jim Louder
entered into a long-term lease in April 2008 with plans to reclaim
the Googie landmark from the pile of debris left in the wake of its
destruction... The Coalition to Rebuild the Broiler and the
Conservancy worked closly with the city of Downey, Archeion Neveda
architecture to help ensure that the project preserved much of what
remained while staying faithfull to the original design...Schematic
drawings for the new restaurant were based on the original
blueprints by Harveys architect Paul Clayton
Although not a exact reconstruction of the
original Broiler, the new building exhibits an attention to detail
that is remarkable.. The massive broiler sign was restored
sensitively adapted for its moniker, with a vintage Big Boy stature
purchased by Jim Louder on Ebay and hauled down from Sacramento on a
flatbed truck... Much of the historic terrazzo was retained, with
new infill terrazzo selected to match the original: the rock walls
were salvaged and meticulously rebuilt: and even the the textured
popcorn ceiling was reapplied to the reconstructed soffit...With Big
Boy gleefully rotating on his former perch, Fat Boy is now enjoying
retirement propped up next to the rebuilt canopy and basking in the
glow of the Broiler's re-lit neon..
"Not only does this project restore a historic
icon for our city and preserve a part of our legacy" beams former
Downey Mayor Mario Guerra, "but it also provides tremendous benefits
to the city from an economic development standpoint by creating a
viable business venture that employs' 185 people..
The Broiler's reopening is the culmination of years of
grassroots advocacy, originating long before the illegal
The Conservancy's Modern Committee was an early leader, helping to
establish the Friends of Johnies in 2002 and spearheading efforts to
qualify the building for the California Register ... In the wake of
the Boilers partial destruction, the Friends of Johnies re-grouped
as the coalition to Rebuild the Boiler, forming an alliance of
preservationist, vintage car enthusiast, and students...
The amazing story of resurrecting the Broiler is definitely
one for the history books." muses Adriene Biondo. " a half-century
later, the innovative Googie architecture and fabulous 1950's
signage is again stopping traffic on Firestone Boulevard.. What was
old is new again, as families and a new generation of SOCal cruisers
rediscover carhop service and experience a real 1958 drive-in"
Article reprinted from Los Angeles
Conservancy News......Submitted by Marsha Caddel (Davis) W'56