News About At-Risk Buildings and Neighborhoods

Astro Drive-In / Demolished example of Oak Cliff Googie Architecture

Googie architecture is a futuristic style with origins in Southern California, dating back to the emergence of mid-century modern. In the 1950’s and 60’s, automobiles were quickly becoming popular forms of transportation; consequently, buildings and signage supporting America’s Car Culture were designed to be noticed at higher speeds along highways. A fascination with spaceflight and nuclear power was also celebrated during the optimistic 1950s, with unique Googie elements to symbolize speed and energy. Googie signage displays bold angles, suggesting aerodynamic features with references to the Atomic Age.

Characteristics of Googie architecture include upward sloping roofs, cantilevered structures, large angled windows, illuminated plastic, bold use of neon, boomerangs, parabolas, atomic bursts and other freeform shapes. Many coffee shops, car washes and auto service stations exhibited Googie style. Googie was a family nickname of a West Hollywood business owner with a coffee shop named Googie’s (built in 1949, demolished in 1989), designed by John Lautner.

After WWII, Oak Cliff experienced it’s own growth from a business and housing boom. Convenience stores were built along Jefferson Boulevard to support the growing neighborhood. Hotels and auto service businesses lined Fort Worth Avenue and Highway 80 (Davis St.). Lancaster Road was developed as a major vehicular thoroughfare, where many old service stations have been re-purposed and are still standing. Signage played an important role and Oak Cliff has a few remaining examples of Googie style, many of which can be seen through signage. Here, we include a few beloved Oak Cliff buildings or structures as examples of Googie architecture. Some have already been lost, such as Astro Drive-in. Many mid-century buildings are at risk of decline due to the experimental nature of their design and materials.

➢ FAMSA Furniture and Appliances at 425 W. Jefferson Boulevard displays a unique moving Googie sign with rocket references, parabolic shapes, round light balls, and backlit plastic panels. Some of the light balls are broken, and replacement materials would be difficult to find or replicate. The building was home to J.C. Penney in the 1970’s. As development increases along Jefferson, awareness to the significance of the sign and it’s style should be realized and protected.

➢ The Astro Drive-In (demolished) - 3141 Walton Walker  When the Astro Drive-In opened in 1968, it was the world’s first fully automated drive-in.  The screen measured nine stories tall and was 140 feet wide and became known as the largest screen in the Western Hemisphere.  

On the night before Thanksgiving in 1998, the Astro Drive-In, concession stand was destroyed by fire and the theater never reopened.  It was the last operating drive-in theater in the Dallas/Fort Worth area

➢ The Googie drive-in restaurant at 2405 Lancaster Road was built in 1956, when Oak Cliff was expanding south. Old Fashioned Records Bar-B-Q currently uses the building and has been in business since 1969. This is a well-kept Googie example, surrounded by tire shops and service stations of a similar style.

➢ At the corner of 1424 W. Davis and Windomere, just down the street from Norma’s (worthy of Googie mention), is a converted 1963 Googie service station. The upward sloping roof of the building and canopy are key elements of Googie architecture. Even the graceful lines of the still existing light pole seem to evoke flight. The corner property is for lease and appears in good condition, although trucks from Delafuente Produce block the street view during weekdays. Incredible potential.

➢ Lone Star Donuts opened for business in 1950, and built their building at 1727 N. Beckley in 1963. Delores, the owner, was well aware of Googie style coffee shops in California when she commissioned the design of the building. Several years ago, she had plans to move locations and build a new building, yet the sign was “grandfathered” to it’s existing structure. Series of events caused her to abandon plans for a new building, and the business remains at the Googie façade for future generations to appreciate.

➢ The Moseley Furniture sign at 4017 Lancaster Road is a declining example of Googie. The building and sign date back to 1969, still in business as Moseley Furniture. A skeleton remains, yet many of the signage parts are missing.

➢ 2600 Zang Boulevard is the site of a former Kips BIg Boy, built in 1959. The style has been altered and windows covered with stucco, yet the roof lines and angled forms still hint of it’s era. The building has been re-purposed as an event center, “Events in the Cliff”.

➢ Two 1959 Googie gems with sweeping rooflines have been re-purposed in Wynnewood Village. Wynnewood Washateria at 1937 S. Llewellyn, was once home to Goff’s Hamburgers. The neighboring converted service station at 1947 S. Llewellyn was originally a Texaco and amazingly still has operable jalousie windows on the side.

➢ Rocket Fiesta Palace
416 N. Cockrell Hill Road