Mid-Century Modern Updates

My winter website updating project is humming along.  I just finished combing the biggest section at my website (434 pages, more than 7,000 photos) and, naturally, have some bad news to report. The good news is far better though:   most of the buildings I’ve photographed & written about are still there.

Here are a couple dozen buildings that been demolished or disfigured in the past year or so.  The “before” photos are mine (from my website, roadarch.com) and the “afters” are courtesy of Google Street View.

Let’s start with this sweet little A-frame motel office in Williams, AZ:


Remodeled last year into this:



In Norwalk, CA, this building was built in 1962 as a Unimart.   It later housed a Two Guys and then, for many years, was used as an indoor swap meet.  The building was demolished last year:



I’ve long been a fab of these prefab structures and there are not many left at this point.  This one was in National City, CA and last housed a law office.   Before that, it was a medical office.  It was either dismantled or, more likely, demolished last year:



In Crestview, FL, the Okaloosa County Courthouse was demolished in 2017.  It was replaced with a larger (and uglier) courthouse:



The Rigby Bowl in Rigby, ID is no more.  In 2017, the building began housing a gym and the mid-century features and sign were removed:



The First Federal Savings & Loan Bank in Kewanee, IL has been undergoing some unfortunate remodeling lately.  Here’s what it looked like from 1963 until recently:



Around 2013, those colorful panels were replaced with clear (?) plastic (?) panels:


And then, last year, it looks like the panels might be gone for good and a visible worker was repainting the exterior a gloomy black (we can only hope it’s primer and that the original panels will return):


I don’t know the status of the interior which has or had the same designs as the exterior panels:




These barrel roofed buildings in Wichita, KS were demolished either last year or soon before that:



Here’s another prefab example from Paducah, KY that disappeared some in or between 2012 and 2018.  It last housed a barber shop.:



The Plantation Inn in Chicopee, MA was designed by Morris Lapidus as the Chicopee Motor Inn and built in 1958.  This round building with a zigzag crown was used as the motel’s conference center.  It was vacant for many years even while the motel was still operating.  In 2013, the property was sold and the buildings were demolished in 2016.  There’s now a big, unremarkable car dealership on the site now:



Some good news:  this building in Redford, MI is still there.  Designed by Minoru Yamasaki as a YWCA chapter.  Still intact canopies, screens, and loads of glass:


But when a school moved into the building in 2012, this sign disappeared.  I sure hope someone has it!



This sweet little entrance canopy of Midland Park, NJ — removed in or around 2018:



The Western Reserve Hardware building in Madison, OH was demolished last year:



The Executive Club Building in Rocky River, OH was demolished in 2016:




The Anthony Rossi Studio in Canton, OH closed around 2017 and these screens have been removed:




The Great National Life Insurance Company Building in Dallas, TX from 1963 was either demolished last year or will be this year:




The Hill Farms State Transportation Building in Madison, WI was demolished last year:


Google Street View even documents the tragedy:



The Lincoln Community Bank (both the branch & the matchy-matchy drive-thru) in Merrill, WI was demolished in 2018 or slightly before that:



I never got to shoot the Uptown Motel building in Rawlins, WY.  It was demolished in 2017.  It was designed by Richard Crowther.  Here’s a vintage postcard:

Google last shot it in 2009:


Let’s move on to some better news.   In Boulder, CO, the First Christian Church building has be transformed into a recreation for “The Province” student housing which now surrounds it.  The building had been vacant since 2010.  The exterior and stained glass remain intact.  This website shows some photos of the interior:



The long vacant former Gilldorn Savings Bank in Pawnee, IL has been adapted for the Pawnee Police Department.  Unfortunately, the dirt mounds which were part of the original 1984 design have been removed and they’ve slapped some ugly siding on the building and messed with the windows but the original intent is still kinda sorta there:



Google 2018 photo:



The Paris Laundry & Dry Cleaners in Phoenix, AZ was built in 1957:


The cleaners closed in 2016.  In 2018, the building was adapted for Modern Manor, a vintage furniture store and cafe.  Google shows the work taking place.  I believe the original Paris sign panel is inside the store (repainted but no neon):



So, what shall we conclude from all this devastation?  Yes, mid-century modern design is still under-appreciated by the masses and under attack all across the country — big cities & tiny towns.  One-story buildings on valuable land are especially at high risk for condo development.  Many mcm buildings have asbestos problems and that adds another complication and expense when it comes to reusing vs. teardown.

What can you do about it? If you are into these buildings, you can help at the local or state level by working with others to make a list of significant examples.  Create a walking or driving tour.  Take lots of photos. Meet with local government officials when a building becomes vacant to help them understand why the building “matters”.  Set up a card table near the building & hand out flyers to the locals about getting the building landmarked or at least recognized locally. Let other folks know about the vacancy or threat of demolition via social media and see what plans you can come up with to help save these beauties.  There are lots of great mcm organizations out there that might be interested in helping publicize your effort or provide strategy advice.

If you need a cheering up after this blog post, you might want to explore the mid-century modern buildings section at my website here:



My next blog post will be in a month or two once I’ve combed the last section for the year:  the Signs section.  Wouldn’t be great if I only found a few things to report back about?

And as for the next “real” roadtrip...  Once I’ve finished this “homework”, I’ll take a few little trips here in California.  One little trip up to the Bay Area in April will be to attend & speak at the 2nd (annual?) Neon Speaks event in San Francisco April 26-28.  If you love signs, you GOTTA go:

The Really Big Trip for the year will be in June — a month to wrap up some Texas stuff and then focus on Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

Happy Trails,

dj & the dogs





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