11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Oldest Surviving McDonald's

Year Listed: 1994
Location: Downey, California
Threat: Development


Photo: Marc Evans


With its 30-foot golden arches and shiny red-and-white striped tiles, the oldest surviving McDonald's symbolizes America's love affair with the automobile and the eye-catching vigor of roadside architecture.

Built in 1953, the Downey, California, landmark was among the first stands franchised by the McDonald Brothers themselves. Ray Kroc, who later assumed ownership of the nationwide chain, used the Downey stand as the model for his first franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois.

McDonald's had long planned to close the Downey stand because of weak sales and the absence of such profitable amenities as a drive-thru window and indoor seating when minor damage from the January 1994 Northridge Earthquake almost sealed its fate.