L.A.'s Space-Age Drive-Through Makes History
By Margaret Foster | Online Only | Jan. 5, 2009
A smiling cow has lured drivers to the Googie-style Driftwood Dairy-Port in El Monte, Calif., since 1961. Now the drive-through milk store and grocery is officially eligible for the state register of historic places.
The State Historical Resources Commission's unanimous decision on Nov. 7 means that the structure is considered a historic resource under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). By law, any future development plans must consider preservation alternatives that would adaptively reuse the Jetsons-esque structure.
Members of the Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee first heard about the possible redevelopment of the Dairy-Port in 2007. Owner Marwit Capital, based in Newport Beach, Calif., announced plans to build a new strip mall on the site and objected to the site's nomination. In a letter to the California State Historical Resources Commission, Driftwood officials promised to "vigorously fight any effort to continue with the nomination process."
But Marcello Vavala, residential chair of the Modern Committee, applauds the ruling on the modernism blog Lotta Living. "This successful nomination sets an important precedent for recent past structures throughout California, and for El Monte, which has yet to enact a historic preservation ordinance."
Despite the decision, fans of Googie in California remain concerned. Without a preservation-minded owner and local protection, they say, there's still a chance that the Dairy Port or its sign could be torn down.
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