L.A.'s Space-Age Drive-Through Makes History


The Driftwood Dairy-Port, built in 1962, is not protected by local laws because El Monte, Calif., lacks a preservation ordinance.

Credit: Adriene Biondo

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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Submitted by Good Grief is a Dope at: January 8, 2010
Good Grief: I'm ashamed of myself for responding to a troll like you but just because no historic "event" took place on this site doesn't mean it is not a culturally or historically significant place. Based on the overwhelming efforts for preservation, it is obvious there is great love for this one-of-kind architectual jem. But maybe you're right...yet another mini-mall on this site would be soo much better.

Submitted by Brian at: February 10, 2009
You can see a large photo of the Dairy port right here: http://www.you-are-here.com/modern/driftwood.html I hope its ok to post links here.

Submitted by Good Grief at: January 12, 2009
Who are you people to tell someone what to do with their personal property? What historic event took place at this diner that makes someone think it must be "saved"? Any property that you wish to "save" you should be willing to buy.

Submitted by Retrocool at: January 9, 2009
I am sooo glad this place was saved. I think I will have to take a drive down there for some milk.