The Los Angeles Conservancy just posted the following on their Facebook page, and with both cities of Los Angeles’s and West Hollywood’s track records on tearing down cultural landmarks, we took notice.
“We just learned that the new owners of Norms La Cienega have a demolition permit for the iconic Googie coffee shop at 470-478 La Cienega Blvd. The Conservancy and our Modern Committee submitted a local landmark nomination for Norms late last year that the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission will hear tomorrow (Thursday). We don’t anticipate the new owners acting on their demo permit today, but just in case, if you’re in the area, please keep an eye on it. If you see anything happening – such as the removal of the signage (fence going up, big equipment, guys in hard hats), please call the Conservancy immediately at (213) 623-2489. We’ll keep you posted.”
This particular Norm’s was built in 1957 by architects Louis Armet and Eldon Davis and is a great (and increasingly rare) example of “Googie” design, which was once a commonplace style used in diners and coffee shops.
Already the comments posted below the posting were gearing up for a fight. “How many of those who want to save this place actually ate there?” asked one online commentator. “Maybe they’d still be in business. Save the building for what? Who will compensate the owner?”
These are very valid points. When an object or location has outlived its usefulness, shouldn’t it be replaced, especially in a busy city that continues to thrive and grow? Places have life spans, just like people do, and people do not live forever. Norman Royback opened his first restaurant in 1949 at Sunset and Vine and the chain grew to become a staple in L.A. The chain remained in the family until 2014.
To answer the above-mentioned commentator, I personally have eaten there numerous times and the place was always hopping, so I don’t feel bad for the developers who bought the property. When a location is already considered something of a cultural and stylistic landmark, why would you buy it in the first place if you’re not in the restaurant business? Clearly they planned to tear it down from the beginning, regardless of how well it was doing.
The so-called Googie style is a distinctly Los Angeles-based futuristic style, developed in the mid-1940′s and continuing through the mid-1960′s, inspired by car culture, jets, the Atomic Age, and the Space Age. Many examples of Googie architecture have been demolished over the years, and while this might be good news to those who want everything in Los Angeles to look like the same bland, culturally stale breadbox, this is after all a tourist town.
When most of the shops lining Rodeo Drive can be found in local shopping malls in Peoria or Cincinatti, why would tourists bother coming here? The answer is simple: to see the things they can’t see at home. Movie and TV stars. Sunshine and warm weather in the winter months. And the rapidly-dwindling list of pop cultural landmarks where people like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean and any number of other celebrity once frequented. And if there is no Chateau Marmont, forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, or Formosa Cafe to see in Hollywood Babylon, then why come here at all?
To learn more about this issue check out the Los Angeles Conservancy website.