DOWNEY - The new Bob's Big Boy has been honored with the President's Award from the Los Angeles Conservancy, a prestigious award that confirms the restaurant's triumphant comeback after it was decimated in an illegal demolition three years ago.Originally known as Harvey's Broiler before changing its name to Johnie's Broiler in 1968, the diner was "widely considered the best remaining example of 1950s Googie drive-in architecture" in Southern California, the Conservancy said in a statement. "Designed by architect Paul B. Clayton, the combination coffee shop, restaurant and drive-in sported exuberant Googie features, including a 65-foot-long sign that shone like a beacon on popular Firestone Boulevard. "The Broiler soon became the hub of Southern California's booming 1950s cruising culture." The restaurant closed on New Year's Eve 2001 and housed a used car dealership for several years. Attempts to redevelop the property into a strip mall were denied by the city but bulldozers illegally razed most of the property in January 2007. Police stopped the illegal demolition but the historic building had already been mostly destroyed. The only pieces remaining were a portion of the front fa?ßade and the "Johnie's Broiler" signage. In 2008, Bob's Big Boy franchise operator Jim Louder agreed to rebuild the Broiler into a Bob's Big Boy. The city of Downey paid $900,000 to enter into an "Owner Participation Agreement" with Louder that gave the city control of the property's historical architecture, including the towering "fat boy" sign, front fa?ßade and car hop. "The task was extraordinary," the Conservancy said. "Take a historic site that had been largely destroyed and had weathered the elements for nearly two years and reconstruct it to meet current building codes and business requirements while retaining its historic character." Louder and his team collaborated with the Conservancy and city officials to reconstruct the Broiler using preservation standards and original blueprints, mindful that the restaurant needed to remain "a viable business and community asset." The new Bob's Big Boy Broiler opened on Oct. 19, 2009, "rising from the ruins to reclaim its place as a great source of pride for Southern California."
********** Published: April 9, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 51