Downey Conservancy urges re-use of Cadillac site

Photo courtesy Downey Historical Society

Photo courtesy Downey Historical Society

DOWNEY – The Downey Conservancy, a local non-profit organization that works to preserve Downey’s cultural resources, released a statement this week that the former Bob Spreen Cadillac dealership on Studebaker Road be preserved and re-used by future tenants. Located at Studebaker Road and Florence Avenue, the dealership is being prepped for demolition to make the site more attractive to developers, officials said.

“(This) dealership is an important example of a roadside architectural style that the community should be proud of,” the conservancy said in a statement. “It is the conservancy’s hope that the property owner would consider working with potential tenants to save important parts of this site, especially the centerpiece fountain feature, seen for many years in television commercials throughout Southern California.”

Alan Hess, noted architectural historian and author of 19 books, recently wrote about the property:

“A unique midcentury building: Bob Spreen Cadillac in Downey (Florence Ave/Studebaker Rd.) Designed by John Andre Gougeon who still practices in Pasadena; he also designed the Pasadena Presbyterian Church (585 E. Colorado Blvd. -- worth visiting.)

“How good an architect is Gougeon? Well, none other than John Lautner offered him a job because of his skill in designing with concrete. Like Bob’s Broiler (Paul Clayton, architect), like the oldest McDonald’s (Stanley Meston, architect), this is another highlight of Downey’s extraordinary collection of midcentury modern architecture.

“The car display feature -- a modern version of a Tholos, a circular Greek temple -- is a unique feature from the height of LA car culture: the sculpted overlapping columns and capitals would shelter Detroit’s latest Cadillac design, while the fountain circling it appeared to lift it effortlessly into the air. This is a great and singular building, an excellent example of Downey’s many contributions to Modern architecture, and worth saving. A building of this quality calls for a creative re-use, just as Downey stepped up and saved Bob’s Broiler.

“Too often developers and cities seek a flat, blank site by default, but that is not always the best solution for the city’s livability or quality of life. Rarely does the replacement building come up to the quality of a good midcentury building like this.”

To learn more about the Downey Conservancy, go to



Published: Dec. 4, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 34