Lonely Planet Writer

California's quirkiest road-side stops snapped throughout the years

A new book has been published that charts unique buildings and quirky roadside attractions that have been built throughout the years in the state of California. From an ice-cream stand shaped like a giant owl to a drive-in topped with a gargantuan donut, California Crazy presents “architectural anomalies” that were designed to draw in passing drivers for snacks, provisions, souvenirs or a quick meal during the days when the automobile industry began to boom in the US.

Toed Inn, 12008 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, 1940.
Toed Inn, 12008 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, 1940. Image by Jim Heimann Collection/Courtesy Taschen

Brimming with the best examples of the architectural genre, California Crazy includes essays exploring the influences that fostered the distinctive architectural movement, as well as identifying the unconventional landscapes and attitudes found on Los Angeles and Hollywood roadsides which allowed these buildings to flourish. The book also focuses on domestic architecture, eccentric signage, and automobiles.

Big Donut Drive-In, 805 West Manchester Boulevard, Inglewood, 1955.
Big Donut Drive-In, 805 West Manchester Boulevard, Inglewood, 1955. Image by Jim Heimann Collection/Courtesy Taschen

Unique buildings were especially prevalent along America’s Sun Belt, and in particular, Southern California. Examples include a chilidog stand shaped like a puppy, a giant red piano at the entrance of a store near Venice Blvd, a restaurant in Los Angeles that was shaped like a derby hat, a roadside sandwich shop shaped like a toad, and a restaurant topped with a larger than life Mexican man in a sombrero. A running theme throughout the publication is buildings that have been designed in exceptional shapes, such as coffee pots, dolls, ice-cream cones, barrels, pigs, cream canisters, fruit and shoes.

Big Red Piano, 2251 Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles, 1977.
Big Red Piano, 2251 Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles, 1977. Image by Jim Heimann Collection/Courtesy Taschen

“Combine a freethinking populace with a desire to reinvent itself, and a climate was created that served as the perfect incubator for the outrageous and amazing,” said Jim Heimann, executive editor for Taschen America, who researched the attractions for the book.

Hoot Hoot I Scream, 1201 Valley Boulevard, San Gabriel, 1932.
Hoot Hoot I Scream, 1201 Valley Boulevard, San Gabriel, 1932. Image by Jim Heimann Collection/Courtesy Taschen

California Crazy is available through Taschen Press, with more information at the official website.