Thursday, June 29, 2017

Googie Architecture Online goes offline

A few days ago, the website I created in 1998, Googie Architecture Online, went kaput. (Remnants can be found via the Wayback Machine.) Life has been crazy lately, and by the time I realized I'd failed to send my new credit card number, it was too late. I'm sort of sad about that, but the site had really overstayed its welcome by many years anyway. It had served its purpose, and then some, and whatever content still has value will see the light of day in other forms. (I'll be putting some choice bits on this blog in the coming days and months.) In any case, people who want to know more about Googie architecture these days can just hop on Amazon and buy either or both of Alan Hess' definitive books on the subject: Googie: Coffee Shop Architecture and Googie Redux.
In the 1990s, when I created the site, the "World Wide Web" was in its relative infancy. I wanted to teach myself to build a website, and do so using a topic that wasn't otherwise addressed online yet. I'd just read Alan's first book and was truly inspired -- Inspired enough, in fact, that I was already driving around Orange County, taking photos of what little Googie architecture remained. (It turned out much of it was in the process of being bulldozed at that time.) And of course, I was jotting notes about the places as I photographed them.

So the new website neatly knitted together my loves of photography, writing, historical research, and Space Age architecture. But I expected little to come of it.

Months later, I read an article in the Orange County Register about a librarian at the Anaheim Public Library, Jane Newell, who was ALSO documenting local Googie buildings, even as the City's new "good taste" edicts felled them rapidly.

Who was this woman, I wondered? Why was she doing this great thing? We should work TOGETHER!

I called her and she turned out to be enthusiastic and smart and right on the same page with me about Googie's importance to Orange County. She was photographing sites, collecting related ephemera like postcards and matchbooks, and gathering other historical information however she could. We made plans for a lunch meeting at the former Bob's Big Boy (then Coco's) on Harbor Blvd. at Chapman Ave.

The first thing I asked Jane was, "How did you find out about Googie, and what made you think to tackle this project?"

"Well," she said, "I came across this website, you see..."
It was the first moment I fully appreciated the impact one local historian's efforts can make. Without Googie Architecture Online, Jane, Alan, and Phil Brigandi (who also saw my website and later remembered the Googie panel discussion Jane and I did with Daniel Paul at CSUF) I would not have doubled-down on local history and made it my life's work. Nor would I have met so many of the good people I know, admire and love today.

So it's with some sadness that Googie Archiecture Online rides off into the sunset. But it was looking pretty long in the tooth, and Lord knows there are other, more compelling sources of information to be had these days. And like I said,... My interest in Googie will continue to pop up in other work I do.

Last year, I called together a large roomful of people, including my hero Alan Hess, to discuss creating a county-wide historical preservation group, to protect historic buildings and sites not just in one area or of one architectural type, but of all historically or architecturally significant stripes. The kid who put together Googie Architecture Online would have been terrified to call, let alone run, that meeting. But one led directly to the other.

Thanks for everything, Googie Architecture Online.

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