John Margolies Photographs Remind Us of Old LA Icons

Mcdonalds John Margolies

Once upon a time, Los Angeles was dotted with roadside architecture. Most of these iconic buildings still exist, but they no longer have the same characteristics. Thankfully, John Margolies took photos in the 1970’s so that we can continue to remember LA back in the day.

John Margolies

John Margolies was famed as a photographer of whimsical and vernacular architecture. When he died at the age of 76, he was the country’s most renowned photographer of the roadside buildings that dotted the highways.

What do I mean by vernacular architecture? It’s simple.  It is architecture that is more than square boxes that reached out to passers-by because of their unique shape. He photographed a poultry store shaped like a duck, a zoo entrance shaped like an alligator’s mouth, a fish restaurant shaped like a muskie, and a doughnut shop shaped like a donut.

He found his subjects throughout the US, photographing:

  • Signage
  • Motels
  • Mini golf courses
  • Main streets
  • Hotels and motels
  • Resorts
  • Amusement Parks
  • Barbershops
  • Banks
  • Billboards
  • Movie theaters
  • Gas stations
  • And more

Photos From Los Angeles

For years, the photos John Margolies took of Los Angeles remained forgotten. However, a recent influential blog posted about his collection in the Library of Congress.

With over 11,000 photos available online, Margolies only has 72 depicting LA. The rest include photos from around California and the rest of the United States. His most prodigious photos are from New York and New Jersey.

Here are a few of my favorite photos. I hope you enjoy!

Coca-Cola Bottling Company, giant Coke bottle corner detail, 14th & Central Avenue, Los Angeles, California

coke bottle John Margolies

Argo’s Coffee Shop sign, Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, California

Argos Coffee Shop John Margolies


Bob’s Big Boy statue sign, La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, California

Bobs Big Boy John Margolies


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