Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Oldest McDonald's still serving food

Oldest McDonald’s still serving food

Jan. 24, 1984: McDonald’s at corner of Florence Avenue and Lakewood Boulevard in Downey.

The 1953 eatery had just become eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The owner of the land objected.

Staff writer Mathis Chazanov reported in the Jan. 26, 1984, Los Angeles Times:

DOWNEY—Pep Boys spent more than $2 million two years ago to buy a prime corner parcel in Downey, including an old-fashion McDonald’s complete with golden arches that light up at night. But now the federal government has declared the hamburger stand to be an artifact of the 1950s, and Pep Boys has a problem.

According to an announcement last week, the oldest original McDonald’s stand is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, but the auto accessories firm has declined to go along, despite adverse publicity.

“We don’t want to appear to be villains,” said Don Denbo, secretary and general counsel of the company, which is formally known as Pep Boys Manny Moe & Jack of California.

“We didn’t go out of our way to stand in the way something,” Denbo said,”but the law requires that the property owners’ approval is necessary, and from a combination of practical and legal situations, it can seriously impair out future use of the property.”

Specifically, he wondered about the fate of the building–outlined in neon and marked by a tall sign with a scurrying, winkling figure in a chef’s outfit–once its current operators pass from the scene.

“It puts us in a bad position,” he said, expressing concern that designation as a historic site would make it harder to tear the building down if the restaurant goes out of business.

But Roger Williams, 75, who has held the McDonald’s franchise together with his partner, V.H. (Bud) Landon, since it opened Aug. 18, 1953, is in no mood to retire despite age.

“We like the business,” he said. …

Williams and Landon learned their trade at the feet of the original McDonald brothers in San Bernardino, putting down $2,500 for the Downey franchise before the McDonalds sold the whole operation to the late Ray Kroc.

The McDonalds sold eight original franchises in all, but only the Downey stand remains independent. …

The designation as a historic place came at the instigation of Alan Hess, a Marin County architect who spotted the Downey McDonald’s while studying at UCLA.

“It’s a very dynamic building with springing parabolic arches, a wedged roof and very appealing neon glowing at night,” he said in a telephone interview, describing the structure as a historical document.

“It tells us how people lived in a particular time,” he said. “Especially since the 1950s were different than the 1980s. There was much more optimism about technology than we feel today, and a lot of these ideas were embodied in the original McDonald’s.”

The Downey Historical Society agreed, endorsing Hess’ nomination of the building as noteworthy because it was “a forerunner of the multibillion-dollar fast-food industry.”  …

In 1990 McDonald’s Corp. acquired the site. Damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the restaurant was closed.

But as reported in an Oct. 11, 1996, Associated Press story, preservationists had battled successfully “to save the landmark.”

“The McDonald’s stand, with 20 outdoor stools, will reopen under an agreement with Pep Boys Inc., the auto parts giant that owns the property. McDonald’s has begun renovations and improvements, including the addition of a gift shop, museum and outdoor seating for 50.”

Feb. 14, 2016: McDonald’s and Speedee the Chef sign built in 1953. Downey,, CA. Located at the corner of Florence Ave., and Lakewood Blvd.

Feb. 14, 2016: McDonald’€™s and Speedee the Chef sign built in 1953. Credit: Scott Harrison.

Feb. 14, 2016: McDonald’s Speedee the Chef sign built in 1953. Downey,, CA. Located at the corner of Florence Ave., and Lakewood Blvd.

Feb. 14, 2016: Speedee the Chef sign at the corner of Florence Avenue and Lakewood Boulevard. Credit: Scott Harrison.

Feb. 14, 2016: Museum at McDonald’s in Downey,, CA. Located at the corner of Florence Ave., and Lakewood Blvd.

Feb. 14, 2016: Museum at historic McDonald’€™s in Downey. Credit: Scott Harrison.


  1. May 13, 2016, 4:11 am

    good work.

    By: save food
  2. May 17, 2016, 2:25 am

    Woow!!………..i love mcdonalds yummy food services……………………….

    By: AkhilaES
  3. May 19, 2016, 2:52 am

    hmmm nice…………..

    By: musicteachersydney

Add a comment or a question.

If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate. Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.


Required, will not be published

Browse All Photos »