Johnie's Broiler Reopens as Bob's Big Boy........by Mike Buler

     The Broiler is back! Nearly three years after its partial demolition, the original Harveys and longtime Johnie's Broiler, reopened in its third incarnation as Bob's Big Boy Broiler in October 2009....The Broilers comeback is nothing short of miraculous, standing as a testament to the tireless efforts of the Coalition to Rebuild the Broiler, the City of Downey, franchise owner Jim Louder, Modern Committee chair emeritus Adriene Biondo, and others who work to ensure its resurrection.
        When it opened in 1958, Harvey's Broiler was the largest drive-in ever built in Southern California.. It quickly became a integral part of the region's cruising culture.. The combination coffee shop/drive-in restaurant featured a boomerang-shaped car canopy with ninety-eight covered parking spaces. The restaurant was sold in 1965, and the new owner renamed it to Johnies Broiler.
     On December 31,2001, its owner closed the Broiler and leased it to its new tenant who operated it as a used car lot.. This period saw several unauthorized alterations to the building, including the dismantling of the kitchen, removal of the counter seating, and removal of portions of the terrazzo floors... The final blow came on January 7, 2007, when a rag-tag wrecking crew started bulldozing without permits, fencing off the property, disconnecting the electricity, or completing asbestos abatement.
Only a portion of the front facade and its distinctive signage, including the famous "Fat Boy" mascot, remained...
     After intense public outcry, the Downey City Council moved quickly to impose a year-long development moratorium on the site.. Spurred by the cities commitment of $900,000 toward the reconstruction project, Bob's Big Boy franchise owner Jim Louder entered into a long-term lease in April 2008 with plans to reclaim the Googie landmark from the pile of debris left in the wake of its destruction... The Coalition to Rebuild the Broiler and the Conservancy worked closly with the city of Downey, Archeion Neveda architecture to help ensure that the project preserved much of what remained while staying faithfull to the original design...Schematic drawings for the new restaurant were based on the original blueprints by Harveys architect Paul Clayton
      Although not a exact reconstruction of the original Broiler, the new building exhibits an attention to detail that is remarkable.. The massive broiler sign was restored sensitively adapted for its moniker, with a vintage Big Boy stature purchased by Jim Louder on Ebay and hauled down from Sacramento on a flatbed truck... Much of the historic terrazzo was retained, with new infill terrazzo selected to match the original: the rock walls were salvaged and meticulously rebuilt: and even the the textured popcorn ceiling was reapplied to the reconstructed soffit...With Big Boy gleefully rotating on his former perch, Fat Boy is now enjoying retirement propped up next to the rebuilt canopy and basking in the glow of the Broiler's re-lit neon..
      "Not only does this project restore a historic icon for our city and preserve a part of our legacy" beams former Downey Mayor Mario Guerra, "but it also provides tremendous benefits to the city from an economic development standpoint by creating a viable business venture that employs' 185 people..
    The Broiler's reopening is the culmination of years of grassroots advocacy, originating long before the illegal demolition..
The Conservancy's Modern Committee was an early leader, helping to establish the Friends of Johnies in 2002 and spearheading efforts to qualify the building for the California Register ... In the wake of the Boilers partial destruction, the Friends of Johnies re-grouped as the coalition to Rebuild the Boiler, forming an alliance of preservationist, vintage car enthusiast, and students...
    The amazing story of resurrecting the Broiler is definitely one for the history books." muses Adriene Biondo. " a half-century later, the innovative Googie architecture and fabulous 1950's signage is again stopping traffic on Firestone Boulevard.. What was old is new again, as families and a new generation of SOCal cruisers rediscover carhop service and experience a real 1958 drive-in"
       Article reprinted from Los Angeles Conservancy News......Submitted by Marsha Caddel (Davis)  W'56