“Exclamation points of the landscape.”
July 7, 2017 11:58 AM   Subscribe

A giant coffee pot that doubles as a restaurant, drive-in movie theaters, old gas pumps and vintage hotels: these are but a few of the examples included in the John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive. This summer, the Library of Congress made its Margolies holdings—one of the most comprehensive documentary studies of 20th-century U.S. vernacular architecture—available digitally on the website.

Over the span of nearly 40 years, Margolies took more than 11,000 color-slide photographs of vernacular structures across America’s highways, byways and main streets. Traversing the country, he was drawn to the architecture that came to define travel by car—motels, diners and gas stations—but also to quintessentially American oddities: buildings in the shape of dinosaurs, the sculpted concrete and plaster obstacles of miniature golf courses and parks featuring attractions from parrots to petrified rocks.
posted by Chrysostom (13 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
This rabbit hole is delightful and amazing. Thank you so much, Chrysostom!
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:04 PM on July 7, 2017

Was so excited to see this news.
posted by Miko at 12:12 PM on July 7, 2017

Bob's Java Jive! A piece of my youth. There are stories, but out of respect for the survivors, the details will remain blurry and apocryphal.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:30 PM on July 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

nb RoadsideAmerica.com. Related? In any case, same turf and quality quality. I miss the Long Island duck--only saw it once.
posted by hexatron at 1:14 PM on July 7, 2017

And don't forget the actual place called Roadside America located in bucolic Shartlesville, PA.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:17 PM on July 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here's a Margolies photo of the Roadside America sign in Shartlesville, PA
posted by BooneTheCowboyToy at 1:57 PM on July 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, dude, I have so eaten at the Java Jive!

And what decor when I was there in days of yore: booths hand painted with a jungle & big cat patterns -- vines and palm and philodendron leaves, tiger stripes and leopard spots, oh, it was something.

And being situated in a light industrial neighborhood beneath a soaring freeway overpass gives it an additional charm.

The only fly in the ointment was the owner at that time had a penchant for pet monkeys in glass cages, including what looked like an albino orangutan. And animal rights aside, did you know nonhominid primates have some powerful aromas ?

Gives your hash browns a whole new flavor!
posted by y2karl at 2:33 PM on July 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, and drunken assholes frequently banged on the glass to make the monkeys freak out.

But yeah, the decor was like mainlining middle-America's wet dream of a psilocybin overdose. The omnipresent Christmas lights alone were worth the price of admission. And the "entertainment" was Chuck Barris verite.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:49 PM on July 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I was growing up, my father worked in the original Tishman Building (from which John Tishman started a chain of skyscrapers, but this one wasn't all that tall), which was at the same intersection as the Ambassador Hotel with its famous nightclub The Coconut Grove and on another corner the Original Brown Derby restaurant, the one actually shaped like a hat. On those rare occasions when Widdle Kid Wittler visited his dad at work, he always took me to lunch at The Derby, which I think he enjoyed because it was the only times he went there without business clients and three martinis. And we always got a booth inside the big hat itself. Never tried the Famous Cobb Salad, because the Widdle Kid didn't like salads (but they made a decent hamburger), and I never ventured into the hotel across the street.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:00 PM on July 7, 2017

The Java Jive is still operating (I think, sans monkeys) and I have never been there. It looks ripe for a Meetup!
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:59 PM on July 7, 2017

Some things are better imagined than experienced in real life: this is one. Apart from being too far for me, the place is very tiny inside with much less room than the George & Dragon Pub fka the Midget Tavern.
posted by y2karl at 4:09 PM on July 7, 2017

It's put together like a place that wants to attract business, but at least back in the day it was a true dive bar. A drinking hole for regulars and locals who know the score. The exception being that friends of music acts were always somewhat welcome to drink, given that they only booked small-time local bands with the kind of following who could easily fit into the joint and still leave room for the regulars passed out at the bar. It's a trip, but it's about as meet-up friendly as a Greyhound Station.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:25 PM on July 7, 2017

Woah, those are some nice color scans at very a decent resolution. The high resolution .tiff download is 1.4 x 1.0 inches at 3500 dpi which would print very nicely at 8x10. I may need to do some printing.
posted by octothorpe at 5:37 PM on July 7, 2017

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