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August 29, 2019 11:16 AM   Subscribe

For almost forty years, architectural critic and photographer John Margolies (1940–2016) photographed the most remarkable examples of American roadside buildings and signs. The Library of Congress purchased his archive and lifted all copyright restrictions on the photographs. Public Domain Review presents a selection of highlights.
posted by zamboni (18 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
These are amazing.

"Big Fish Supper Club" would be a great band name.

Peach water tower, Frontage Road, Gaffney, South Carolina; 1988.


Oh goodness.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:22 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


Thank you for the link!

Glad to see that I am not the only person who thought that the Gaffney sign didn't exactly resemble a peach.

My first thought was of Walker Evans, who used to photograph a lot of things like this in black and white.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 11:37 AM on August 29


I definitely had something insightful to say about these... until the peach wiped my mind clean
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 11:50 AM on August 29


Peach water tower, Frontage Road, Gaffney, South Carolina; 1988.

I've driven by that peach more than once, though I don't recall noticing such an, um, intimate view....
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:32 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


I love these so much! Sign month?
posted by capricorn at 12:40 PM on August 29


Gaffney - I know it well
posted by thelonius at 12:42 PM on August 29


I've heard that if you map out historical real estate sales prices in Gaffney, there is a distinct a wedge of depressed home values in the area with the rudest view of the peach.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:47 PM on August 29 [3 favorites]


If the photos seem familiar, turns out there was a post about the LoC's release of the Margolies archive.
posted by zamboni at 1:07 PM on August 29


I love the movie theater section.

Whenever we end up overnight in a small town with a theater, we always make a point of going to see whatever is playing.
There are a surprising number still running on Main St, USA, often in the nearest town to a major summer attraction (beach or national park, etc).
posted by madajb at 1:13 PM on August 29


Fans of the big orange dinosaur in Saugus, MA will like his other Saugus photos (but while he got the giant cactus, he missed the herd of fiberglass cows that used to graze outside the Hilltop; also, Rte. 1 pedants will note that the Ship was actually in Lynnfield).
posted by adamg at 1:24 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


I took this picture of Bob from Bob's Big Boy and had it made into an A1 poster that fit perfectly into the poster frames we had at the office.

Since, at the time, the poster frame was a busty woman advertising an Oktoberfest competition for the sales team (who were not within this particular office room), it was a fantastic replacement. Although, since I'm in Nottingham, nobody knew what the heck it was and it got kinda creepy for people. So I replaced it with another poster, this time of the Grand Canyon, and everyone was happy.

Bob stayed with me and I put him in my local Hackspace's kitchen. But we had a spate of poster ripping (including both times I wallpapered a toilet stall in psychic magazines), and Bob (and the Grand Canyon) disappeared one day and no one was sure where they went.

I miss Bob. I have fond memories of the Bob's in Lakewood, where we used to go whenever we wanted "fancier" food, because you had to sit down and be served. And we'd always go over and pat Bob on his belly and be happy about him.

Maybe I should get him printed again and stick him in my kitchen.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:27 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: The rudest view of the peach.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:29 PM on August 29


My family had a place near Harold's in Spring Hill, FL. It was a great landmark for the family trips because it meant we were almost to my grandparent's place (even if it was only about 90 minutes from my other relative's places in the Tampa Bay area. I know I drove past it at some point around when the photo was taken, and then every few years for most of my life.

My grandparents have since passed, and their place was sold a few years ago, but the dinosaur is still there and operating as Harold's.
posted by Badgermann at 1:36 PM on August 29


The picture of Bob's Java Jive (Route 99, Tacoma, Washington) doesn't really do it justice: I wish there had been a night shot, because you can clearly see that it was outlined in neon. The collection has another photo showing the cafe / cabaret in context and wow, there must have been a lot going on there at night. Sadly, the exterior illumination is all gone now, but I was able to find these current shots of the interior that show it to be excitingly awful. Here's some backstory on the place, including the surprising tidbit that Keanu Reeves wanted to buy the building, and move it to Hawaii.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:28 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Ah, my dad was a friend of John's, and contributed to his book Pump and Circumstance, which is all about Gas Stations.
posted by niicholas at 2:48 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


The Java Jive is one of those treasures nobody goes to but everyone wants to defend when it's threatened.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 3:46 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]




Dorothy Gambrell (Cat and Girl, Very Small Array) presents a different set of highlights from the Margolies collection: Meals of the Catskills.
posted by zamboni at 7:33 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


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