Googie History


1940's Googie Architecture originated in Los Angeles, inspired by Streamline Moderne architecture of the 1930’s and later becoming popular with coffee shops, gas stations, motels and car wash attention-getting architecture and signage. Examples include: Norms, McDonalds, In-N-Out Burger, Denny’s, the LAX Theme Building, Disney’s Tomorrowland, and The Jetson’s cartoon. The future is bright!.


Architect John Lautner designed a Hollywood coffee shop named Googies. The term Googie was the nickname of the coffee shop owner’s wife and evolved into an architectural reference point that later became the name of this mid-century style. Features of the Googie artform can be seen in curvaceous geometric shapes, tall pylons, upswept rooflines, articulated use of steel, neon, and glass.


The Space Race is on and technology is changing peoples’ lives in a good way. The southern California car culture is in full swing. Googie architecture and signage is experiencing its heyday of consumer popularity.


Built in 1962, Five Points Car Wash embodied the Googie architectural style popularized by Douglas Haskell with its 35-foot tall pylons and neon sign pole. The site also included the first self-serve gas station that was later removed along with underground storage tanks. The car wash tunnel, observation hall, polish canopy, gas station canopy, secondary pole sign and primary pole sign constructed for the Urich Oil Company, a local business owned by self-service gas station innovator, George Urich.


Googie Car Wash was bought by an opportunistic businessman who for years attempted to demolish the site though his efforts proved no match for the Whittier Planning folks and the Whittier Conservancy who fought all attempts to destroy the wash tunnel and sign pole. During this time period however, the owner allowed the property to deteriorate badly.


March 12th, The Historic Resources Commission meets to formally establish the site's historic relevance. The outcome resulted in findings that determined wash tunnel and sign pole would be included in the City's Register of Historic Resources as a Local Landmark.


Clearwater Communities discovers the property and realizes that the wash tunnel and sign pole are diamonds in the rough. After multiple meetings with City of Whittier Planning, elected officials, the Whittier Conservancy, Friends of Whittier, community and business leaders, Clearwater commences the arduous purchase of the entire site which included 2.88 acres with four other non-historic buildings.


By April 2017, Clearwater Communities purchased the entire Five Points Car Wash site and starts the approval process to obtain planning approvals and historic clearances to properly renovate the iconic car wash tunnel and sign pole, under the watchful eye of the Whittier Planning Department and Whittier Conservancy while simultaneously improving ingress and egress while adding cutting-edge, green-tech car wash equipment.


The Clearwater renovation and site planning process advances on the path to approvals by complying with and/or exceeding Whittier Municipal Code Section 18.84.050 and CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) best practices. Clearwater decides to name the historic wash: Googie Car Wash to honor its history and the community.


Renovation and site work commence in mid-April 2019 and is substantially complete by October 2019 on time and on budget. Site work is done and the historic 180-foot wash tunnel with nine 35-foot tall pylons renovated. The sign pole is renovated including all new neon lighting. Native, drought tolerant landscape is installed with water-saving drip irrigation. Milkweed is planted to provide sanctuary for the Monarch Butterfly, desperately in need of habitat to reproduce and start to reverse the trend of their plunging population.