For almost the last two years, I've been living back here on the West Coast in what you could essentially say is my hometown. Here on the Peninsula, life is certainly running at a different pace than it did in New York City, not to mention Tokyo. It's nice to come home, take a breath, and rest in the peace and quiet the suburbs afford you sometimes. Still, I crave the cold, hard multisensory stimulation of big cities and when driving into San Francisco's downtown when I have a death wish won't cut it, I head out of the house to find a local spot to explore. This past week I took an afternoon to walk around downtown San Carlos, California, whose Laurel Street main drag is quickly becoming the hot spot for restaurants and yuppie storefronts on the Peninsula.
It turns out Laurel Street, quiet and set back just one block away from the hustle of El Camino Real, the train tracks, and plopped halfway between highways 101 and 280, has been remarkably well-preserved from its obvious heyday in the 1940s and 1950s. As a huge fan of historic and midcentury architecture, it was a delicious treasure trove of well-loved and well-kept buildings just waiting for my adoration!
I had my camera with me and was immediately inspired by the lines and colors of San Carlos' historic buildings, for fashion, of course. The White Oak Drive-In Cleaners above at 1200 Belmont Avenue in San Carlos is a perfect example of midcentury architecture. Note the Googie-influenced curving street-facing wall that turns what would normally be a plain concrete box into a wonderfully Jetsons-esque structure.
San Carlos has preserved (or restored) the old streetlamps and painted them white, as you can see in the photo above--the Victorian profile of the white streetlamp contrasts with the voluptuous, heavy building and its fabulous original pink and white sign!
Check it out, as we get closer--
Yes, the dry cleaners is connected to a two-story apartment building, classic midcentury profile and to my mind, shows that someone did some excellent urban planning to provide both residential and commercial opportunities when the White Oak Drive-In was built. In my attempts to do research online, I found no citations for the address itself, so I can't tell if it was always a drive-in cleaners or a fabulous 1950s venue for James Dean wannabes and their full-skirted, Rayban Wayfarer-wearing girlfriends.
Seriously, how awesome is their sign? It's what makes me think they have been in business since at least 1960, and the building likely dates from the 1940s when this area experienced a huge wartime and post-war boom in building homes and businesses for young families. San Carlos is not your normal Wild West California town, with very few Victorian-era buildings left and a surprisingly substantial strip-mall style cluster of building constituting the downtown, providing a steady flow of plain but stylistically interesting storefronts for local businesses. Like all micentury design and architecture enthusiasts, signage is a particular favorite of mine, I can't get enough of it! Just goes to show, it's not just Hollywood and Route 66 where you can see great midcentury architecture, walk down to your city center and open your eyes for some great, historic, delicious design left over from the 1940s-1960s.
Obviously, I came home inspired by what I saw and just had to make a Polyvore to reflect the best design elements of this building:
Inspired by: White Oak Drive-In Cleaners, San Carlos, CA by periodicstyle featuring kate spade accessories
See the fabulous orange Wayfarers (a must), the 1950s saddle-shoe inspired flat sneakers for the girl who walks to work and traipses about town, the slightly more feminine accessories to soften the blow of a highly structured outfit. The building's strongly contrasting orange line on a field of forest green makes me think of unusual color combinations for greens and oranges, two colors I would normally never pair together. (Really, what color tights are you supposed to wear with a green dress or outfit? Black? Or is that too uniform-y?) I won't lie, when I saw the White Oak Drive-In Cleaners, I thought to myself, "This is Joanie Holloway AS A BUILDING!" Thus, the lady herself has to be featured in that fabulous green dress, could we love her any more?
So we'll bid farewell and say thank you to the White Oak Drive-In Cleaners for the fashion inspiration they've inspired, in the most unexpected of places. On behalf of all of America's underappreciated and forgotten downtowns, every city's architectural history has something to offer us, and remember you can always look to the past to inject a breath of fresh air into your fashionable life!