Seattle Googie

Googie architecture is most closely associated with the popular architecture and culture of 1950s and ’60s Southern California, but the Seattle area had its share as well. Though quicky disappearing, there are still some remnants of this modern and space-age look around Seattle. Our most famous is, of course, the Space Needle!

Googie architecture features bold angles, sweeping cantilevered roofs and pop-culture design. It was a way to grab and hold the attention of a budding car-culture, as we sped by on the freeways. It was a glimpse of the future, today.

Many “serious” architects decried Googie as frivolous or crass, and even today its worth is not valued in some places. These architectural gems are being bulldozed with hardly a complaint in many towns. But today we recognize how perfectly its form followed its function.

Many people are rediscovering the Googie look and feel, and are adopting it for their own designs, including some architects. We hope to see more “googie” inspired buildings as the new century progresses.

This slightly Googie Safeway, with its grand arch of a roof, met the wrecking ball in downtown Bellevue in 2008. It was one of the last few 1950s vintage buildings in the area.


The very Googie Vital 5 Art Gallery in downtown Seattle had its last show in October 2002 and met the wrecking ball sometime in 2003. Couldn’t Paul Allen have bought and saved this building? He owns everything else around that neighborhood….


Scary Pine City Inn located on 4th Avenue South & Michigan in the industrial area of Seattle (now the Martin Court Apartments). Please God, don’t make me stay there…..!


And don’t make me eat here! (It’s now Aurora Rents, with the Googie roof removed.)

I’ll eat here instead!

In 1950, Peter Canlis hired Roland Terry, who was later to become the dean of Northwest architecture, to design this totally googie restaurant. Terry’s sweeping and timeless building welcomed guests with a great stone fireplace, a span of angled windows to capture the view, and a glistening copper charcoal broiler.



Okay, this McDonald’s in Everett is pretty obvious. But I just couldn’t resist the juxtaposition with the equally Googie auto dealership in the backround.

Don’t you love this place? It’s located in Eastgate, sort of the poor man’s Bellevue. Look closely at the sign on the left side of the building “Closing — Thanks for Your Business”.
Another Googie gem bites the dust.


This building, which housed Cellophane Square in Bellevue until 2008, has beautiful lines and a upswept angle. Probably home of a future Pottery Barn or something.

Another Downtown Bellevue jewel (a former Phillips 66 gas station), razed for a condo tower.



I picture this Denny’s painted orange or maybe a Harvest Gold/Avocado Green combination, with orange & yellow naugahyde interior booths. I think someone tried to “modernize” it or make it more tasteful. I’ll try to find some older photographs from the archives….
Lil’ Jon restaurant near Factoria. Stop by, say Hello, and have a bite!





This motel has lost a lot of its Googie aspects, but the fabulous sign still remains.


Do you like old signage? Then check out the “Retro Motels of Highway 99” website.


The signage is definitely cooler than the building.

I will not comment on the food.
This sign, located on a plate glass-front building on Jackson and Rainier Avenue (now an architectural office), is a great example of a 1950’s font in neon.

You’re going to miss this stuff when it’s gone!

This is an example from the “Road Side America” campaign that Tom Cushwa helped create for Nickelodeon. It was awarded 3 Broadcast Design Awards. To see more examples, click here: It’s all pretend, but it’s great! Cushwa is a talented illustrator and animator. To contact him, call 212 228 2615.

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Love Googie Architecture? How about Dingbats? Click to view “Dingbats I Have Loved”, a photo essay featuring 1950’s dingbats, fonts and signage on Googie and Mid-Century apartments in Seattle.


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Marlow Harris
Coldwell Banker Bain Associates
1661 East Olive Way
Seattle WA 98102
Direct Line: 206-329-3795