Armet & Davis in Sacramento: Remembering Eldon Davis

Sad day in Googieland, my friends. Eldon Davis, of Armet, Davis, Newlove Architects in Los Angeles passed away last Friday. I've posted before about their work here in Sacramento and wanted to elaborate further today. More on that below but first a little history.

(Aside: I've been hobbling around post-surgery and became aware of Mr. Davis' passing via the personal and public Facebook pages of Alan Hess, Mid-Century Modern Fresno, John Crosse of Southern California Architectural History, MH of Modernesia, and SH of Modern Tulsa to name a few. Many thanks to them for alerting me to the news.)

"With architect Louis Armet, Davis opened a local firm in 1947 and developed a reputation for being willing to try almost anything to catch the attention of motorists who sped by.

The architects were chief proponents of Googie, named for a now-defunct cafe in West Hollywood, and derided by critics in the 1950s and 1960s 'who didn't think a lot of our work but we didn't care,' said Victor Newlove, a partner in the firm who started as an intern in the 1960s.

With their soaring and exaggerated roof lines, their buildings appeared to defy gravity, a structural innovation for which Davis was largely responsible....
Neon signs became a trademark, and they devised an animated sign for Pann's, a coffee shop in Westchester. Run by the same family since it opened in 1958, the restaurant is probably the best preserved example of Davis' work, Newlove said....

Other Davis designs include prototypes for local Denny's and Bob's Big Boy restaurants, blueprints that were exported across the country.

'They brought modern architecture to the daily life of the average Angeleno,' said Alan Hess, who wrote the 2004 book "Googie Redux."

'There's a great deal of interest and affection for their buildings,' Hess said. 'The work of Armet and Davis is as significant to Southern California as Richard Neutra or Rudolph Schindler.'"

During my microfilm searches, I've run across three buildings by Armet & Davis in Sacramento thus far. The following is by no means an exhaustive list but simply what I've verified to date.

1962: SAM'S BIG TOP RESTAURANT. (Note the similarities to Norm's in picture above!)

From my microfilm research, Sacramento Bee, February 11, 1962, page D12 -- "DOWNTOWN RESTAURANT -- Construction is scheduled to start at 16th and K Streets about March 1st on the Big Top, a restaurant to be operated by Pioneer Restaurants, Inc., headed by Sam Gordon. The facility will occupy the site of the former Stan's Drive in. Containing 3,650 square feet of floor space, the restaurant will feature 24 hour booth and counter service. It will have seating accommodations for 97 persons and parking space in the rear for 45 cars. The restaurant will be decorated in a circus theme."

Sadly, Sam's Big Top Restaurant at the corner of 16th & K Streets is no longer there. But thanks to the power of microfilm research, we can enjoy the pictures of it after it was newly constructed:

1964: EPPIE'S COFFEE SHOP. I've written about this still existing but unoccupied building before. But here are some "new" pictures from my microfilm research.

Rendering from the Sacramento Bee, Sunday Jan 19, 1964 p. C6 -- "Angular roof lines are key feature of Louis Armet's design for Eppie's Coffee Shop, a $250,000 development on which work has begun at 30th and N Streets"

Photo from my microfilm research - Sacramento Bee, Sunday June 21, 1964 p. D24 -- "OPERATING - Eppie's Restaurant and Coffee Shop, a $285,000 folded roof structure, opened last week at 30th and N Streets, a corner on which one motel was recently built and construction of another is about to begin. The restaurant is operated by Sacramento caterer Eppie Johnson under a lease from Edwin J. Bedell, former capital hotel man and restauranteur. The structure was designed by the Los Angeles architectural firm of Armet and Davis."


Photo from my microfilm research, Sacramento Bee, Saturday August 17, 1968 p. D5 -- "NEW AREA RESTAURANT - Eppie's Restaurant No. 2 opened last Thursday at 6431 Florin Road. The restaurant has a California modern decore (sic) in an orange color scheme. The Lawrence Construction Co. of Sacramento was the contractor for the 4,000 square foot building designe by the architect (sic)  firm of Armet & Davis of Los Angeles. The restaurant represents a total investment of $390,000."

I'll be keeping an eye out for more Armet & Davis designs in Sacramento. For more pictures and information on Googie architecture in Sacramento, please visit my incomplete and ever-expanding Flickr set.