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The surprise demolition that was stopped by authorities on January 7, 2007 has raised many comments from the community.

Johnie's Broiler
Photo by RoadsidePeek.com


Here's some of the notes that have been sent into RoadsidePeek, added with the permission of the authors. More stories can be found at JohniesBroiler.com.

RP Note : Many thanks should go to Adriene Biondo of the Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee. I have no doubt that it is only because of her tireless efforts for the last several years that Johnie's has survived to this day.


Greetings,

I am very sad to report that Johnies was suddenly demolished without permits or warning starting at approximately 3:30 PM Sunday evening. The owner claims no knowledge prior to contact by the city. He arrived at the scene at around 8:45 pm and was questioned by authorities. A crowd appeared as others just drove by in a state of disbelief. The sign is still standing, but it appears to be buckling from the strain.

Too sad.....

John M. Benton
Benton Performance

Please let Adriene (Biondo, from the Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee) know that I share her passion for this type of architecture and feel quite a personal loss in this premature demolition. I feel that a great crime has been perpetrated here and our children will lose out on experiencing and appreciating this great style. Thank you very much for posting these pics. I have posted this info on the Jalopy Journal as well on their HAMB forum which is worldwide and is already garnering outrage and should be able to spread the word of such a great loss. Lastly I will say that all is not lost here, because the original sign still stands and perhaps a benefactor could see what had transpired and perhaps curtail this carnage and restore it to her original glory.

Sincerely,

Kevin Preciado

Harvey's Broiler Razed Illegally!!!!!!!!!!!! - THE H.A.M.B.

Hi,

I just emailed the city council members to urge them to stop foot dragging and put up the necessary $$ to purchase the site and rebuild. The conservancy people seem to look at this as as illegal act that should be prosecuted, as opposed to having the city do somehting abouty the site now that the illegal act has been done. The focus should not be on conviction, but to urge the city to add the site to their portfolio on the basis that besides all of the obvious heritage, land in SoCal is good as an investment. Is there anything that you can suggest to help this along, and can you get your Conservancy friends to get on track and start appealing to the city to do something about the building instead of about the owners?? There is a process to take care of the illegal acts, but no process to help what's left of the building remain standing and ultimately get rebuilt.

Thom Taylor

WHAT A BUMMER!

I SPENT A LOT OF NIGHTS CRUISING HARVEYS IN 1960-1963..GRADUATED FROM LYNWOOD HIGH IN ’63. THE MEMORIES ARE STILL SO FRESH I CAN STILL TASTE THE HOT CHOCOLATE ON A COLD NIGHT AND EVEN THE (CHOLESTEROL LADEN) GRAVY FRIES. I AM STUNNED THAT THIS HORRIBLE THING HAS HAPPENED TO SUCH A LANDMARK! I HAVE BEEN LIVING AND WORKING IN ATLANTA FOR OVER 10 YEARS AND WHENEVER WORKS CALLS ME TO L.A. I WOULD ALWAYS “DO THE CRUISE” WHICH WAS A ROUND ABOUT FROM LONG BEACH BLVD AND COMPTON BLVD WHICH WOULD TAKE US FROM JERRY’S BBQ (GOT PLENTY OF STORIES ABOUT THAT PLACE) NORTH TO SOUTH GATE WHERE WE WOULD END UP AT THE DONUT SHOP ON TWEEDY BLVD AND MAKE OUR WAY TO A&W AT TWEEDY AND ATLANTIC..THEN EVERYBODY HEADED FOR HARVEY’S..BITCHEN CARS (GUYS TOO)..USED TO DRIVE MY DAD’S 63 DODGE (383 WITH PUSH BUTTON AUTOMATIC AND DO NOT FORGET THE VIBRASONIC RADIO!!!)…BEING AROUND ALL THE HOT RODS GOT ME INTERESTED IN DRAG RACING WHICH I DID FROM 1969 UNTIL 1996…

CAROL ESSENBERG

Dear Roadsidepeek,

I was at the Downey City Council meeting last night, giving the invocation. I am pastor of one of the Catholic parishes in Downey. I also lived in Downey for many years, went to Downey High School and knew Harvey's Broiler and then Johnie's Broiler when I was young. I have many memories of the place. Although I value Johnie's as an historical image and am very glad that the city council called for restoration of Johnie's, I am more concerned about the lack of respect that these people have for law. The City of Downey has long been known as a good place to live. It's an attractive place because there is good city government, good police and fire, a good hospital, good shopping and many other things. It is also close to many things in Los Angeles and a short drive to Orange County and the beaches. It has good residential areas. If these kinds of actions are allowed, the ignoring of history, law and good taste Downey will become a disorganized place that is not attractive to residents or business. And so I am very glad that the Downey City Council was outraged and that the police and other persons of law will be seeking not only maximum penalties but restoration of the original building. If Johnie's opens again as an historical site or as a functioning restaurant it will be a sign of the strength of our city and a landmark that will attract many more people to see the establishment and enjoy the safety and security of a city that will not be pushed around.

Thanks!

Fr. John Higgins
Pastor
St. Raymond Parish
Downey, California

I hope the City Council will stand by their comments. Seeing Johnie's rebuilt will be a good change from having just another boring retail store built. Good effort by all to keep this alive.

Sincerely,

Rich Richards

I had first heard of the Johnie's Broiler about 6 months ago. I saw photos of it and had planned on making a visit to see the structure and to take photos of my own. I was saddened and very disappointed to find out about the distruction of such a great building. I hope the person responsible gets the full brunt of the law and unpleasant public opinion.

Sincerely,

Mike Insidioso

To Roadside Peek,

What a shock! I hope the person who did this is brought to justice and Johnie's rebuilt.

George

I am still very saddened and finding it hard not to think about the root cause of this situation. Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the owners shoulders. He played a sick game for many years, building and then dimming hopes year after year. This combined with the greed of a new breed of strip mall / used car businessman and a city that failed to act in it's own best interest has yielded this abomination. The City Downey has no active conservancy program that I am aware of. I have heard people mention such a thing, but I have yet to see it in action as of late. I am not even certain that the people in public office even realize that there is cultural significance in many of the areas around them. The truth is that it is not just a Downey problem. It is an ignorance based problem that is common everywhere in the United States. What I mean is that most people do not know or understand that they have a cultural history to be preserved for the future. The other part of the ignorance is that those who have a concern, like myself, are unaware of what is going on until something like the demolition of Johnies happens.

With few exceptions, the government does not have the time or money to worry about a googie style diner, craftsman home, or mid-century modern executive home. It takes public concern on a level that is hard to generate or even focus. The only way to make a city more responsible is to vote with these kinds of issues in mind. The reality however is right in front of us. I fear that the culture I most identify with has become disposable like nearly everything else in our present cultural setting. Look at how terrible New Orleans has been treated. It is the same reality really. A great deal of private funding is going into New Orleans and without it the reconstruction cannot occur. We have the same issue here with our beloved Johnies. Only money and dedicated volunteers will make difference if there is any chance at all of resurrecting it. The sad reality is that all the effort that was put in prior to this latest outrage had little or no effect.

So what now? Unless a really rich benefactor emerges and helps or the outrage is so great that a renewed effort has greater effect to generate the funding required to make a difference, nothing will change. The brief sound bites and handful of newspaper articles were eclipsed by the Malibu fire. This effectively took our media campaign away. I have not heard or seen anything about the demolition since the fire. I am definitely not the rich benefactor we seek. Just check out my incredible 1200 square feet of paradise. I am willing to give my time and expertise. If enough people in an organized fashion are willing to meet and make a plan, I would be there. I do not frequent websites or chat on line. I would like to be on an email list though.

Getting back to Downey, there are things that are preserved such as "Dismukes House" on Rives and Imperial at Apollo Park. It is an original Settlement House that was relocated to this spot many years ago. This sort of thing does not occur anymore. There was a beautiful Craftsman Home on Florence that was sold and demolished shortly after to build an office complex.

Downey is a really strange place overall. Due to humble orchard and mixed agricultural beginnings, the first buildings were either large mansion style homes or small workers homes that were spread out amongst the various orchards. Later when the property became more valued for residential and business use, the developments were not well thought out. This combined with development that had to cope with odd land boundaries and swampy areas made for a patchwork of developments that were of very distinct vintage and architecture.

I do not know exactly what will happen in the years to follow, but I do know that if there is any stand to be made it would start with an effort to restore Johnies. If successful, it would begin a trend that we could be proud of. There has got to be a person with some celebrity or government position that shares this belief. We must try to find these people and start the effort soon.

Respectfully,

John M. Benton
Benton Performance

Greetings-

I used to travel down Firestone and used to see Johnie's as frequently as you could imagine working in the area. No one in their right mind should let this building go down without a fight. Good luck.

Steve D.

Hello-

I just wanted to add my two cents. I was a Downey resident from 1951 to 1970. As a teen I visited Harvey's Broiler and later as an adult when it was renamed Johnie's. To this day we still continue to visit Downey from time to time. We love our hometown, and are very proud of it's history.

I too was very saddened by the destruction of Johnie's. But I have to say that this classic piece of Los Angeles architecture was steadily being ran-down. The second owners did a minimal job over the years, I suppose just trying to keep their business going. Repairs were not done, damaged roofs were left hanging loose, paint was flaking, lights were out, etc. In the Eighties, the food was barely edible. Johnie's Broiler was always a mere shadow of what Harvey's Broiler was.

At this point in time the illegal destruction of the facility points to the owner and/or his tenants. If it is found that the owner Christos "Johnie" Smyrniotis was behind the destruction, it would be almost criminal to rebuild it and allow the Johnie name to remain.

I suggest that if there is any restoration, the place be faithfully restored to it's HARVEY'S BROILER state. And it will require getting someone who really knows how to handle both the historic property and the restaurant business. Without good food, the place will once again fail.

Jerry Mull

 

 

 

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© Copyright 1998-2017 Syd Nagoshi. All rights reserved. No portion of this document may be reproduced, copied or revised without written permission of the author.