Highland Park Celebrates Historic Route 66 Sign

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

Almost 80 years ago, the “Manning’s Coffee Store’s” metal, neon and opal glass sign was installed on the roof top of what today is a Salvadorean and Mexican food restaurant on Historic Route 66 in Highland Park.

Manning’s was a leading chain of cafeterias and restaurants with 40 locations in nine western states, 19 of which were located in Los Angeles, according to sign restoration organizers.

Manning¹s Coffee Store sign is located on the roof of Las Cazuelas restaurant on N. Figueroa Street in Highland Park. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Amy Inouye of Future Studio/Chicken Boy poses with the switch shortly after the sign was relit on Tuesday night. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

(L - R) Victor Mendoza, David Rivera and Victor Yac of Vick Electric bask in the spotlight for doing the electrical work to get the sign operating again. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

In fact, today’s Starbucks are modeled after Manning’s in the West Coast, according to local historic preservationist Nicole Possert.

“This roof top sign in Highland Park is the last remaining evidence of Manning’s Coffee in the entire City of Los Angeles, it’s the only sign that we have found keeping that piece of history connected to California, the West coast,” Possert said at the relighting ceremony on Tuesday.

Manning’s was one of the first tenants at the location, which was newly constructed in 1936. The coffee shop closed in the late 1950s, she said.

Eric Lynxwiler of the Museum of Neon Art (MONA) explained that often these historic signs are forgotten and fall by the wayside. “Not only is it a rarity that this sign still stands … but technically there’s nothing like it in Los Angeles. We’ve seen neon signs all over the nation, but very rarely do we see a combination and slumped glass. The words “Coffee Store” makes this sign even more unique …” Lynxwiler said.

Las Cazuelas owner Carlos Lopez told EGP he has been actively helping efforts to restore the sign since the inception of the project about four years ago. The 25-year-old restaurat has financially committed to keeping the sign lit for some time, he said.

Lopez said taking down the dilapidated sign was never an issue because it’s on top of the tall building and “out of sight.” The fact that it was easy to ignore is “why it’s still standing,” he said.

“It’s a beautiful sign, we love it,” he said, joking that Las Cazuelas now needs to start serving some roast reminiscent of Manning’s Coffee.

The sign, located on North Figueroa Street, between Avenue 57 and Avenue 58, was restored using all the original materials, except the neon tubing that was destroyed. The building owners are Kong and Julie Fong.

The Manning’s sign joins the Highland Theatre sign that was relit last year. Two smaller restoration projects are currently in the works, according to Amy Inouye of Future Studio/Chicken Boy.

The sign was restored with grants from National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Los Angeles County Preservation Fund, and community donations, according to Inouye.

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January 12, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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