Driftwood Drive-Thru Dairy Pole Sign

A very rare example of an intact drive-thru dairy, the Driftwood Dairy recently survived a demolition threat and stands as a truly spectacular example of Googie design.


The Los Angeles Conservancy’s Modern Committee successfully commissioned a nomination for the drive-thru dairy for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources in 2008.

Place Details


10724 Lower Azusa Road,
El Monte, California 91731
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Driftwood Dairy, 2010 | Adriene Biondo


Mike Dolan founded the El Monte institution, Driftwood Dairy, in 1946 to continue his family’s long dairy legacy. It started as a single store and a home delivery route, and eventually expanded into a national corporation that keeps its roots in El Monte. One of the few surviving remnants of the company’s earlier years is the Driftwood Dairy drive-thru (originally known as the Driftyland Dairy-Port) on Lower Azuza Road. This is a truly spectacular example of Googie design, built by Theodore Masterson (who may have also designed it) in 1961.

The Los Angeles Times touted it as “one of the most modern dairy drive-ins in the world,” and indeed it was, with a massive parabolic arch canopy sheltering its small retail structures.

A huge pole sign stands outside the canopy, advertising its dairy products on hexagonal signs topped by a giant spike. The outer curbs of the business’ driveway are decorated with custom-made ceramic tiles featuring a milk bottle and the friendly face of “Drifty,” the company’s bovine mascot. The Driftwood Dairy, which survived a demolition threat, illustrates the surging influence of cars on designs during the postwar period, as well as mid-century Googie roadside architecture at its very best.

About This Place

About This Place

In fall 2007, Driftwood Dairy’s new owners announced plans to replace the drive-thru with a new retail strip and office development, prompting the Modern Committee to nominate it for landmark designation. The State Historic Resources Commission voted unanimously in November 2008 to determine the dairy as eligible for listing in the register.

Although the new owners had pledged to “vigorously oppose” the nomination, they did not show up for the final hearing in Sacramento. Conservancy staff testified at the hearing, along with Modern Committee representatives and the nomination’s author, Teresa Grimes of Christopher A. Joseph & Associates.

In March 2012, following wind damage to the acrylic portions of the freestanding pole sign that is part of Driftwood Dairy’s original design, the property owners altered the signage without any permits or design review from the City of El Monte. On April 24, 2012, El Monte Planning staff subsequently issued a compliance citation order. The uppermost and largest portion of the signage damaged by the wind was never recreated, however the lower section remains.

Our Position

The Conservancy believes the Driftwood Drive-thru Dairy is an outstanding example of a Space Age style drive-thru dairy with notable pole signage. It reflects both the height of space-age design and the influence of the automobile in shaping retail methods and signage.

A local nomination for the drive-thru is currently not possible because the City of El Monte does not have a historic preservation ordinance in place.


Driftwood Dairy, before and after | L.A. Conservancy Modern Committee
Driftwood Dairy, 2010 | Adriene Biondo
Driftwood Dairy, South El Monte | Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy