Angel Food Donuts Sign | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo from L.A. Conservancy archives

Angel Food Donuts Sign

Rising high above the roof of a former Angel Food Donuts in Long Beach, this giant donut sign has been a highly visible feature to motorists traveling along E. 7th Street for over five decades. It is a classic example of programmatic signage which, like programmatic architecture, is fashioned in the shape of a business’s product or identity.

Programmatic signage such as giant donuts was highly visible and instantly recognizable to travelling motorists along southern California’s major boulevards. They also reflect the evolution of roadside commercial signage during the postwar era, when signs reached incredible dimensions in response to the auto’s prominence in society.

Large-scale signage such as giant donuts is an increasingly rare resource type, often classified by cities as “existing non-conforming,” as many communities have enacted signage ordinances that restrict the size and dimensions of newly constructed signage.

Such restrictive ordinances governing signage have left most communities with a finite amount of potentially historic signage from the postwar era. Often these signs are removed as businesses change from one use to another. 

Angel Food Donuts opened several locations throughout Long Beach between the 1950s and 60s, each featuring similar signage fashioned into the likeness of a giant donut perched atop single or twin poles for maximum visibility.

This location last operated as The Daily Grind espresso bar; the operators left the giant donut signage in place and repainted it to depict a faux glaze of pink frosting.

In 2009, the City of Long Beach specifically identified the Angel Food Donuts Sign as part of its Historic Context Statement, stating, "[N]ow valued not only for their implicit humor but also as cultural artifacts, programmatic architecture when encountered should be considered significant, even though it might be altered."

Southern California once contained the largest collection of Programmatic buildings and signage. These places epitomize the growth and development of cities such as Long Beach at a particular point in time.

The 1950s and '60s were decades of great prosperity and development, fueled in large part to the growing reliance on the car and the culture that developed around this new-found freedom.

The Angel Food Donuts Sign is now a rare symbol of this era and approach to roadside advertising as well as architecture. It is one of Long Beach's most iconic landmarks and represents the postwar optimism and whimsy of the city in a way few other places can.

Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

Barry Building

The unusual courtyard layout of the Barry Building exemplifies modern ideals of integrating indoor and outdoor spaces in a rare commercial application.
Image courtesy Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

The Tamale

A rare remaining example of programmatic architecture, The Tamale was designed to advertise its products to passing motorists.