Chips | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Tony Hoffarth on Flickr

Googie coffee shops like Pann's, Johnie's, and Norms draw the viewer in with characteristics like exaggerated rooflines, tall windows, and eye-catching signage. All have some, and some have all. Chips, on Hawthorne Boulevard in Hawthorne, has it all—but especially the signage.

Designed by Taliesin-trained architect Harry Harrison and completed in 1957, Chips is a Googie treasure that has been in continuous operation since its opening. Its roof is not as flamboyant as that on some other restaurants, but is asymmetrically tapered in profile and angled into a zig-zag pattern in front view. Tall windows invite views into the unaltered interior, with its long dining counter and curving banquettes.

Above all, there is the signage, starting with the five steel mesh drums, each holding a letter to spell out CHIPS for all the north-bound traffic to see.

The letters are angled so they appear to shift and turn toward you as you drive past. At the corner of the building, three large steel columns thrust upward from the ground and through the roof like space-age cacti, bearing aloft a steel screen with the restaurant's name in semi-script neon lettering. Like the drums, the columns are slightly offset to provide a sense of movement.

Aside from the addition of a small patio, Chips is in its original condition, and it is a wonderful sight to behold.

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