Press Release: Covina Bowl Recommended as National Landmark
LOS ANGELES, October 4, 2016—As of this week the 1956 Covina Bowl in Covina has been officially added to the prestigious National Register of Historic Places, through a determination of eligibility. While not designated, this decision offers important protection for the site, which faces an uncertain future.
“Covina Bowl is a beloved landmark and an increasingly rare example of an endangered type of Mid-Century Modern architecture,” said Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy.
The Conservancy and its Modern Committee submitted the landmark nomination for Covina Bowl in spring 2016, citing its significance as the original prototype for the hundreds of entertainment/bowling centers that followed in Southern California and across the United States.
The Keeper of the National Register in Washington, D.C. approved a recommendation by the California Historical Resources Commission that found the Covina Bowl eligible. This means that any proposed project that impacts the Covina Bowl would now have to comply under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.
The owners of the Covina Bowl have expressed opposition to the National Register nomination, and they have begun conversations with potential buyers, placing the landmark’s future in question. CEQA requires review and alternatives for the proposed demolition or significant alteration of sites determined eligible for or listed in the National Register.
About the Covina Bowl
Blending Modernism with Egyptian exoticism, Covina Bowl embodies the exuberant postwar Googie architectural style with its enormous glass-filled pyramid entrance and soaring triangular “Covina” sign to attract motorists’ attention. The zigzag entrance canopy floats above natural rock piers, melding modern forms with natural materials.
Covina Bowl was built by and for the Brutocao brothers – Angelo, Leonard, and Lewis – Covina-based contractors and developers. It was designed by the Long Beach-based masters of bowling center architecture, Powers, Daly, and DeRosa. Architect Gordon Powers convinced the Brutocaos to build Covina Bowl, the first full-service bowling center in America. Design architect Pat DeRosa chose the exotic Egyptian theme that permeates every aspect of the building, including its enormous neon sign. Said Powers, who turned 100 this year, “Covina Bowl was our very first large scale bowling center. It was the original prototype for the 71 others that we designed all over the country.”
When completed in 1955, Covina Bowl was not just another bowling alley with 30 lanes (20 more lanes would be added in 1962), but a complete entertainment center with billiard room, cocktail lounge, banquet hall/live entertainment showroom, coffee shop, conference and meeting rooms, childcare facility, and beauty parlor. Its famous Egyptian Room presented performers such as comic duo Rowan and Martin, Liberace, crooner Mel Tormé, the Smothers Brothers, and many others.
On opening day, February 11, 1956, Covina Bowl was lauded by the local press as “a fabulous recreation center whose opulence rivals that of the days of the Egyptian pharaohs,” “virtually a city within itself,” and “a Dream Palace of Recreation.” Bowling industry leader AMF in a congratulatory newspaper ad called Covina Bowl “The World’s Most Beautiful Bowling Establishment.”
As bowling's popularity began to wane in the 1970s, their large lots became more valuable as redevelopment sites for shopping centers or residential developments. As a result, bowling centers began to disappear. By the 2000s, most had been demolished.
“Once these landmarks are gone, they’re gone forever,” said Fine. “We urge everyone who cares about Mid-Century Modernism or our postwar heritage to support their preservation, which includes patronizing these places before it’s too late. With enough support, we can make sure these gems survive and thrive for future generations.”
Tiffany Narváez, (213) 430-4208, firstname.lastname@example.org