Route 66 Road Trip: Roadside Architecture, Citrus, Drive-Ins & Cemeteries

“The closest thing to a day with the late great Huell Howser that California travel buffs will ever have.” – Pasadena Weekly

Join us on an afternoon’s exploration of California’s Mother Road and the building of its dream in the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley. From the real estate boosterism of the 1880s to the citrus industry, health farms, TB hospitals and daffy roadside architecture, from its earliest days Southern California branded itself as something new under the sun.

Who says a Route 66 road trip takes several days and requires you to cross state lines? Route 66 has a lot to offer right here in L.A.’s backyard. Join us for an afternoon’s exploration of the Mother Road as it skirts the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley. See the landmarks that welcomed travelers coming west from Chicago in the days before freeways, and learn about the fascinating layers of boosterism and industry that shaped the Southland: real estate, citrus, sanitariums and of course daffy roadside architecture.

Highlights of the Route 66 tour include:

Covina Bowl (Daly, Powers & DeRosa, 1956)

This Egyptian-Polynesian mid-century modern bowling center must be seen to be believed. Although the bowling alley, banquet rooms and diner have been closed for years, preservationists have advocated tirelessly for adaptive reuse. Now a housing developer has plans to add to the site, while preserving many of its historic features. We’ll get a history lesson, and a hint of what’s to come.

E. Waldo Ward Citrus Groves & Factory

Since 1891, Waldo Ward of Sierra Madre has been the name to turn to for fine marmalade, preserves, jams, jellies, pickles and more, a favorite table favor in the Harvey House restaurants on the transcontinental railroad. We’ll visit the gift store, tour the canning facility and mini museum, and learn about this uniquely California company from 4th generation proprietor Jeff Ward.

Aztec Hotel (Robert Stacy-Judd, 1924)

Not Aztec, rather Mayan, this National Register landmark is the most spectacular of eccentric architect Robert Stacy-Judd’s buildings reflecting the soul of the Southwest. His work would influence Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan block houses, and are among the most lyrical and inventive architectural spaces we know.

McNeil & Vosberg Residences

Two very different early Azusa mansions tell the tale of the feuding Slauson sisters, while time and demographic changes have brought a growing suburb flush to their gates, a reminder of the fragility of rural ecologies and the incessant crush of progress.

Fairmount Cemetery

A remote and fascinating Civil War-era pioneer burial ground in the foothills of Azusa, newly accessible thanks to infrastructure contributed by the developers of the brand new suburb that has grown up around it.

This tour is just one of our California Culture tour series (formerly known as the Reyner Banham Loves L.A. series).

Scenes From Past Tours