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Arts and Entertainment

Covina Bowl, A Gem Of Googie Architecture, Shuts Its Doors

(Photo by Keith via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Googie architecture, one of the defining hallmarks of L.A.'s past, has lost another one of its own.

Brunswick Zone Covina Bowl (located in Covina, duh) shut its doors this weekend. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune had first reported on the bowling alley's impending closure; it was slated to shutter on Sunday, but some patrons claimed on Facebook that, when they arrived on Sunday night to bowl a final game, the doors were already shut:

The appeal of Covina Bowl is immediately apparent; the Googie stylings come in spades. There's the looming, hourglass-shaped sign that greets passing motorists; it's replete with a kind of crescent moon, and "BOWL" spelled out in kooky lettering. There's also the A-shaped roof that hovers over the patrons walking in, and a zig-zag overhang that feeds into the front entrance.

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Inside, it was kitsch galore. As noted at Curbed LA, an Egyptian theme, as well as other nods to a bygone era, were stamped onto the interiors. There were Egyptian statues in the cocktail lounge, as well as Old World designs integrated with terrazzo floors and midcentury lighting fixtures. The L.A. Conservancy adds that the "vaguely Egyptian decorative themes" help "evoke a sense of escape and exoticism."

As told by the Conservancy, the bowling alley was completed in 1956, and had resulted from the work of architectural firm Powers, Daly, and DeRosa, which was regarded as "the masters of the form" when it came to bowling alleys (where can I sign up for that job?). Between 1955 and 1962, the firm developed nearly 50 bowling alleys in California. Back then, bowling alleys were something of a destination spot; they had diners, cocktail lounges, and banquet rooms. As noted by the good people at Bowlers Journal (they'd visited Covina Bowl for a last hurrah) the bowling alley included meeting rooms that "not only hosted pre-season league meetings during the heyday of league bowling, but also post-season banquets — a staple of almost every league, at which season prize money and trophies were handed out, and league members had one more opportunity to socialize before the summer break."

Which is to say that bowling alleys were a big deal back then, and espoused a certain functionality that contrasts with the "neon night" that's commonplace today.

As for why the bowling alley has shut its doors, it was matter of finance, reports the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Frank Barraco Jr., whose father had owned the business for 35 years before retiring in the late 90s, told the Tribune that, “Covina Bowl has been in decline for years," adding that, “They haven’t been making any money. The banquet rooms were shut down last summer.” The bowling alley was being run by Bowlmor AMF, who'd bought the business (and 84 other bowling alleys) from Brunswick Corp. a few years ago for a cool $270 million.

Brian Lee, community development director with the City of Covina, told the Tribune that the family that owns the land on which Covina Bowl sits has told the city they intend to sell it. “The property is being marketed and we’ve received a lot of phone calls but no plan has been submitted yet," said Lee.

Here's more eye candy from Covina Bowl (the top Instagram post includes a slideshow). Let's hope that, whatever comes of the space, it'll get to retain some of that Atomic Age flair.

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