Left Turn OK

Daily driven past by thousands of motorists with scarcely a look, and across from headquarters of the L.A. Weekly alternative biweekly, this West L.A. stretch of Sepulveda boasts a sort of miniature Motel Row.  The signage and decorative exterior touches exude a feeling of postwar commercial exuberance, almost reminiscent of the Googie-esque diners that were sprinkled across Greater L.A. when these motels were built.

Our first stop is the Half Moon Motel.    Public records indicate that the place was built in the late 1950s, and who are we to question public records?  Besides, one look tells us that it couldn't have come from any other time.

The most noteworthy feature here is the neon lighting used in all the signage. The crescent decoration visible on the wall, next to the second story window at the extreme left, further reinforces the semi-lunar theme.

 In the picture below you can see the red and white chevron accents along the railing, which seems to add a festive,  holiday touch exuding a vaguely Alpine feel.  Oddly enough, the Swiss Motors auto repair shop is just across and a few doors up, and is resolutely anti-Alpine in its general appearance.

Remarkably for this busy yet humdrum and utilitarian stretch of Sepulveda Boulevard, hard by the 405, all these motels bring to mind past road trips that included nights in motels that were just like this, except for their surroundings.  Whether on remote stretches of old Route 66 or in the middle of West Los Angeles, mid-century motels in this state of preservation are remarkable survivors of their time.

We can't leave the Half Moon without a look at its remarkable lounge/bar. At least, I think it's a bar, assuming all those bottles in view are not merely Torani flavorings for coffee. In this modest yet welcome attempt to provide night life for its guests, this motel reminds us of the larger than life efforts of larger establishments, now long gone, like Wisconsin's famed Gobbler Supper Club and Motel.

It's Happening At The Half-Moon
 Although the place dates from the 1950s, this particular room gives off  a definite 1970s vibe, the little seating area to the right reminiscent of the miniature on-board lounges the airlines used to hawk in their advertising. And it's hard for anyone who survived the 1970s to take this scene in without imagining the chairs and tables being pushed out of the way before dropping the needle on a Bee Gees album.

Immediately north of here stand two ordinary hostelries of the standard chain motel type, a religious bookstore, and a small office building but this one is merely a generic Best Western in its discrete brown building.  But continuing northwards, we now arrive at still another vintage motel, above which floats the cheerful banner  "Deano's".

Welcome to Deano's
And after that comes the Astro.

Welcome to the Astro

Both the Astro and Deano's have omitted the evocative neon lighting and opted instead for cheaper illuminated plastic, and this even though Deano's turns out to be the oldest motel on the block.  According to public records, it began in 1926 when it had zero bedrooms, zero bathrooms, and twenty-six units.  (Translation: it was a bungalow court and none of the units had its own bathroom.)

As it turns out, these two motels seem to be locked in a death struggle expressed by the garishness of their signs.  First Deano's...

... where said garishness proclaims proudly the availability of Cable TV and Telephones. The strategy has evidently paid off, since we also learn there is NO Vacancy. Deano's also amuses with this sign, letting us know that we can watch the aforementioned cable connected TV in COLOR.

It's color TV by RCA, to be absolutely accurate.

As for the Astro, here is their sign.

 The Jetson-esque shape of the sign stands out here, obviously as pure an expression of early mid-century "space age" style as we'll find anywhere.   It's clear that the "Astro" here comes from "astronaut", and by extension from all the optimistic dreams the dawning Space Age inspired.   Sure, the Russians might have beaten us to the punch when it came to launching the first artificial satellite.  But only in America could you build your own motel and  name it the Astro, and trick out your sign with a strange brew of Danish Modern and Tomorrowland-Jetsons.

On the other hand, we can't help but notice undertone of desperation in the LEFT TURN OK sign.

It's almost as if they desperately hope we'll notice and choose their hotel before we notice the others.  After all, we can make a left turn into their driveway so, what's stopping us? How can we pass up such an opportunity?

Update 2012-10-22
Earlier sunsets have arrived, so we went back and got some evening shots, which you can see here. 


  1. Fantastic blog, belatedly found but gluttonously devoured.

  2. From one such as you a fine compliment indeed. I've spent some pleasant hours reading your website which, incidentally, does not seem to be up right now. At least I think it was yours I was reading--didn't you have a post on there about a historic row of palm trees in West Adams?