The original prototype for McDonald's drive-in hamburger stands featuring the full-scale golden arches and red-and-white tile walls was a major influence on roadside strips throughout the United States from its introduction in 1953 to its phased elimination in the 1970s and 1980s. Based on interviews with the original clients, architects, contractors, and franchisees, this paper documents for the first time how this popular-culture icon was created. Its development can be understood in the context of the car-strip's commercial and cultural requirements as it evolved and prospered after World War II. The perspective from the car and the linear expanse of the strip dictated the architecture's scale and simple form. The commercial function demanded an image appealing to customers in that era. Clients Richard and Maurice McDonald worked closely with architect Stanley Clark Meston to design a building that carried on the traditions of drive-ins of the 1920s and 1930s in Southern California and updated it in an appropriate and memorable aesthetic. This paper also documents the location, dates, and condition of the earliest stands franchised, in California and Arizona, based on interviews, building permits, and tours of the original sites.
- Copyright 1986 The Society of Architectural Historians