Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

The El Teatro theater - now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

Another hidden historical treasure in downtown Downey is the building that originally housed the El Teatro theater. If you grew up in Downey, you most likely remember the Avenue Theater. And maybe you remember the Meralta. But it's unlikely that you remember the El Teatro, built around 1915.

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove carThe theater showed silent movies starring the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Norma Talmadge (of the Talmadge Sisters). Old-timers report that Mary Pickford once performed here, and that Roy Rogers performed a benefit show here.

Around the far left corner of the picture below (courtesy of The Downey Conservancy), there would have been another archway leading into the ticketing area. You can see, in the picture to the right, where this archway has been enclosed and plastered over—and is now cracking away.


When Trader Joe's was little - now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

Would you believe there used to be a Trader Joe's store in Downey? Well, before the Hall of Fame Market, before the Hi-Ho Market, there was Pronto Market.

According to the Trader Joe's website, "It all started in the 50s... Would you believe we started out as a small chain of convenience stores? It’s true. Way back in 1958. We were called Pronto Markets. In ‘67, our founder, the original Trader Joe, changed our name (yes, to Trader Joe’s) and the way we do business."

Legend has it that, way back then, someone in the city government offended Joe, who said, "If we leave Downey now, we're never coming back." And they never have.

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

Photo courtesy of the Downey Historical Society Archives

Folk Victorian—now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

This house in downtown Downey was built in 1881. Its style falls into the category of "folk Victorian."

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove carUnlike the fancier Victorian and Queen Anne styles, this was a home that the ordinary family could afford. Mass production made decorative architectural trim more affordable, and the expansion of the railroads made it possible to get factory-made parts nearly anywhere.

The undated picture below (courtesy of the Downey Historical Society Archives) shows the house before it became surrounded by commercial buildings.

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

The Downey arch—now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

I learned quite a bit on Saturday's Downtown Downey Historical Walking Tour, which I'll show you over the next week or so. In the case of this arch, which we first wrote about (see This old arch) back when DDP was very young, we didn't know yet about the Downey Conservancy or the Downey Historical Society, both of which have since been a source of historical pictures for us.

So, I'll repeat what Allison first wrote about this arch, and add this picture of the arch in the original Downey City Hall, circa 1956. (Courtesy of the Downey Historical Society)


This arch served as the main entrance for the Downey Grammar School from 1916-1956 and for the first Downey City Hall from 1957-1984. It was moved from 8524 2nd Street to this Civic Center location on December 6, 1984, and was refurbished and preserved. The arch sits behind the Downey Police Station.

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

The Downey United Methodist Church—now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about the First Baptist Church of Downey. That church, started in 1868, is one of the oldest churches in Downey. Recently, reader Perscrutations commented on that post that the United Methodist Church in Downey is even older.

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove carThe information that I have is a little contradictory. Perscrutations wrote that the church officially dates back to 1854. But the church plaque, at left, states that the church was organized in 1869. The church's website is undergoing renovation, so I wasn't able to confirm either date. Hopefully, Perscrutations or another reader can point me to more information about the church history! (I love history!)

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove carBut I did come across this picture, below, of the church dated November 8, 1931.The tower and the door are similar to today's tower, above, and door, right. The current door is at the base of the current tower. Are they the same ones? It's hard to tell for sure.

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car
Photo courtesy The Downey Conservancy/George Redfox

A look down memory lane—now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

This is Downey Avenue looking north from Firestone Blvd. On the right is One Day Cleaners, Al's Beauty Supply store, Dream Home Realty, and E&E Shoes, the Foot Comfort Center. On the left is the parking structure for Porto's Bakery.

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

This is the same shot but in 1945. According to the Downey Historical Society, "On the left is Home Boys market next to Downey Hardware. Across the street is Steck's hardware, furniture, and paint; Kruegers Shoe store; and Rexall Drugs. Steck's was next to the Victory Theatre, which eventually became the Avenue Theatre."

The Avenue Theater—now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

This shot is on Downey Avenue looking east near 3rd Street. It shows what used to be the Avenue Theater, which opened in 1922 and closed in 2003. It is now only a facade housing a preschool and a bank.

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

The postcard shows the Meralta Theater in 1929, which also was on Downey Avenue but opened in 1924. It closed in the 1970s and the site is a parking lot now.

“Movies will make you famous; Television will make you rich; But theater will make you good.”

~ Terrence Mann

Milk delivery—now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

This picture is taken looking east on Downey Ave. just south of Lexington, just like the picture below. That picture shows "Doc" McCormic as the driver for Sid Moore's milk delivery service in 1909. The first in Downey. The open field and single building have been replaced with multiple buildings, palm trees, and telephone poles.

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

The single horsepower vehicle has been replaced with a slightly more powerful version to deliver the milk to residences here in Downey. Rockview Dairy, another dairy delivery company, has been delivering dairy products to Downey since 1927. You can read their history here. You can start up home delivery here.

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

Several things that haven't changed are that the milk still comes from contented California cows and the cows run the shop. There are a couple of the leaders up on the roof.

Stationery—now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

This is Neil's Stationers at La Reina and Firestone Blvd here in Downey. They have been there since 1955 serving Downey's office supply needs.


Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

136 years ago the Central Hotel was on this corner serving visitors' needs for hospitality as they came to the bustling commercial center growing up in Downey. John Gately Downey and Maston Duke Crawford built the hotel in 1877, which lasted until it burned down in 1900.

Oops, sorry

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

Last week I started a series of Then and Now pictures of Downey. Several people commented that I had started off badly since my picture wasn't of the same thing as the original picture. I went back and found the place where the original picture was taken, just around the corner from where I was but hidden by these trees, and this is my corrected submission. I promise to do better next week.

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove carDowney Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

Aviation—now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

The one thing you can count on with a city as old as Downey is that there will be visible change. Downey Historical Society has chronicled those changes at their website here.

For my birthday this year, my fellow DDP photographers gave me a deck of historical Downey postcards produced by the society. I thought I would try and recreate the pictures in a "then and now" series. This picture shows the North American Aviation rotunda from the 1960s.

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

Today the rotunda is vacant and unused. Downey Studios tried to revive the old buildings but they lasted only a few years. We'll have to wait and see what the new owners do with this building. I'll do another post when something changes.

Can you remember a building that was significant in your life? Is it still there?

"We shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us."

~ Winston Churchill

Taco Bell—now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

Fifty years ago today in Downey, Glen Bell opened the first Taco Bell restaurant. By the time he sold the chain to PepsiCo in 1978, there were 868 restaurants.

Bell was considered one of the pioneers of fast food restaurants. But instead of offering the typical hamburgers, fries, and milk shakes, he had a hunch that Mexican food would be a hit. The problem was the soft shell, which took too long to prepare. Bell figured out how to create preformed fried shells.

Today, there is a Taco Bell located across the street, with a modern facade and a drive-through lane. The original building is home to Seafood and Tacos Raul, which was doing a very brisk business when I stopped by there tonight.

Tomorrow, I'll show you how this 50th anniversary was celebrated.

The Viking Motel—now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

Back in 1962, the 24-unit Viking Motel on Firestone Blvd. was nearing completion. Now, very little has changed on the outside, but the motel has been converted to apartments.

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car
Photo courtesy The Downey Conservancy/George Redfox

Win a gas clothes dryer—now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car
Photo courtesy The Downey Conservancy/George Redfox
If you picked the winning name for this Downey home back in 1962, you could win an automatic gas clothes dryer.

This home must have been a Southern California Gas Company showcase. It offers gas air conditioning, a built-in gas range, and gas lighting outside. However, even the gas company has to give a nod to electricity: "... it's equipped with Balanced power—both Gas and electricity, for the jobs each does best."

Tacos—now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car
Photo courtesy The Downey Conservancy/George Redfox
This fast food restaurant has gone through quite a few owners. When this newspaper ad appeared in the 1960s (I'm guessing based on the prices), the place was celebrating its first anniversary as Taco Rosa with a 2 for the price of 1 offer (limit 12 per person!). Originally, the place was a Taco Pronto. Somewhere along the line, I remember a Green Burrito. Currently, it's a Tacos Don Chiente. The prices have gone up a bit, but the one thing that's stayed the same is the Mexican theme. Yum!

The old Verizon building—now and then

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car
Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove car
Photo courtesy The Downey Conservancy/George Redfox

Part of the mission of the Downey Conservancy on Flickr has been to track down and save pictures of the old Downey. I thought it might be fun to compare the old photos of these locations with what they look like now, so I'm starting a new series of "now and then" pictures.

Downey Daily Photos: now and thenlove carThe old Verizon building, on 2nd Street near downtown Downey, currently stands abandoned. It is going to be demolished soon (the contract has recently been awarded) and is expected to be redeveloped into a 50-unit affordable housing complex.

Before it was Verizon, it was a "modern building"  that housed the offices of the General Telephone Company. I think the building was much more appealing before all the windows were covered up. I imagine that these coverings let in some light, but they completely block the view for those working inside. Why do you supposed they did that?