In a typically L.A. move, the corporate folks at In-N-Out tore down what many believe is the oldest surviving burger stand in the chain (photo) in order to ... make way for a replica of that stand.
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports that top city officials in Baldwin Park, where the stand was considered "the city's most notable landmark," were "shocked." Councilwoman Monica Garcia:
It was a complete shock to all of us. I thought we were working together on preserving that site and making it into a museum, but they just came in and demolished it.
Seems like a sneaky move on the part of In-N-Out corporate. The paper says they indeed got the proper permits from low-level city staffers, even as they told Baldwin Park leaders that they planned to restore the building and turn it into a museum.
Now a replica will serve that purpose, apparently.
The location was known as the birthplace of the company.
The structure, from at least 1954 but possibly 1948, is sort of Mecca for lovers of Southern California burger and car-culture history. A new, working restaurant was opened on the site in 2004.
City leaders said if they had known the demo was planned they would have tried to stop it.
The building, a target for vandals, was said to be in bad shape.
Cindy Heitzman, director of the California Preservation Foundation, told the Weekly Friday that most buildings have to be at least 50 years old to be considered historically significant, but that cultural context can play a role.
The In-N-Out stand, she said, would seem to qualify, at least from a history-and-culture buff's point of view.
"In-N-Out burger as a business is significant," she said. "The oldest Bob's Big Boy, McDonald's -- they are are all significant and important."
Added No. 2: The location also served as company headquarters. It moved to Irvine in recent years.
The location is also home to one of two company stores.
Added No. 3: Actually we're told that company operations are split between Baldwin Park and Irvine.
Update and correction: In-N-Out veep Carl Van Fleet says it wasn't the oldest surviving In-N-Out. Here's the statement he made, which was just forwarded to us:
Please know that the building is NOT the original In-N-Out Burger. It wasn't even the oldest existing In-N-Out Burger. The oldest existing restaurant is in Pasadena. The original In-N-Out restaurant came down when the 10 freeway was built. That original site is roughly where the overpass support mound is.
This building needed to come down as it was in bad shape. We are considering the construction of a replica of the true first In-N-Out Burger as it looked in 1948. If that happens, we would like to build it right there where the old replacment building was.
Update No. 2: L.A. Conservancy director Linda Dishman says this could happen again. Here's why:
This loss is a symptom of an even bigger problem. More than half the cities in L.A. County have no protections for their historic places. Many, including Baldwin Park, haven't even done a survey to identify them. Until cities understand what they have in terms of historic resources -- and have a way to prevent their over-the-counter demolition -- we'll continue to lose our shared history, one building at a time.
First posted at 11:44 a.m.