Preserving the past


Downey maintains multiple landmarks throughout the city to preserve their history. Bob’s Big Boy Broiler has hosted carhops and classic car shows every Wednesday and Saturday night.

Kimberly Dominguez, News Editor

Like DHS, the city of Downey is rich with diversity and history. Its history is remembered vividly in the preservation of four main landmarks: The Downey Landing, McDonald’s, Bob’s Big Boy Broiler, and the Rives Mansion.


The Downey Landing, located on the corner of Lakewood Boulevard and Stewart and Gray Road, is a busy 160 acre shopping center which holds many different shops. From smoothies to coffees and from pet supplies to art supplies, this large area was once used for something much different. It was once a NASA site where many missiles and explosives were tested. Moon landing equipment was also tested and designed here.


“It’s as though we have a bit of history still standing in Downey; something we can be known for,” senior Bernice Gonzalez said. “Although it was closed, we can all remember the important contributions Downey placed in history.”


Built around 1929, the Downey Landing spent about 70 years serving the country in the field of science. It had many jobs and programs including the Apollo program; however, what is so intriguing about this site is that according to the Aerospace Legacy Foundation, four well-known space shuttle orbiters: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, and Atlantis were assembled here. In the 90s, Boeing bought the previous company out. As years passed, Boeing began to combine many of its operations and “announced that it would close the Downey plant permanently by the end of 1999,” (


Once the property was bought, it was named the Downey Landing in respect to its history and its many accomplishments. Downey Studios was also apart of this massive property. Although still not visible, it is well commemorated throughout the shopping plaza with plaques of some of their successes.


Further down the street is another landmark—the oldest McDonald’s in the world located at the corner of Lakewood Boulevard and Florence Avenue. In 1953, the doors of the one of the firsts McDonald’s opened while Speedy the Chef stood tall outside attracting the attention of those who passed by.  Mac and Dick McDonald, creators of the first McDonald’s, created Speedy to exemplify the efficiency and speed of the company, which sold hamburgers for only 10 cents. The original menu, along with other authentic and collectable items, is found within the walls of the mini museum at this location.


“I feel proud of being part of a community that still has a place up and running that is this old,” junior Sergio Castillo said. “I like that it shows me how things were in the old days.”


The McDonald brothers turned over their company to Ray Kroc who then franchised it and opened many around the country—opening more than 700 sites by 1965. His massive industry expanded and now McDonald’s is a world-known business. The McDonald’s in Downey; however, is maintained in its original state because it was opened by the brothers themselves and was not part of Kroc’s franchise. This establishment does not and has not complied with the many attempts to remodel like other McDonald’s restaurants.


Bob’s Big Boy Broiler is yet another landmark that was almost destroyed. Harvey Ortner opened it as Harvey’s Broiler in 1958 until a former cook bought it in 1966 and renamed it Johnie’s Broiler. Johnie’s Broiler stayed in business keeping this coffee shop/drive in restaurant functioning until 2002.


This building was then used as a used car dealership for five years. In 2007, the owner illegally attempted to destroy the building. When the city found out, the muddle was stopped in the middle of the night. According to a plaque outside of the door, the city gathered with others including Jim Louder, owner of Bob’s Big Boy, and decided to rebuild the broiler.  In 2008, Bob’s Big Boy Broiler on Firestone Boulevard opened for business. An employee recalls the numerous cars that arrived from all over California.


“Customers, especially the older ones, really like it,” manager Ara Zakarian said. “I have customers telling me ‘Oh, I met my wife here’ or ‘Hey, I used to come here in my high school days’.”


Still preserving the 60s touch, Bob’s Big Boy Broiler hosts “Car Hops” and “Hot Rod and Custom Cruise Nights” every Wednesday and Saturday night.


Finally, on Paramount Boulevard and Third Street, the Rives Mansion is the fourth landmark. James C. Rives (1864-1924) was a printer for the Los Angeles Times until he studied law and became a District Attorney. After several years in the profession, he became a Superior Court Judge. It is also noted that he would print his own newspaper (Downey Weekly Review) out of his barn located behind the mansion. This enormous estate has three floors and a basement. The first floor holds the kitchen, living room, dining room, family room, and several others. The second floor holds a series of bedrooms, some with balconies looking over different areas of the city. Finally, the third floor, which was once a ballroom, is now an empty room with a huge window facing Paramount Boulevard. All of the bathrooms and restrooms are authentically restored to their original state of being.  Because Mr. Rives is a well-known Downey pioneer, his home was established as a landmark, and it can be rented for special occasions with the city’s approval.


Downey is a city occupied with advances and renovations, and it is hard to picture it before all of the buildings and expansions. The landmarks are protected and preserved so that today’s generations can have an insight on yesterday’s past age group.