Guest Blog Post By Kevin Kidney & Jody Daily

The year was 1965, and Walt Disney’s internationally famous Disneyland Park was celebrating its “Tencennial,” commemorating its first decade of incredible success. Even after ten years of phenomenal growth in what is now the Anaheim Resort district, there were disparate plots of land and the occasional small clusters of orange groves still dotting the surrounding area.

Rising out of the fruit orchards and occupying an initial 7 acres were the gleaming white contours of the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge (now known as the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground). It was distinctive when the hotel opened on July 16, 1965 (10 years and one day off from the grand opening of Disneyland Park across the street). It instantly stood out from the other motor inns and motels along the bustling thoroughfare of Anaheim’s Harbor Boulevard.

Here in the shadow of Disneyland, stood a great example of what is now known as Mid-Century Modern architecture, a design approach popular during the 1950s and 1960s of the 20th century. It is characterized by a contemporary, seemingly futuristic aesthetic emphasizing form and function.

World-renowned architect William L. Pereira, one of the masters of the popular mid-century modern architectural movement (an era we love), designed the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel. Pereira’s mid-twentieth-century design style can be seen in the hotel’s unique vaulted ceilings, barrel arched roofline, and charming 1960s-era lobby building.

Famed for his futuristic architecture, Pereira’s exceptional design aesthetics can be seen throughout Southern California in such iconic structures as the original high-rise building at Disneyland Hotel (now the Adventureland Tower), LAX Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco, and many other examples, most notably in Beverly Hills and Palm Springs.

The new “House of the Retro Future Suite” at Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel reflects the “cool” factor of mid-century modern aesthetics throughout its interior design. The suite implies the home’s ultra-modern design sensibilities (a melding of functional style and cutting-edge technology). The Monsanto House of the Future was a heavy visual influence, featured in Tomorrowland at Disneyland from 1957 – 1967. Another inspiration came from “Googie” architecture once found in the Anaheim Resort District in the 1960s.

While the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel has evolved and expanded, we appreciate, as designers and artisans, that it has been contemporized (for guest convenience and technology enhancements). Still, aesthetically the hotel has preserved its essence and charms. The signature Howard Johnson brand color palette of turquoise and orange is liberally utilized in the hotel’s interior design.

At the same time, all the rooms feature such 1950s décor era throwbacks as rounded mirrors inspired by George Nelson’s marshmallow sofa, desk chairs that echo the famous look of an Eames Desk chair, and a side table inspired by Eero Saarinen‘s pedestal table. This attention to detail whimsically reflects the hotel’s mid-century past, resulting in a retro-hip makeover. 

As residents of Anaheim, we love its past (did you know the city has one of the oldest Halloween festivals and parades in the U.S., and they turn 100 in 2023 and 2024), everything from classic home restorations to the saving of historic buildings, preserving community traditions or accurately recapturing its history. So, we’re always delighted when we see an entity like Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel passionately embrace its heritage, much to the delight of tourists and Anaheim citizens alike. 

In travel, there’s nothing worse than the dreaded word “standard.” It implies cookie-cutter. A stay at the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel is anything but “standard,” and we’re delighted that such an incredible and authentic piece of Anaheim’s once numerous examples of “Googie” and “Mid-Century” has been so lovingly cared for, enhanced, and preserved.

Popular and famed art directors, illustrators, writers, historians, show designers, sculptors, puppeteers, and makers of things. Inconveniently enamored with outdated technology and pretty much every aspect of the American pop culture of the early 1960s. They will pay the guy big bucks who creates a plausible time machine!



Posted Under: Retro HoJo