By Terry Miller
Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakery, founded in 1915, was a Los Angeles institution for much of the twentieth century. Its trademark Dutch windmill appeared on its bakeries and coffee shops across the region, but today only one windmill survives intact, atop a Denny’s on the corner of Huntington and Santa Anita avenues.
According to LA Conservancy, the building was completed in 1967 and was designed by Pasadena architects Harold Bissner and Harold Zook. It features a large update of the company’s Dutch windmill sitting atop the building’s circular folded-plate roof.
You have to hand it to former Mayor of Arcadia, George Fasching: Not only does he keep our horseless carriages shining brightly while en-route to a Day at The Races, but he’s always on top of what is good for the business community at-large, specifically downtown Arcadia.
Whether its polishing our community pride, running for political office, mild-mannered George Fasching knows you have to go to the top of the food chain to get anywhere in life.
Rarely at a loss for words, the charismatic businessman has gone to the top of Denny’s corporate ladder to send his supplication.
George Fashing penned the following certified letter to the company’s CEO, John C. Miller on Nov 27:
“Dear Mr. Miller:
“The enclosed photographs and accompanying two-page resume are self-explanatory regarding the purpose of this letter.
“Our City is in complete support of the reactivation of the windmill. I anticipate that the day it starts turning will be proclaimed a Day of Preservation and Recognition, which would draw press and TV coverage from throughout Southern California. Over time, people would come from everywhere to see Denny’s windmill, which would be not only a boost for all Denny’s, but also for the downtown Arcadia business district. Mr. Miller, Denny’s is sitting on a marketing gold mine.
“Arcadia Signs in Arcadia has offered a complementary assessment of the cost of the restoration. I am also available to work with your people at any time.
“I look forward to hearing from you perhaps with only a few words, “sounds good; let’s go” with your initials.
We contacted Arcadia City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto about Mr. Fasching’s proposal and possible city implications and/or liability and it seems the city is prepared to address the issue:
“Yes, I believe the City would support the idea of returning the windmill to its original status. It would be an interesting entry into the heart of the Downtown and we could arrange a celebration to commemorate the event. I doubt that the City would support the effort financially, but we could help promote things with a City proclamation and ribbon cutting type event.
“On the technical front, Denny’s would need to get a modification from our sign regulations (the Code now prohibits moving signs and, believe it or not, the windmill would be considered a sign). The modification should be pretty simple to approve given the unique and historic nature of the building.
Regarding insurance, there wouldn’t be any special requirements imposed by the City. Every business is responsible for ensuring that their property does not pose a threat to public health and safety. You’d have to talk to Denny’s about whether their insurance provider would increase their premiums if the windmill turned back on.”
LA Conservancy says, “The rest of the sixteen-sided building is clad in brick and has large windows extending around the façade in typical ‘Googie’ coffee shop fashion. The Arcadia Van de Kamp’s is the last surviving windmill-topped restaurant in Southern California, and this is only because of loud public outcry when new owner Denny’s proposed demolition of the windmill in 1999. Enthusiastic protests quickly changed the company’s mind, and instead of ruining a historic building to match its brand’s 1950s ‘retro’ style, it opted to retain the real thing. The result is a more than appropriate modern use of a wonderful example of Googie architecture, and the windmill lives on to see the future. Its arms were once operable, turning cheerfully on the corner of Huntington and Santa Anita, and who knows—maybe they will turn again someday.”
If anyone can get these historic arms moving again, it’s George Fasching.