That Golden Glow - Page 2

Seventy years ago today—fast-food king McDonald's put the 'arch' in 'architecture'
That Golden Glow
McDonald's print ads from the 1950s.

"Meston made the deal with the brothers for a retail outlet for the hamburgers," recalls Charles Fish, now 96 and living in San Diego, who worked then for Meston as his chief draftsman and designer.

"Arches were not brought up at that time [in 1952], but once the deal was made, there was a conference in Meston's office with the McDonald brothers, and I was present."

"With the 'McDonald's Speedee System,' there were no carhops," says Fish. "Customers had to get out of their cars and walk up to the service windows. That's the thing that bothered them [the brothers] a great deal."

In search of a solution, Dick McDonald suggested placing an arch across the front of the building that might give drivers the idea they had to walk up to the windows through that arch to get service.

"But an arch across the front of the building would not be visible as cars approached from the sides," Fish points out. "So Dick said, 'Why don't you put arches on the sides of the building?'"

That Golden Glow
In the 1940s the McDonald brothers thrived with this one location, in San Bernadino, as McDonald's Bar-B-Q, a carhop-style drive-in restaurant in this octagon-shaped building.

However, when the building was viewed as it was planned—with an all-glass, wraparound service area intended as a way of showing clients how the operation worked—there would be very little side area remaining for positioning the arches, according to Fish.

"That's when Meston gave me the job of coming up with something with arches on the side of the building. I decided that the only way to do that was to make them great, big, and [have them] jump over the arch."

Since the building was small, Fish felt it needed to have a large presence on the street. In order to accomplish this, he designed the roof so it jutted out beyond the front of the building.

Fish then presented a sketch to Dick and Mac, who said, "'Sure, that's fine,' so I made finished preliminary drawings, which they okayed," says Fish.

  That Golden Glow
Ray Kroc back in the day with one of his Multimixers.

Turning in construction drawings at the end of October 1952, Fish explains, "They took those drawings to [sign maker] George Dexter to design a sign to put out front, and in December they brought back to Meston's office a very professionally rendered sign for the front of the building."

In the 1980s, architect and historian Alan Hess authored an article titled 'The Origins of McDonald's Golden Arches' for the March 1986 Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians based on his interviews with Meston, Fish, and Dexter.

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