Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Food Moderne

In 1948, the Carnation Company hired Beaux-Arts educated architect Stiles O. Clements (1883-1966) to design its new corporate headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. The company decided to maximize on the high percentage (30%) of its employees living in California. Staff in Seattle, Milwaukee and New York were relocated and former branch operations such as accounting, advertising and purchasing were centralized.

The new reinforced concrete structure was built on 645 tapered steel piles, each extending thirty feet below grade. Most building materials were acquired in California. The color scheme reflected the corporate identity:  the elevator penthouse's mammoth (17 x 57') "Carnation Milk" sign appeared in solid red letters during the day, and as flashing red and white neon at night. The red granite facing stone on the lower facade could not be acquired locally and was shipped from Sweden on the maiden voyage of the Grace Line Motorship named Los Angeles.(1)
The Frito Company similarly established a stronghold in Los Angeles, building its largest plant at 8734 Bellanca Avenue. The company's general and district sales managers moved into the new location in the spring of 1950. Over 4,000 people attended the grand opening celebration. Executives demonstrated the original hand press that was used to make the first fritos in San Antonio in 1932.
The company also built a new plant at 1420 Roosevelt Street in its hometown. Assistant Plant Manager Ruth Ragsdale touted the operation:

"The most modern and up-to-date equipment was installed. The sacking rooms are a network of conveyors carrying the finished merchandise to the automatic weighing machines --unlike the old days when every bag had to be weighed and stapled by hand. Our continuous Frito press, enormous potato chip machine, the overhead conveyors carrying the boxes of finished merchandise from sacking rooms to the Shipping Department, electric taping and tying machines--all these things have been added to the San Antonio operation since my arrival in 1932. Another really fine addition is the modern lunch room, where employees 'take a break' and enjoy coffee and tea furnished by the company."(2)

The building is still standing.

In fact, all three buildings are at least partially standing.

(1) Carnation Company. Fifty Years of Progress. [Los Angeles?]: The company, 1949.

(2) The Frito Company. Fritos Band Wagon: Twentieth Anniversary Issue.  Dallas: The company, October 1952.

Images above: Clement O. Stiles, architect. Carnation Company Headquarters, 5045 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. 1949. Detail. From Carnation Company. Fifty Years of Progress. [Los Angeles?]: The company, 1949.

Unknown architect. The Frito Company Western Division Plant, 8734 Bellanca Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. 1950. Detail. From Fritos Band Wagon: Twentieth Anniversary Issue.  Dallas: The company, October 1952.

Unknown architect. The Frito Company San Antonio Plant, 1420 Roosevelt Avenue, San Antonio, TX. 1949. Detail. From Fritos Band Wagon: Twentieth Anniversary Issue.  Dallas: The company, October 1952.

All publications from Clementine Paddleford Papers, Richard L. D. and Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections, K-State Libraries.

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