A Mid-Century Stroll Through Bixby Knolls

I’ve got a weakness for ice cream and one of my very favorite spots is Long Beach Creamery in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach. During my drives down this stretch of Long Beach Blvd. I started to notice something unique – it’s filled with mid-century buildings! Well, anyone who knows me knows I love mid-century modern design and I started to really appreciate my surroundings every time I headed for some ice cream. I decided I needed to explore it further and last week took a stroll down the street straight into the atomic age.

I started out at the western corner of 35th Street and Long Beach Blvd. and immediately ran smack dab into the delightful 3505 Long Beach Blvd. Built in 1963 this fabulous open air structure was designed by the renowned firm Killingsworth, Brady and Smith who’s headquarters were conveniently just up the road. In fact, as I continued my trek I discovered the boulevard is still home to numerous architectural firms.

Case in point, my next stop 3575 Long Beach Blvd. is the headquarters of Hugh Gibbs & Donald Gibbs Architects. This father and son firm built the structure in 1963 and it remains their headquarters to this date. It’s significant enough to merit a spot in one of my favorite books Long Beach Architecture: The Unexpected Metropolis by Cara Mullio & Jennifer M. Volland. According to the authors the building initially was to be a four story structure filled with leased offices but the elder Gibbs allowed his son to oversee the new design. The result is a 6500-square-foot single story structure with a completely open floor plan. If only I could get inside!

Continuing on I came across buildings I had never noticed from my car like the 1940 built (and most certainly mid-century remodeled) 3591 Long Beach Blvd.

The 1957 built 3633 Long Beach Blvd. (note its architecture firm tenant).

And the 1955 built 3747 Long Beach Blvd. I just love how each of these structures has been beautifully restored.

Soon I came across one of my very favorite buildings on the street – 3777 Long Beach Blvd.

Beautifully restored in 2004 it’s one of the gems of the boulevard and every time I pass by I admire its multi-colored glass facade. Up close it’s even better.

Strolling along I continued to find numerous gems in various states of repair. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a built date for any of them but they all bear numerous mid-century trademarks like angled roofs, stone walls and, my favorite, breeze blocks.

Remember when I mentioned the architectural firm Killingsworth, Brady & Smith? Well, their 1955 built headquarters is just up the road at 3833 Long Beach Blvd. Like Gibbs & Gibbs the building is still home to their firm and, I believe, is currently undergoing renovations.

According to the trusty Long Beach Architecture this structure was the first commercial building in Long Beach to “be built as a pure statement of mid-century modern architecture.” I told you this street was a treasure trove!

At this point I thought I’d seen all the really good spots when I came across my new favorite structure at 4047 Long Beach Blvd.

Built in 1956 this executive office has been lovingly restored inside and out. I was able to sneak a peek inside and it’s filled with wonderful period furniture. Whoever the current occupant is they are the perfect steward for this gem.

During my stroll the skies changed from bright blue to dark grey and there was the scent of rain in the air. After discovering my new favorite building I decided to end on a high note and head back to my car. I had made it to the intersection of Long Beach Blvd. and Carson (home of my ice cream spot) but it was too cold for a frozen treat. Instead I stopped at a great coffee shop, The Merchant, for a killer cappuccino.

I hurried back along the east side of the street which, for some reason, doesn’t have as many interesting structures. But, there are a few gems.

And it does have one thing the west-side can’t compete with.

Who doesn’t love a giant donut?!?!?

The Bixby Knolls stretch of Long Beach Blvd. is home to some of the most wonderful mid-century structures in Southern California. I’m glad I finally got out of my car and took the time to see them up close. They’re truly delightful.

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