Architect Gordon Powers celebrates his 100th birthday today. His classic bowling center designs of the 1950s completely reinvented the game, opening up to women and families what had mostly been a men’s sport played in smoky saloons.
His firm, Powers, Daly, & DeRosa, was based in Long Beach and created spectacular bowling palaces around the country. Their remaining works locally include Covina Bowl, Bowlium in Montclair, and the recently closed Friendly Hills Bowl in Whittier. Their modernist designs, coupled with new technologies that included automatic pinsetters, made knocking down pins a national pastime. Even today, bowling remains the number one participatory sport in America.
These massive 50-lane bowling centers were cities of entertainment, originally featuring full service restaurants, cocktail lounges, showrooms with live entertainment, banquet halls, and beauty salons. They became the center of the midcentury suburban communities built up around them. Even today, bowling remains the number one participatory sport in America.
Powers was born in LaGrande, Oregon and graduated from the University of Washington in 1940. He joined the U.S. Army at the start of WWII and became a sergeant in the Air Force the year the sound barrier was broken. Powers Daly DeRosa designed homes, medical offices, and civic buildings, but the Googie bowling centers are their masterpieces.
Powers retired from architecture at age 96, but remains active in Orange County where he travels and trains dogs. He recently won the Los Angeles Conservancy modern master award and the Long Beach Heritage preservation award. His firm’s work starred in an exhibit your columnist curated at the A+D Museum. I love this guy! Here’s wishing a great big happy birthday to the esteemed Mr. Gordon Powers.