Town Square

Post a New Topic

Pleasant Plaza on 1st Street is Googie Architectural Gold

Original post made by Protect Ptown History, Del Prado, on Apr 19, 2013

Pretty much everyone in Pleasanton is familiar with Pleasant Plaza on First Street in Pleasanton. In a town filled with bland, uninspiring, and forgettable strip malls (think Hopyard Road), Pleasanton Plaza bursts with personality. More importantly, it is one of the best remaining examples of Googie style architecture in the entire Bay Area. For those unfamiliar with the term Googie, it was a form of modern architecture which was popular, especially in CA, from the late-1940s to the mid-1960s for commercial buildings. It was influenced by the Atomic Age, car culture, jets, and space travel. It featured bold angles, colorful signs, plate glass, cantilevered roofs, and pop-culture imagery to attracted drivers. Here is a link for a more detailed explanation of Googie style: Web Link

The signage on the shopping center is especially indicative of the style and its 1961 date of construction. Notice the freestanding “Pleasanton Plaza” sign along First Street with its triangular red supports which point upward like rocket. Also notice the gold “starburst” below the text. These features are highly representative of the Atomic Age and New Frontier era of the early 1960s. The plaza truly captures a moment in time in postwar America when the future seemed limitless and full of bold new ideas. The plaza building itself features the original neon Cole’s sign which is flanked by a football. The signage contrasts nicely with the modern, unadorned wall it is affixed to. The cantilevered awning that spans the Cole’s portion of the building is also in tune with the modern architecture of the period.

I hope Pleasanton values what it has in this shopping center and does something to protect it. It represents not only an increasingly rare form of architecture but also symbolizes a very specific moment in postwar America. Think of the people that grew up visiting the market, barber shop, pharmacy, and burger joint among others. Long live Pleasant Plaza!!

Comments (11)

Like this comment
Posted by Sure!
a resident of Civic Square
on Apr 19, 2013 at 11:20 am

Hey thanks for the history lesson but you can't be serious are you? That strip mall has zero aesthetical appeal. Lets take a couple of pictures and put them in the museum on Main Street and bring in the wrecking ball tomorrow.

Like this comment
Posted by Protect Ptown History
a resident of Del Prado
on Apr 19, 2013 at 11:33 am


Thanks for the flippant remark. I'm sure you're an expert on aesthetical appeal and architecture. Maybe if you took two seconds to look into Googie architecture you wouldn't make such a shoot-from-the-hip comment.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2013 at 2:40 pm

The problem with Pleasant Plaza is that nothing has been properly maintained in a manner consistent with the historical nature of the style, other than the freestanding sign and the Cole's sign. The landscaping along First Street has is forlorn and has been filled in with concrete in various places, the area outside Bob's is a wasteland, and the brick-colored paint and new signage that was added a few years back aren't even close to period-correct. Nice thought, Ptown History, but it would take a major effort to make that center significant and correct once again.

Like this comment
Posted by Protect Ptown History
a resident of Del Prado
on Apr 19, 2013 at 3:27 pm

I respectfully disagree that "it would take a major effort to make that center significant and correct once again". First off, the building has maintained amazing good historic integrity considering that it is over 50 years old. There has been almost no major additions or alterations to the building itself beyond very small cosmetic things like repainting.

It seems like you’re ignoring the most important character defining features, like the signage and the overall structure of the building, and dwelling on some very minor alterations. While it would be nice to have the original landscaping, it was never a major character defining feature of the plaza and its removal is a relatively minor strike against the overall integrity. Second, the new signage for the smaller businesses is not a drastic departure from the original signage since all they did was remove the plastic inserts into the original rectangular box. This is very minor and could easily be adjusted at a very cheap cost. Third, the paint is a minor cosmetic issue that could easily be changed. Even if the paint isn’t removed, it hardly detracts from the historic integrity.

It’s important to remember that countless commercial buildings have been added to the National Register of Historic Places (and other registers) with much more drastic alterations. Since businesses often move in and out of shopping centers, it is common for commercial buildings to undergo alterations at the ground floor level. In the case of Pleasant Plaza, it has all of the original plate glass windows and doors. Overall, the building has VERY GOOD integrity.

Like this comment
Posted by Brit
a resident of Downtown
on Apr 19, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Very interesting post and some great info. I think this shopping center adds a very cool early 1960s, Mad Men vibe to the town. I happen to love the playful style of "Googie".

Like this comment
Posted by Arnold
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2013 at 8:02 pm

(Post removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff as irrelevant to this thread.)

Like this comment
Posted by Arnold
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2013 at 9:50 pm

(Post removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff as irrelevant to this thread.)

Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Apr 20, 2013 at 11:28 am

The sign is cool. Reminds me of Hesperian Blvd in the 60s. The buildings are rectangles. Ugly and bland.

Like this comment
Posted by Beth
a resident of Laguna Vista
on Apr 22, 2013 at 9:57 am

Very interesting post and information about the plaza. I have always loved seeing that Plaza sign when i come into Pleasanton from Livermore. I agree with the original post, i hope Pleasanton recognizes what it has and tries to preserve the small piece of Googie architecture. To be honest, did not know that was what it was called, so thanks for the information. I like the plaza but do wish they would maybe spruce up the end by the Burger place - some trees and more tables. Always see people eating outside, would be nice if it was more inviting.

Like this comment
Posted by Andy
a resident of Livermore
on Apr 22, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Hey Protect Ptown History, Thank You! I enjoyed the post and look forward to seeing Pleasanton Plaza through the eyes of a admirer.

Like this comment
Posted by Trish
a resident of West of Foothill
on Apr 22, 2013 at 7:27 pm

I love it! And like the retro look as well.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: *

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Question credibility, corroboration before condemnation
By | 5 comments | 749 views

What You Need to Do Before Your Child Goes to College
By Elizabeth LaScala | 0 comments | 330 views