Jimmy's Restaurant

These Roadside Photos Of 60’s and 70’s Columbus Will Make You Ache With Nostalgia

John Margolies was a photographer who spent more than three decades taking pictures of America’s roadside tourist architecture.

From the 1960’s onward, Margolies documented an America that barely exists anymore, having given way to endless interstate exits featuring the same chain restaurants, gas stations, and hotels.

Margolies’ work was instrumental in the decision to allow the inclusion of roadside buildings to the National Register of Historic Places beginning in the late 70’s. His process sounds like a great way to see America:

“Margolies normally rented a car and “embark[ed] in the late spring or after Labor Day, when the families and tourists were not crowding the roads.” He packed “coolers for keeping the film cool” and “separate bags for [toiletries] and kitchen [supplies].” Most nights, he stayed in motels, which he documented in Home Away From Home: Motels in America (1995). He always brought “clothespins to secure the drapes” and “a Fred Flintstone night light on a 20-foot extension cord to illuminate unfamiliar bathrooms,” says Patton. He preferred to photograph early mornings with cloudless, blue skies and would skip sites if the light wasn’t right or if cars blocked the scene. As he stated in Roadside America, “I love the light at that time of day; it’s like golden syrup. Everything is fresh and no one is there to bother you.”

Luckily for us, Margolies spent time in Columbus. Here are some of his Columbus shots, followed by some of his best Ohio work, in general. Enjoy.

John Margolies Roadside America Columbus Photographs

Photo Bug, Hamilton Avenue

Photo Bug

Eskimo Igloo Ice Cream

Eskimo Igloo Ice Cream, Columbus, Ohio

Commercial building

Commercial Building

Ater’s Drive-in

Ater's Drive-in

Kahiki Restaurant, E. Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio

Kahiki Restaurant

Barber shop

Barber Shop

Jimmy’s Restaurant

Jimmy's Restaurant

Olson Abstract Co

Olson Abstract Co

Win-Circle Restaurant

Win-Circle Restaurant

Yukon Building

Yukon Building

East Main Drive-in Theater

East Main Drive-in Theater

Some Of The Best John Margolies Photos From Around Ohio

Gas n’ Go, Ashtabula, Ohio

Gas n' Go, Ashtabula, Ohio

Lyric Theater, Lancaster, Ohio

Lyric Theater, Lancaster, Ohio

Humpty Dumpty, Till’s Dairyland and Putt-R-Golf, Route 430, Mansfield, Ohio

Humpty Dumpty, Till's Dairyland and Putt-R-Golf

Texaco pumps, Marietta, Ohio

Texaco pumps, Marietta, Ohio

No-Tel Motel sign, Route 172, Massillon, Ohio

No-Tel Motel sign, Route 172, Massillon, Ohio

Mail Pouch Barn, Route 30, Riceland, Ohio

Mail Pouch Barn, Route 30, Riceland, Ohio

Frisch’s Big Boy, Lancaster, Ohio

Frisch's Big Boy, Lancaster, Ohio

Hollywood Dream Factory, Toledo, Ohio

Hollywood Dream Factory, Sylvania Avenue, Toledo, Ohio

You can view the entire John Margolies collection at the Library of Congress website here, (you can also search the collection here). Just make sure you have some free time, because it’s easy to fall into a rabbit hole of 60’s and 70’s America.

Originally published 7/30/18. Updated 3/30/20.

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