Lobster Point Lighthouse // 1948

When you walk along Ogunquit’s Marginal Way cliff walk, it is missing one thing, an iconic Maine lighthouse… or is it? This mini lighthouse on the route always has people lining up to snap a picture and its quirky roadside attraction appeal is undeniable. The original Lobster Point Lighthouse was constructed in 1948 by Winfield C. Littlefield of the local family who first settled in the town. The “lighthouse” was designed by Grover S. Perkins. Much like the real lighthouses on the coast, the original structure was badly beaten by the salt air and high winds and parts of the structure were replaced. Notably, in 1993, the top (lantern) was replaced with fiberglass. Additionally, in 2009 the structure was upgraded, all from donations. The iconic roadside lighthouse will continue to ‘light the way’ for the droves of tourists and locals alike who navigate Marginal Way.

Hood Milk Bottle // 1934

Photo courtesy of Brandon Bartozek

Boston’s iconic Hood Milk Bottle has been an iconic fixture in the city’s built environment for decades, but do you know about the history behind it? The architectural oddity was born in 1933-4 in Taunton, Massachusetts, the brainchild of Arthur Gagner who created it as roadside attraction in which he could sell his homemade ice cream. The Milk Bottle beckoned to local families with its impressive size (the structure is 40 feet tall, 18 feet wide, weighs 15,000 pounds, and would hold 58,620 gallons of milk, if it were a real milk bottle)! As car ownership became commonplace, giant donuts, coffee pots, hot dogs, and other surreal shapes rose up on roadsides across the country, enticing motorists to pull over from the busy, new freeways. Gagner peddled sweet treats from his whimsical wooden stand for a decade before selling the building to the Sankey family, who also used it to sell ice cream. But by 1967, the bottle had been abandoned. In 1974, photographer Walker Evans took a Polaroid of the forlorn building, which brought Hood Milk, native to Charlestown, to the table. With a quote of $25,000 to repair it, Hood agreed to cover that cost if the Bottle could be renamed The Hood Milk Bottle, and the structure was to be located on City Hall Plaza, until the architect of the plaza called the Mayor’s Office stating their displeasure with that idea. They then contacted the newly relocated Boston Children’s Museum, who agreed to locate the bottle on their property. The Hood Milk Bottle was delivered to the Museum in 1977 from Quincy (where the repairs were made) on a barge with two fire boats steaming alongside, on a voyage the Hood Company dubbed the “Great Bottle Sail”, where it has remained to this day. It recently underwent a $350,000 renovation, restoring it to its former glory. So no crying over spilled milk!

Kowloon Restaurant // 1950

If you are from New England, it is hard to not know about Kowloon, the iconic roadside landmark on Rt. 1 in Saugus, MA, just north of Boston. A four-mile stretch of Route 1 has arguably the largest collection of roadside architecture and mid-century neon signs in the New England region. The street was referred to as the “Gold Coast” by some for the taxable income to the town of Saugus, and despised by others for the garish proliferation of monumental signs and flashing lights resembling the Vegas. Iconic signs and buildings from the 68-foot tall Hilltop Cactus sign (which has been restored as part of a new development) to the former Ferns Motel, a now gone remnant of the automobile age, replaced by a hotel, to the Leaning Tower of Pizza, a pizza shop with a replica of the iconic leaning tower in Italy, litter the streetscape. A sign ordinance was passed by the town in 1977 limiting the size and brightness of signs, but “grandfathered” the existing signs. Over the years many roadside signs and buildings have made way for new developments, but one institution has actually grown, Kowloon Restaurant.

Originally established in 1950 as The Mandarin House, and able to accommodate just 40-50 customers, the Wong Family started what would become a local institution. In 1958, the Mandarin House was bought by Madeline and Bill Wong, the second generation of the family to own the business who changed the name to Kowloon Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge, and it was a huge success. The restaurant offered a club-like atmosphere in some rooms with waterfalls and volcanoes and other rooms more subdued for families. The restaurant expanded with seating from 50 to 1200! The most stunning part of the complex of additions has to be the addition from 1970, which resembles a Polynesian Longhouse with a 15-foot tiki above the entrance.