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Roadside architecture

Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:


Accession: 20171116-JTIdentifier: 20171116-JT-IV.
Scope and Contents:

The attractions series contains 1,195 items, dating from 1912 to 2001, with the majority from the 1920s to the 1970s. Boxes 120-136.

Margolies organized this series in binders, grouped by theme or type of the attraction. We created 28 subseries based on the labels he had assigned to the binders. The order of the groups was created by library staff, keeping items in order the way they were housed in the binders, but assigning an order of the subseries for accessibility.

When Americans first took to the road in their automobiles in the beginning of the twentieth century, shrewd entrepreneurs began to offer essential services, such as gas, food and lodging.

In this explosion of commerce beside the road, there was a new type of establishment which had nothing to do with fulfilling basic needs. The tourist attraction was conceived as a way to divert and amuse travelers along the way.

Before the advent of corporate communications and architectural uniformity, America's built environment was a free-form landscape of individual expression. Signs, artifacts, and even buildings ranged from playful to eccentric, from deliciously cartoonish to quasi-psychedelic.

Animals: Fish and Dolphins

Animals: Alligators, Snakes

Animals: Birds

Animals: Zoos, Misc.

Animals: Dinosaurs

Boats and Ducks


Folk Art

Mystery Spots


Old Towns

Miniature Villages

Paul Bunyan

Miscellaneous Attractions

Amusement Parks


Gift Shops

St. Augustine

Wax Museums

State Guides

South of the Border

Rock City


Ethnic Villages

Observation Towers and Cog Railways

Springs and Gardens



Related items: Fun along the road : American tourist attractions / John Margolies. Boston : Little, Brown, c1998.

Roadside America : architectural relics from a vanishing past = Architektonisch e Relikte einer vergangenen Epoche = reliques architecturales d'une époque disparque /

John Margolies ; edited by Jim Heimann ; foreword by C. Ford Peatross ; introduction by Phil Patton. Köln, Germany : Taschen, ©2010.

Dates: 1870-2005; Majority of material found within 1920s-1960s

John Margolies collection of travel photographs and postcards

Accession: 2017-254

John Margolies (1940-2016) was an American photographer and architecture critic with a fondness for novelty architecture. This is his personal collection of postcards and photographs from across North America. These materials primarily cover the United States’ most popular tourist spots along with various businesses. There is heavy coverage of the Northeast region of the United States, where Margolies lived most of his life. Postcards are primarily from the first half of the twentieth century, and photographs primarily span circa 1890-1920s. Postcards cover a wide range of subjects from famous attractions to local businesses, and photographs are almost entirely local businesses, many being interior views of family owned businesses with their owners. Few objects are contained within the collection, including signs from local businesses and a scrapbook from the honeymoon of an unidentified couple. A small amount of transparencies and negatives conclude the collection, which were used for the planning of some of Margolies books. It is important to note that this collection does not contain John Margolies original photography, except for the few postcards that advertise his exhibits.

Dates: 1880-2007; Majority of material found within 1910-1960s