Long before you could find the McDonald’s golden arches at just about every highway exit in America, the company was a small restaurant offering 15-cent hamburgers. As ubiquitous as the burger chain has become, few people know about its humble beginnings.

To fully understand, it’s best to take a look inside the McDonald’s standing on 10207 Lakewood Boulevard, Florence Avenue in Downey, California. As just the third restaurant in the franchise’s history, walking inside is like stepping into fast-food history.

Prepare to get nostalgic, and take a peek inside the oldest operating McDonald’s in the world…

Everyone is familiar with the fast food franchise McDonald’s and its unmistakable golden arches. Yet, not many know much about the early history of the company. To better understand, all you have to do is take a peek inside the one that sits at 10207 Lakewood Boulevard at Florence Avenue, Downey, California…

This particular franchise opened on August 18, 1953, and was only the third McDonald’s restaurant ever! Furthermore, it was only the second franchised restaurant opened by Maurice and Richard McDonald, and the last one before Ray Kroc became involved with the company. Currently, it’s the oldest still-operating McDonald’s in the world!

With its towering, 60-foot neon “Speedee” sign standing  as it always has and its 30-foot luminescent yellow golden arches, it’s easy to see how this monument to fast food history quickly became a huge tourist attraction… 

While the restaurant in Downey is the oldest operating McDonald’s, the brothers opened their first barbecue drive-in restaurant near the Monrovia Airport in 1937. Shortly after opening, they noted their best seller was their hamburger.

In 1948, the brothers closed their doors for three months to renovate and reopen as a walk-up hamburger stand. They also offered orange juice and potato chips. It wasn’t until the following year that they added Coca-Cola and french fries to their menu.

When the McDonald brothers shifted their focus from all barbecue food to hamburgers and french fries, the simplified menu and assembly line crew allowed them to produce food in record time, and to sell their hamburgers for just 15 cents. Soon after this, however, things would change…

Neil Fox of Ocidental Petroleum was the first McDonald’s franchisee to open a restaurant and utilize the Golden Arches design, which was created by architect Stanley Clark Meston and Charles Fish. While the McDonald brothers were initially unaware that he’d utilized this logo, they soon added it to all following franchises from that point forward.

Not long after, Neil’s brother-in-law and business partners Bud Landon and Roger Williams opened the Downey, California, location. Even though Ray Kroc eventually purchased the chain of restaurants from the McDonald brothers and turned them into a corporation, this location was not affected and was subsequently not forced to modernize its design.

This lack of modernization also meant that its menu remained relatively untouched. For instance, the Downey location didn’t offer such McDonald’s staples as the Big Mac. Sadly, though, when Kroc opened a modern franchise just half a mile away, sales at this location dwindled. In 1990, after years as the only remaining independent McDonald’s in existence, they were forced to join the corporation.

An earthquake in 1994 caused severe damage to the building, and it was set to be demolished shorty thereafter. That was halted, however, when it was recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the 11 most endangered buildings in America. Since then, it’s rebounded and become a popular tourist destination!

Who knew that this particular McDonald’s location had such a storied history? Eating at the oldest operating franchise would be an awesome walk through time, right?

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