The Wagon Wheel

Yes, we are still in California! Although the Disneyland portion of our trip is over, we still have lots of plans! Meanwhile I want to share with you our detour to the Wagon Wheel.

As some readers of this blog will already know, I am a complete and utter sucker for roadside Americana. Seriously, I brake for old neon signs, or in this case, frantically exit the freeway.

On our way south on the 101 my eye caught sight of a ginormous neon sign featuring a buckboard wagon with horses pulling it. I quickly changed lanes to exit the freeway as Patrick attempted to locate the sign on his phone for us to get there without getting too lost. We ended up on Saddle Avenue, and also saw signs of Winchester Drive and Cactus Drive before coming upon a pile of rubble with this gorgeous sign towering above.

As I snapped pictures through the chain link fence, my mind raced with thoughts of what this place must of looked like, and my heart ached to think that yet another piece of roadside Americana bit the dust. Patrick meanwhile was busy looking up the history of the Wagon Wheel on his phone.

Built in 1947 by Martin “Bud” Smith, the Wagon Wheel Motel and Restaurant quickly became an icon of the city of Oxnard, with its stunning neon, and western themed building. Later Smith added more buildings, including a roller rink and a bowling alley, both of which still stood during our visit, though the Wagon Wheel itself had been reduced to a mound of concrete hunks and twisted iron rods.

The restaurant portion closed in 2005, and the motel shut its doors the following year. Preservationists attempted to get landmark status as plans began to roll out to demolish the motel and build bland, cookie-cutter homes, and a group even sued the city of Oxnard over the project. But, as you can see, history lost in the end, making way for housing. Though it seems like it’s slow going, as I was shocked to learn that the site was bulldozed back in 2011, though it looks as if it were just yesterday!

Lots more to come from our trip to California! Stay tuned!

10 thoughts on “The Wagon Wheel

  1. Ohhh you have access to such neat things! Here in NY we have old buildings and such but no space is left unused so many things are just demolished and replaced. Thankfully we now have the preservation societies and deem certain buildings and sites as untouchable. I love the things you find!! xox

  2. What a terrific find. There are so, so many old signs like this in the US or Canada. It seems most of our vintage signs were either totaled long ago are are still going strong. In the future, as I hopefully explore more of America, I would love to document those that I come across, too – especially if they’re anywhere near as cool as these Old West themed ones.

    ♥ Jessica

  3. The Wagon Wheel! What a pleasant surprise to see it on your blog. I live in Oxnard, and I was so disappointed in the city’s decision to tear it all down. My elementary school use to hold Skate Nights at the roller rink, and even back then it was all in a serious state of disrepair. There have always been people who wanted to clean it up and preserve it, but it sadly never happened. We’re losing so much of our history to tract housing and giant shopping centers.

  4. Hey there, been following your blog for quite a while now and never commented. Your love of western stuff is what got me hooked!. I live in Ventura County, and when that building stood it was awesome. I could never keep my eyes off it. It really made headlines around here when they tore it down. Total Bummer.

  5. I passed by this yesterday on my way south from visiting the Madonna Inn! I love that you stopped and explored, I would have loved to, but not so easy with a three year old in tow!

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