Novelty Architecture: Hat N Boots

Novelty architecture arose with the coming of car culture. An early and iconic form of this kitsch architecture is a building shaped like an item, known as a “Duck,” after the iconic Big Duck in New York, built in 1931 (term coined by the authors of Learning from Las Vegas in 1977). Novelty architecture comes in a range of sizes, from your teepee-shaped motel room to the picnic-basket-shaped Longaberger Headquarters (yes, they make baskets!).

Here you can see the door in the boots: originally the gas station restroom.

Novelty architecture, from Ducks to giant sculptures, spread across the United States in the mid-twenthieth century as a way to catch eyes and turn heads of potential customers that were speeding by in cars. If you’ve done road trips in the West or the Midwest, you may be familiar with giant sculptures including Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

Hat N Boots, a well known landmark in south Seattle, is a beautifully preserved example of novelty architecture. The sculpture duo was originally part of “Premium Tex,” a cowboy themed gas station built in 1954. The boots, which you can go inside, served as the bathrooms for the gas station. Following the 1988 closing of the gas station, the hat and boots fell into disrepair. In 2003, the local community gathered the funds and plans to save these icons. They were moved to Oxbow Park, in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, were they were restored and can be visited, today.

The Boots with neighboring play structure.



Hat N Boots in 1992, courtesy of Roadside America
Hat N Boots, today.

Sources and Further Reading

Roadside America has a nice write-up of Hat N Boots here, as well as an older photograph (see below).

There is a nice collection of Ducks and other novelty architecture on the Wikipedia page, which is a nice place for a little introductory looking around.

Another blogger has previously gathered a list of 15 examples of novelty architecture, and it’s a good one! Check that out here.

Photos: the historic photo came from Roadside America; all the rest are my own.


10 thoughts on “Novelty Architecture: Hat N Boots

    1. Such great timing! Novelty architecture on the mind. I loved reading your piece. I will have to go explore Wedgwood one of these days! Thanks for including my piece in your article!!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. […] Roadside architecture, from motels to rest areas and campgrounds, is an architectural genre all its own. Much of this architecture corresponds directly with the growth of America’s highway system in the 1950s and 60s, and the popularization of the American road trip. It should come as no surprise that I’m endlessly intrigued by this topic: I grew up traveling rural highways of the American west and visiting National Parks with my geologist parents and roadside architecture has percolated to my blog (check out my favorite midcentury motel here and Seattle’s iconic Hat ‘n Boots here!). […]


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