John Samuel Margolies was an architectural critic, photographer, and author who was noted for celebrating vernacular and novelty architecture in the United States, particularly those designed as roadside attractions. Starting from the mid-1970s, he began to photograph sites during long road trips, since he was concerned these sites would be displaced by the growing modernist trend. He was credited with shaping postmodern architecture and recognizing buildings that would be added to the National Register of Historic Places through his documentary work. Starting in 2007, the Library of Congress began to acquire his photographs, and created the public domain John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive in 2016, consisting of 11,710 scans of color slides taken by Margolies.
John Samuel Margolies was born on May 16, 1940 in New Canaan, Connecticut, the son of Asher and Ethel (née Polacheck). During childhood road trips, he would beg his parents to stop at roadside attractions, but they refused, believing it to be “the ugliest stuff in the world.” Margolies studied at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a bachelor’s degree in art history and journalism, and a master’s degree in communications.