Recent-ish Sign News

I’m about halfway through the map-check at the gas station section of my website (next blog post) but I thought I’d take a break to update some of the signs section.  I know most of my blog followers are sign enthusiasts.  So, here’s one for you!  There have been a lot of losses during the last year or so but every sign that survives is actually a miracle.  Let’s start with the bad news.

Let’s start with a few losses from Michigan.  This one breaks my heart — one of my favorite oldies from Detroit.  The building had been vacant for decades (?) but this sign held on.   Stripped of neon but lovely curlicues to the rusting metal. It was there in 2015 but gone earlier this year.  I sure hope someone has it.  My photo from 2011:


This sign in Inkster, MI was removed around 2013.  The motel is now a Rodeway Inn with the typical plastic box sign.  I’m betting those bulbs flashed.  My photo from 2011:


And then there was this tragedy in Grand Rapids, MI.  Konkle’s Bar opened in 1950 and this sign is probably from then.  My photo from 2011:


The neon was well preserved as evidenced from this photo by Brandon Bartoszek:

Evidently, Konkle’s closed last year, and a new business (Steel Cat Bar) took over.  The backlit additions are beyond ugly [courtesy Google Street View]:



Another shocking sign “transformation” is this one in Wichita, KS.  The simple yet beautiful Uptown Motel sign — my photo from 2010 (when the neon was fully functioning at night):


Well, sometime last year or slightly before, the sign was defiled with backlit plastic letters:
As if that wasn’t sad enough, I’ll give you one more sign “update” from Colorado Springs, CO.  The colorful and cute Lee’s Liquors sign — my photo from 2012:


Note the sweet little neon arrows that wrapped around the sign.  Sure, it could have used a little paint.  But it never deserved THIS — adapted for the 64 Store medical marijuana store.  More backlit plastic add-ons:

I dunno.  I’d rather see a sign removed and pray that it’s in someone’s private collection than have the sign mangled and mutilated like these have been.  Many neon sign purists and sentimental locals would rather have signs stay “in situ” (where they are) until they crumble to dust.  Some fortunate signs get moved to another spot in town where they can live out their last days or they get stashed in storage until a museum can display them properly.  But the trend of late, is this “compromise” of sign re-use.  Some of these horrendous adaptations are partly to blame on city sign preservation ordinances.  Removing the historic artifact is forbidden but turning it into an eyesore is just fine.

Here are some signs that have recently gone missing.  In Hot Springs, AR a fire in the Majestic Hotel set the stage for a building demolition.  Grady’s Grill was one of the building’s tenants. This sign disappeared around 2014 pre- or during the demo.  My photo from 2010:

In Wheat Ridge, CO the Applejack Liquors sign was removed earlier this year when it became “unstable”.  The good news is that it’s sitting in a sign shop and might reappear one day.  My photos from 2012:


Lots of bad news from Fresno, CA.  Several signs along “Motel Row” disappeared in the past couple of years.  Some might blame the High Speed Rail Project but, if not for that, their years were probably numbered.

This one was taken down in 2014 — put up on eBay so, hopefully, it’s in someone’s “man cave”:

Earlier this year, the gas station lot was bulldozed and most likely this sign went away with the rubble:

This Fresno sign also disappeared earlier this year.  My photos of it from 2013:

It was in perfect shape so I hope it’s somewhere safe:

And then — many people’s favorite sign in town was also removed a few months ago.  The diving lady panels were spotted on a flatbed truck so they are somewhere.  But, apparently, the rest of the sign was not so lucky.  Plastic shards found piled on the ground.  My photo from 2013:


The gigantic General Electric sign in Fort Wayne is gone now, too.  All bulbs – from the 1920s.  Here’s my photo from 2009 of the sign being restored:

And in 2010 after the work was all done:

But then… the plant closed in 2015.  And then earlier this year, there were reports of idiot teenagers on the vacant building’s roof, climbing on the scaffolding and trying to remove letters.  So, to avert any tragedies, the City removed the letters and put them in storage.  Maybe one day, however unlikely, the sign may be reassembled.

But let’s end with some good news!!

I was mighty sad to see that this sign in Lake City, FL had disappeared from Google Street View in 2014:


But then I got some reassuring news that the sign had been moved to the company’s headquarters — where it is lit at night (well, mostly).  Photo from dusty_73:

Evidently, this was a chain or there were at least two locations.  There was another sign of the same design repurposed for a used car dealership in Tallahassee, FL which I shot in 2010.  Unfortunately, the sign was gone by 2013:

This sign in Denver has been through a lot in the last couple of years.  My photo from 2012:


But then, by 2014, the sign had been adapted for the Aqua Lounge and the neon was removed.  Not a good look:


And, then, miracle of miracles, this year, the sign is now being restored back to its original look with functioning neon and all!  Thank you Seth Totten at Acme Neon!!  The panels being removed:


The work still in progress:

And, lastly, how about one more bit of good news from Denver.  The 715 Club which had been closed for nearly 30 years reopened this year.  Here’s my photo of what the sign looked like in 2016 — busted neon, missing bulbs, semi-crude hand-painting:


Well, the news owner sprung for a complete restoration.  This photo from Lindsey Bartlett in this article about the Grand Reopening in September:


This sign was restored by Glen Weseloh of Morry’s Neon.  A nice article (with great photos!) about Denver neon shops & sign preservation here:

That’s a wrap.  Another post soon.  If you’re hungry for more vintage signs, thousands of others at my website here:

Happy trails,

Debra Jane & the dogs

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