Here we go: the final installment with the “discoveries” from my annual, tedious winter project of reviewing thousands and thousands of Google Street View maps at my website.
This business and sign in Bremerton, WA disappeared sometime between 2015 and 2017:
This sign and motel in Tacoma, WA were demolished last year:
This Sure-Fit pole sign in Tacoma, WA is gone now, too. The “S” on the sign mounted along the roof is bent over and I’m skeptical that it will be repaired:
The Luepke Florist sign in Vancouver, WA has been through a lot in recent years. Here is was in 2008:
and here’s what it looks like now:
At least they left some neon but the letters are all backlist plastic now. The panel with the flower and leaves looks brand new. Sure, better than nothing but pretty flat looking — no character really.
The Klose-In Motel in Seattle was demolished last year and the sign is gone, too.
The Tungloon Garden restaurant in Spokane, WA was destroyed by a fire in 2010. A series of used car dealerships opened on the lot but the sign remained unchanged until last year:
Here’s what it looks like now — ooofa:
This sign at Mr. Robert’s Bar & Grill in Madison, WI was removed last year. It is now in storage. The owner didn’t have any good reason to have taken it down. “Do you want to buy it?” was all I got when I asked.
This sign in Omro, WI had been repainted by 2016. The letters no longer have this Art Deco flair and the neon was also removed. Here’s the before:
And now…. I can’t tell what they did to that round part of the sign:
The Budget Motel in Superior, WI with its animated gull:
And here’s what the sign has looked like since around 2016 — the neon and gull gone. Annoying blechy lettering:
The Sloane’s Furniture sign in Milwaukee is still there:
but by 2016, the bottom panels were covered up and the neon was replaced with sloppy LED rope. The squares were also outlined with LED. The Google photo is not as clear about the changes as this photo. Cheese-y, right?
The Bob’s Bait Shop sign in Milwaukee was removed last year. How sweet it was:
Another Milwaukee loss — removed sometime between 2015 and 2017:
The Magic Dry Cleaners signs in Charleston, WV were removed around 2016:
This sign in Cheyenne, WY was removed by 2017:
This sign in Cheyenne has been repainted by 2017. Here’s the before:
Another sign in Cheyenne:
by last year, the neon all replaced with backlit plastic:
And finally, one more from Cheyenne — this sign looked like this up until last year or so:
the sign on the building is still there but I’m doubting that it’s lit:
Here’s the pole sign now:
So, there you have it for this year. The real question is: what can we do about losing all of these vintage signs other than cry and complain about it? Do we just shrug it off and say “you can’t fight progress”? Do we just accept the fact that since these signs are privately owned, we can’t do anything to save them?
I address some of these thoughts and offer suggestions in the closing of my new book:
There is some movement towards establishing mini sign parks in cities with signs that are currently in storage. This is great for nostalgic locals and design-loving tourists. And it keeps the signs in their outdoor natural element where they were meant to be seen. Also, it seems that many museums and community organizations are beginning to “see the light” about preserving these signs and displaying them. Many folks are putting together sign surveys for their cities and submitting them to city councils with the hopes that these signs will be recognized and lead to landmarking, city grants for restoration, etc. I applaud those efforts, LOUDLY.
Keeping these neon signs lit at night is very expensive. Yes, the owners see people taking photos of their signs and recognize that they are loved by many. But, as you can see by all of the tragedies that I have posted at my blog here in the past few days, to have visibility at night the ability to go cheap and use plastic letters is becoming all the rage. What were vintage signs are now debauched, ruined, and I’m betting all the more likely to hit the scrap heap soon.
Sign purists have long criticized collectors for soliciting business owners, working out a deal, and hauling signs off to their man-caves, probably never to be seen again. I’m beginning to feel this might be a better option than the sign deteriorating to such a degree that it can’t be saved and wind up at the dump in pieces.
Of course, we can all fantasize that these signs will continue hanging in their original locations forever. However, at this point, we have to come to terms with the reality of rusting signs, strict city ordinances that prohibit relighting neon or taking down signs to restore them properly. Most cities won’t allow these “grandfathered” signs to be taken down, even for a day, and then reinstalled. Most cities also have size restrictions: meaning that if a big vintage sign is taken down, a business owner might only be allowed to install a sign that’s a fraction of the size. Hence, the desire to rework the vintage sign to put the new business name on it. This often ends up with a sign being vintage in shape only.
I don’t have any answers. I have some ideas and I do feel that somehow we need to get more organized, nationally. They say “all politics is local”. And while, I get that, and think that fighting for what’s happening in your own community is important, I think our strength and the way we can have the most impact, is to think bigger, and act bigger. None of the signs that I have posted about are from my hometown but I feel the loss all the same — as I’m sure you do. If we do nothing, the entire country will be nothing but chain stores from coast to coast, Main Streets will be characterless and unhistoric. When we travel, there will be no regionalism, no fun, no design, nothing to take photos of. Your thoughts? Your ideas?
Signing off for now — my next posts will be much more positive — with photos of things that still exist. Gratefully, there are still LOTS of signs that I didn’t have to write about here that I hope you’ll get a chance to see or just admire on-line. I’m always adding to my website, making updates, etc. so I hope you’ll go there to cheer up and see what’s left. More than just signs but I know what my blog-followers are most obsessed with. Signs are the dessert of roadside architecture, after all.
dj & the dogs