Just a Tease…

The dogs and I are off on our summer romp.  You won’t be hearing from me until we get home in July.  I’ll have gobs of photos for you then:  a sampling from every day’s shooting.  But in the meantime, if you’d like to tag along with this trip in progress, I’m posting  few photos daily, or nearly that, at Instagram:

Here’s one photo taken on our scoot outta SoCal on Thursday after work — this one from Beaumont, CA:



At the moment, the dogs are I are kicking back in Beeville, TX.  More mid-central TX tomorrow and possibly starting the Louisiana portion of the trip on Tuesday.  Then, there will be Mississippi, Arkansas, and more…  Back with stacks of photos in July!

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

S.F. Bay Area Roadtrip

I had a couple of days to shoot before the big SFSpeaks Neon Symposium event this weekend in San Francisco.  Three action-packed days of speakers, sign-lovers, sign-restorers, films, walking tours, displays… start making plans for next year!  I assume it will be at the end of April like it has been the past two years.  If you love signs even a little bit… this thing is fantastic:

I was one of the speakers and, as requested, I gave a presentation on Roto-Spheres and Sputnik Signs.  I have three pages at my website that cover these signs here:

I didn’t take photos during the event since I was pretty busy talking with folks, signing books, etc. and there were three designated photographers for the event already.  There are lots of photos at Facebook here:

Here’s a sampling of some photos I took on Wednesday and Thursday.   It was too early and there was barely any sun but I shot this liquor store sign in Fillmore anyway:



A couple signs from Bakersfield:



This one will be going to the Kern County Museum in Bakersfield where it will be restored and displayed in their outdoor sign garden:



From Wallace:



From San Jose:

From Oakland:



A “skeleton sign” (window sign) from Palo Alto:



A couple of signs from San Leandro — the Three Rings Wines & Spirits:


and the Cordial Bottle Shop:

Since I was there on a weekday when they were open, I finally got to see the signs at CNI Signs in Fresno.  Here are just some of them:










If you’re into Foster’s Freeze signs, I’ve got a couple of pages devoted to them here:


I also checked out some of the new signs (on the right) at the Big Fresno Fair’s growing sign collection:



A former Shakey’s Pizza Parlor sign in Visalia:



From Sacramento — this Orbit gas station was repainted a couple of years ago (previously white) but I was there too late in the day for good photos.  More Orbit stations here:


Also Sacramento but shaded by a new building going up across the street:



From Tracy:



From Lodi:



From Healdsburg:



A couple of signs from San Francisco:




Actually, it turns out that I did take a few photos at SFSpeaks before I got caught up in the whole situation:




Some other photos from this trip over at Flickr here:

And now, I’ll get down to business to prepare and add the dozens of other photos for
my website.
Sparkle ran great:  1,500 more miles under her belt on this trip.   I’ll get her checked out by my mechanic in the middle of May and then… it’s off to the South for the month of June.  The next posts in July will be a sampling of each day’s photos from that trip once it’s over.  I will be posting to Instagram every day or two on this trip.

Happy Trails,

dj & the road-trippin’ dogs

L.A. & O.C. Road Test

I had some work done on Sparkle (tune-up, etc.) and wanted to get her on the road to check everything out.  500+ miles of solid driving around Los Angeles & Orange County and I’m happy to report she is A-OK.  I’ve got about 160 photos to add to the website — and a couple dozen here for the blog.  Rather than break them up into my standard post-per-day, I’ll just do one jumbo post.

Surely, this sign at Hart’s Jewelers & Pawn in Van Nuys had much nicer panels before this kooky paint.  But it’s still nice:

The Panorama Theatre in Panorama City — now a church but the sign lives:



I finally got to the Gordon R. Howard Museum in Burbank to see a few things.  They have the “other” Don’s Coffee Shop sign (I think I posted the other one a few weeks ago here that’s at the Valley Relics Museum:


They also have some fun statues — a Bob:


A Harbie — other Harbies & their history here:


And a cool snarly boxer:



The Highland Park Bowl in Los Angeles (Highland Park neighborhood) has kind of a crappy modern-looking sign but the bowling pin/ball are fun.  I really wish I’d gone inside — my GOD!



A nice rusty/crusty in Highland Park:



I shot this sign in downtown L.A. for my pal, Heather David, who unearthed this advertisement of what the sign looked like originally:




Some more downtown L.A. shots — the Roxie Theatre:



The Cameo Theatre:



The former Arcade Theatre — now more of a pigeon perch.  But there is hope since many downtown signs are being restored in recent years:



I’m always relieved to see that this sign is still there:



At the Hotel Bristol, I think:



More L.A. stuff — plastic fantastic:



One of my fave L.A. signs.  I pray they leave it alone — it’s the patina that makes it — the blue, the rusty golden brown, the sweet shape…


Just down the street — the Gilbert Hotel:



The Talpa Restaurant — L.A. but nearly Santa Monica:



Long Beach — I must have driven by this sign a hundred times over the years and then just noticed it.  It’s on the side of a building that now houses a massage parlor:



It got cloudy for a bit, as you can see from this photo, but most of the weekend was glorious weather.  This one in Hawthorne:



More Los Angeles.  The protective metal mesh kind of adds something, doncha think?



What the HELL?  This rooftop sign got crushed and I have no idea how:


Here’s that the sign looked like just last year.  What could do that?  A combo of wind and rust?



Pretty sun shadows and zigzag edges.   We may never know the original color or wording:



It looks like Maria’s gave way to El Pollon.  I love the “this-is-it!” arrow:



And lastly, Party Snacks Liquor in Whittier:



That’s a wrap but I’ll be back with another post soon from Central & Northern California.  I’ll be heading to San Francisco at the end of the month for the NeonSpeaks three-day festival (and sneaking in a day or two of photos before that).  If you love signs and you can stir up the time and cash, you NEED to go.  I’ve been asked to speak about Sputnik signs and Roto-Spheres.  I hope you can make it!

Until then — more photos over at Flickr from this weekend’s trip:

Happy Trails,
dj & the dogs

Signs Updates – final post!!

Let’s pick it up then with the “U” states.  I promise to end with a little happy news at the end.

Lots of losses in UTAH in the past year or so.  This one in Cedar City, UT is gone.  Replaced with another rectangular plastic box for the M Star Hotel.


This rusty-crusty in Duchesne, UT is gone now:


This one in Kanab, UT — gone now:


This one in Kanab, UT — gone now:


This one in Midvale, UT — gone:


This one in Ogden, UT — gone:


Another one in Ogden, UT that’s gone:


WASHINGTON.  This cutie in Renton, WA — gone:


This one in Tacoma, WA — gone:


This one in Seattle, WA — gone now:


The neon on this sign in Spokane, WA:

replaced with backlit plastic:



WISCONSIN.  This sign in Baraboo, WI:

looks like this now.


This sign in Beloit, WI is gone now:


This sign in Madison, WI is gone now:


This rooftop sign in Medford, WI was replaced with a backlit plastic box pole sign:


This place in Tomah, WI closed and was demolished.  These signs are gone:


WEST VIRGINIA.  This one in Beckley, WV is gone now:


This Masonic Lodge sign in Parkersburg, WV is gone now:


WYOMING.  This sign in Cheyenne, WY is gone:


This sign in Gillette, WY is a plastic box sign now:


This giant neon tomahawk in Riverton, WY is gone now.  It was at the Tomahawk Motor Lodge:


And now, as promised, some GOOD NEWS!


The Lew Rents sign in Olympia, WA:

recently got new paint and the neon appears to be intact (although it’s hard to see it at Google Street View):



The Turf Motel in Charles Town, WV:

recently became a Rodeway Inn but, shockingly, the neon is still there and looks lit — and they only messed with one panel:



The Holiday Lodge in Lander, WY:

did some remodeling and added log-like paneling — but spared the sign on the side of the building:




I’m writing about these next two signs for my next SCA Road Notes “Sign Snippets” column:

This sign in Yakima, WA is being completely restored — back to the original colors:


This sign in Springfield, IL is also being restored:


And the last bit of good news from Iron Mountain, MI.  This Norge Ball is in good hands.  Technically, this is a Norgetown sign — more about all that here at my two pages here:

Of the thousand(s) of these Norge “globe signs” (what the company actually called them) that were built, this is the ONLY ONE that is currently lit and spinning.  When I saw at Google Maps that it was no longer a laundromat but a pawn shop, I immediately picked up the phone to get the scoop.  It turns out that the owner really likes the sign and doesn’t want to sell it.  He’s keeping it lit and spinning and will probably replace the middle band with the name of his pawn shop (“some day”).   I’m hoping he forgets about that since I think that “Laundromat” band is original.  But, hey, since there are only about 50 of these signs in decent or semi-decent shape, that’s a small thing if we can keep this ONE example operational.


So, that wraps up this winter series of downer posts.  My entire website is as current as it can be for the moment.  I can now forge ahead towards planning the big June trip (Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, & Oklahoma).  I’ll also take a few little California trips before that with posts of things that miraculously still survive!

Until then, check out your favorite categories at my website via the Home Page (or use that white keyword searchbox).  If you’re the anal type, there’s also the Site Map.

If you are into signs and you can find a way, you don’t want to miss the three-day Neon Speaks Festival & Symposium at the end of April in San Francisco.

Happy trails,

dj & the dogs


Sign Updates (Part 4)

The grunt work is done!  I’ve finished combing the rest of the signs section at my website’s map links for changes (removals, defacing, restorations, etc.).  I’ve got enough for at least two more installments.  Let’s get back to it the “N”s.

NEW MEXICO.  In Silver City, NM, this one might be gone.  The Buffalo Bar closed in 2014. Then, in 2015, there was talk that the sign might come down temporarily for building repairs.  It’s missing at Google’s Street View from 2018.  My photo from 2012:


In Albuquerque, the Pioneer Motel sign has been adapted, badly, for apartments.  The tall MOTEL pole sign is also gone now. Here are a couple of photos that I took in 2017:

And here’s what the sign looks like today — no neon and bland as hell:



NEVADA. This sign had an interesting history.  Originally located in Vegas at the Last Frontier Village, it made its way to this parking lot in Beatty, NV.  Then, last year the sign just crashed to the ground.  I think the damage was bad enough that it was scrapped. (yes, that’s Sparkle in the background)


This sign in Elko, NV at the 449’er Club (name hidden behind the plywood in this photo) was obviously better looking before this look:

But now, here’s the even newer look:



This sign in Gardnerville, NV is gone now:


This one way out in McGill, NV — also gone:


In Wells, NV — this sign and building upon which it was installed are gone:



A bunch of neighboring signs are now missing in Reno, NV.   The developer is supposedly going to “incorporate” them into the new buildings once they are constructed.  We’ve heard that before.  Either they never come back or they end up being chopped into pieces, neon stripped, text changed, etc.  I know the sign lovers in Reno really trying to save the signs but they didn’t get anywhere.  Let’s hope we see these again, soon, intact, somewhere:


The Para-A-Dice Motel sign in Las Vegas is missing.  I talked to the Neon Museum and they said they don’t have it.  They said that the City owns it and that they believe it will be eventually displayed as part of the Enchilada Project someday.  Hope so.


More stuff missing in Vegas.  The Vegas Motel sign was removed.  The museum doesn’t know where it went.


Although the statue at the Blue Angel Motel is safe and will be restored & displayed, the rest of the signs from the property are gone now.  I don’t know if they were scrapped or if the museum took any.

The west end of the Fremont Experience is being redeveloped and the Vegas Club was demolished.  The baseball player at the Vegas Club as well as the Golden Goose are gone.  I saw photos of them on the ground and safe.  I don’t know if the Golden Goose sign was saved.  Or what the plans for the statues are.  Vegas Vickie is in storage someplace and will supposedly be reinstalled somewhere.  I don’t know if that means the Glitter Gulch sign or just her.


The neon on the Amall sign is gone now.  Here’s a “before” photo:

and the backlit plastic adapted “after”:



The Davy’s Locker sign in Vegas that was thrown in the dumpster in 2017: [before]

has been somewhat “reconstructed” for this bar.  I dunno.  I don’t see anything original there.  I think it just turned out to be a tribute piece:



OHIO.  These signs in Celina, OH are gone now (the BAIR sign probably still had the “Walgreens Agency” panel underneath):


This sign in New Philadelphia, OH:

looks like this now (neon gone, new paint for a new name):



These signs in Springfield, OH — gone now:


And this Balyeat’s sign in Van Wert — restaurant closed and the sign is gone.  Surely, someone has this treasure, right?

This one in Warren, OH:

The replacement (I’ll keep it small so it’s not as painful):



OKLAHOMA. This little detail sign from Don Hickey Used Cars in Oklahoma City is gone now.  Maybe a replacement panel or not that old but so damned cute.  Note the little neon gunfire accents which I assumed flashed.


This neon sign in Tulsa, OK is gone now.

Replaced with a boring backlit plastic box sign:



Also in Tulsa — this one was replaced with a far smaller, less interesting plastic sign (yes, that building is a former Pizza Hut):


OREGON.   This neon sign in Portland, OR:

looks like this now — neon replaced with backlit plastic letters (and the “Tavern” panel is gone):



PENNSYLVANIA.  This sign in Milford, PA — replaced with a backlit plastic box for the FairBridge Inn:


This one in Pottsville, PA is gone:

From the REXALL SIGNS section.    This sign in Oakland, CA is gone:

These signs in Crookston, MN — gone:


SOUTH DAKOTA.   This one in Deadwood, SD is gone:


TENNESSEE.   An old ripple tin from Bristol, TN — gone:


This one in Kingsport, TN — gone:


This one in Memphis, TN — gone:


This one in Nashville, TN — gone:


OK — let’s catch our breath.  Back with the final post in this series in a few minutes.



Sign Updates (Part 3)

I’ve got another round of bad news from the next alphabetical chunk:  Indiana through New Jersey.  But first, a bit of good news.  Last blog post I mentioned the loss of the Balboa Pharmacy sign in Newport Beach, CA.  I called the store’s owner when I got a tip that the sign was back!  So, here’s the story.  Here’s the sign again from my 2013 photo:


Yes, the sign was taken down in 2017.  Between windstorms, the City warned the shop owner that the sign was becoming precarious and that it needed to be removed.  The owner had to have it actually cut into pieces during the removal.  It didn’t actually fall.  But the owner had a sign shop  build an exact replica.  He’s working on getting the neon and bulbs lit again but it is up for now on the building  I’m dying to see it.  White Sail Realty has posted a photo of it.  I don’t see any tubing holes so I’m skeptical about neon being added:


Another update.  The Star Bakery sign in San Francisco in the last post is evidently gone-gone.  You may remember (or if you look back to that post) that it was covered with a pediatrician’s panels.  I’m told that the sign itself has been replaced now.  We can only hope that the Star Bakery sign was saved somewhere.


OK then — moving on to Indiana.   The Rihm’s Drive-in Liquors sign in Cambridge City, IN is still mostly intact (the bottle & neon but the original, corrugated middle panel has been replaced.  Here’s the previous look:


and here’s what it looks like now:



The hanging sign and facade sign at the Victory Bar in South Bend, IN are gone now.  Here’s what will be missed:


Gone, too, are the Compton’s Hardware signs in Tipton, IN:


The Sam Wolf sign in Indianapolis has been defaced.  Here’s the “before”:

And the “after” from 2018 Google Maps.  Gosh, is that a sign shop guy removing the rest of the neon?



This Waffle House sign in Indianapolis (no, no relation to the big Waffle House chain)

looks like this now — uff:



Moving on to Kansas.   This prominent sign in downtown Junction City, KS is missing from the building now.  I looked and looked online and couldn’t find any news about the why.  Sure hoping it’s in the shop being restored but it seems unlikely:


Both of these signs in Larned, KS at different businesses are gone now:


This one in Overland Park, KS — yes, gone:


This sign in St. Francis, KS:

has been stripped of neon and turned into this mess:



This one in Tonganoxie, KS is gone now:


And this one in Wichita, KS — gone now:


Moving on to Kentucky.    This one in Hopkinsville, KY is gone now:


This one in Horse Cave, KY — yes, gone:

and this oldie in Maysville, KY — gone:


One bit of bad news for Massachusetts.  This sign in Auburn, MA:

is now crapped up with backlit plastic:



A few signs to report on in Michigan.   This one in Canton, MI is gone now:


The Red Lion signs in Grand Rapids, MI are gone now:


This sign in Detroit is gone:


Only one loss to report from Minnesota.   This rooftop sign in St. Paul is gone now:


A bunch of sign losses in Missouri.  This one in Belton, MO is gone:


This one in St. Joseph, MO is gone.  Probably small enough that a collector got it.  Ya hope:


In Kansas City, these Sam’s Bargain Town signs are gone:


These two signs in Kansas City are also gone:


There were two signs at this used car lot in Kansas City.  This one is gone now:

and this one:

has been repainted again.  Surely it must have been far nicer originally:



This one in St. Louis, MO is gone now:


Only one loss to report on from Mississippi.  This Holiday Inn inspired sign in Houston, MS is gone now:


And one loss from Montana.  This sign in Billings, MT:

has been reworked with plastic.  How painful is this?



One mention for North Carolina.  I’m worried about this one in Raleigh, NC.  Here’s what the sign looked like in 2005:

Yes, the neon was already missing but there were still nice details.  And this sign is HUGE.  In 2009, the sign was repainted which was good and bad.  The text panels were completely painted over and the tractor paint job was so-so:

In 2018, the sign was removed so that the building could be demolished and replaced (most likely with something much taller?).  Now, supposedly the sign will go back on top but you wonder.


One sign to report on from North Dakota.  This one in Grand Forks, ND is gone:


Moving on to Nebraska.   This sign in Bellevue, NE:

…has lost its neon and its corrugated plastic panel.  How awful looking is that backlit plastic?



This sign in Omaha, NE has been “saved” only sorta kinda.  The before shots:

And now submerged in the dirt in an upper level new apartment complex.  Yeah, up there where you really can’t even see it:


Here’s an article about the sign’s, um, “salvation” which shows the photo below of the sign stuck in the dirt next to the pool.  Why, why, why.  The poles were a big part of the sign’s design dammit:



And, closing out with New Jersey for this post.  You may have heard that the Marcal Building in Elmwood Park, NJ was destroyed in a fire last month and that this sign went with it:


This beauty in Irvington, NJ:

now looks like this:



And lastly, this beauty in Springfield, NJ:

is apparently gone.  Whatever’s under that vinyl covering looks far too rectangular to give me hope that the neon is there under it:



OK.  So, if you’re not sick to your stomach, then you’re not human and you have no appreciation for history or art.  BUT the good news is, out of all the signs I checked on so far, there are thousands that are still in place.  For now.  If you want to cheer yourself up, scoot on over to my website to see what’s still out there waiting for your visit and camera:

I probably have two or three more posts (and two or three more weeks) before this gruesome project is done.  Then, I’ll head off for some shooting and sharing and we’ll get back to focusing on the survivors.

dj & the itching-to-travel dogs

More Sign News (part 2)

Here’s what’s happened to vintage signs in Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, and Illinois in the past year or so.  Most of it is not good, as you probably know.

This nice plastic sign in Pueblo, CO disappeared between 2012 and last year.  I don’t know of any others like it on public display.   It was at Klamm’s Shell Bar & Cafe:


This sign in Trinidad, CO also disappeared between 2012 and 2018:


This fun sign in Atlantic, IA which combined football and bowling imagery was replaced recently with a dull, backlit box sign:


The Hy-Vee supermarket in Corydon, IA closed and this sign was removed:


The Rose Bowl in Mason City, IA closed after a fire in 2014.  The giant bowling pin is missing now:


This lovely sign in Caldwell, ID:

has been disfigured (neon removed, repainted):



This sign in Boise, ID:

Was “adapted” around 2017 for the Suds Tavern.  The neon and bulbs were removed and it was repainted.  The Google Map below is pretty bad — but Jess Jackson has a photo at Flickr that shows the sad transformation better:



This beauty in Pocatello, ID looked lovely at night as well — here’s Jess’ photo showing the sweet blue star:

Well, a barber shop moved into the space last year, removed the neon and painted the panels white.  I’ll spare you the photo.



Illinois has been really hard hit in the past five years or so.  Not so much in Chicago (which has lost dozens of incredible signs in the past dozen years) but everywhere else.  I was never sure if this sign in Benton, IL was vintage or modern but it was nice, regardless.  It even revolved.  But it disappeared sometime after 2015:


These mass-produced, plastic mortar & pestle signs are getting very rare now.  Only a handful left around the country.  This drug store in Collinsville, IL closed in 2017 and by 2018, the sign was gone:


This jewelry store in Vandalia, IL had been gone for at least 10 years but other stores occupied the space below.  By 2018, the building was vacant and the sign was gone:


This sign in Wilmington, IL was still there in 2016 — but both the building and sign were gone in 2018:


This motel in Eldorado, IL had been closed for years.  It was still there in 2013 but the buildings and sign were gone by last year:


The Sabre Room in Hickory Hills, IL closed in 2016.  This sign was part of the auction but it was still there in 2017.  So, I guess no one bought it and I fear the worst happened from the 2018 vacant lot at Google Maps:


This special sign in Highland, IL disappeared about a year ago and the motel is “for sale”:


This sign in Salem, IL is, you guessed it, gone now:


This sign in Seneca, IL hung there for decades despite the closed business.  Sometime about a year ago, the building and sign gave way for a new Dollar General store:


Another one gone — was in South Beloit, IL:


These two signs were in Rockford, IL:

The upper sign with that incredibly rare, original marbled paint on the porcelain had overlying, alternating neon reading “FOOD” over “DRUGS” which must have been so nice at night:

Both signs were removed by a Loves Park sign shop.  I never heard back from them but I’m hoping that the signs got good homes or are safe at the shop.  But, boy, they really were such icons in downtown Rockford.  They should never have left.



I’m really disappointed that I never got to shoot this sign in Mount Carmel, IL.  It looked just like this John Margolies photo from 1993 until recently:


Well, here’s the plastic POS that’s there now — cross that one off your list:



Moving on to a few Chicago losses.  This store closed and the sign is gone now.  The big metal support structure on the roof is still there as a reminder of what was:

Maybe it’s because of the wind in Chicago or maybe it was just a common method used by sign shops there, you see blocks and blocks of these steel supports that held massive and incredible signs at one time.  Soooooo depressing.


This sign was still there in 2016 but gone now. Yep this one had a “Chicago hanger” (my term) type of support with the chains as well:


The store closed and this one was removed last year.  At least it is now in a private collection.  Uh huh, steel & chains again:


Here’s another one that I regret I never got to shoot and now it’s gone.  I’m assuming it was always an auto-related shop.  Check out that speedometer with what must have been an animated, ascending neon arrow pointing up at the mph.  What a joy that must have been at night!  A better photo than Google Maps here:



Let’s close with a bit of good news.  This photo of the Wayne’s Feed Store sign in Rockford, IL is from 2006:

I worry more about these homespun signs more than their fancier neon cousins.  But I’m happy to report that this one got a nice repaint around 2017.  Thank you Wayne’s!!



So, I’ve made it halfway through the “I”s (states beginning with “I”) in this winter project.  I’ll be back with another post in a couple weeks with more sign news.

Shoot ’em and save ’em whenever you can…

Take care,

dj & the dogs










Time for Signs! (part 1 of many)

But be forewarned, most of this is bad news.  Continuing with my annual winter project and updates to my website from clicking on those [map] links in each description.  Lots and lots of signs are now missing.  We can hope that some went to collectors at least or museums (less likely).  However, we must face the truth that most were scrapped.

First item of business:  you may notice that this blog has a new easy to type and remember url:  https://roadarch.blog/  Not to worry, the old longer url (roadsidenut.wordpress.com) will redirect forever to this new one.  I was forced to upgrade at WordPress and figured it was time to jive the name with the website‘s name (www.RoadsideArchitecture.com has had the double, shortie url of http://www.roadarch.com for years now).  Yes, blogs and websites are very different things (chronological posts vs. super organized structures).  And my focus has always been on the highly organized website (for nearly 20 years now!).

All of the “before” photos in this post were taken by me with the bad news “afters” courtesy of Google Street View.  Now then, plowing through alphabetically, starting with the heartbreaks in ARIZONA.  Luckily, only a couple for that state.

This beauty in Safford, AZ was removed in 2018 and replaced with a boring plastic box last year:



And in Mesa, AZ, the neon palm trees are now missing from this sign and the plastic panels were replaced:




Moving on to about a dozen recent losses in CALIFORNIA.  This one is only half bad news.  While the neon is gone, the fish has been nicely repainted.  Here’s the Bucksport Sporting Goods sign in Eureka, CA in 2016:


And now (that guy painting the building gives you a sense of scale):



This sign in Martinez, CA:

has been adapted for this Greek restaurant.  Okay, so it’s still neon.  And yes, there was some bad rust at the bottom of the panels.  But these Florsheim Shoe signs which used to be all over the country are super rare now.  In this case, I would much rather have seen it removed and handed to a happy collector while a new sign put up in its place.



The Balboa Pharmacy sign in Newport Beach, CA is gone now.  It got some paint in 2009 but I think that only somewhat concealed the rust that was going on.  This photo is from 2013.  In 2017, the sign crashed to the ground and was a mangled mess.  It was destroyed.



The Peking Restaurant in Red Bluff, CA closed around 2016.  By last year, there was a Mexican restaurant in the building and this sign was gone:



I don’t believe there are any Shakey’s Pizza Parlor signs with neon left.  The Riverside, CA location closed in 2016 and this sign is gone now:


I believe all of the the older locations that had neon signs now have backlit plastic letters.  In 2017, the El Monte and Monterey Park signs both succumbed to this.  Here are the “befores”:



And now, they both look like this:



The Del Rosa Lanes in San Bernardino, CA closed in 2016.  The sign hung in there after that:


Sometime within the last year or so, it was adapted for a medical center.  As you can see, they spared no expense on nice typography:



The Washoe Motel in South Lake Tahoe, CA is still in business but this sign is not there at the 2018 Google Map.  The poles are still there so we can hope that it’s just at the sign shop getting repaired:



This sign in Bellflower, CA looked like this:


Then, in 2016, the neon was removed and the sign was repainted to look like this:



The Townhouse Motel sign in Weed, CA is gone.  The motel replaced it with a rectangular plastic box sign.  I’ll spare you the “after”.  It’s ugly as hell.



The Townhouse bar in Sacramento has been through a lot.  Here’s the original look – my photo from 2008:


Then recreated in 2013 for the Starlite:

And then last year or so, painted black & the martini is gone as the Holy Diver:



This sign in San Francisco:

was covered up with new panels around 2017 for a pediatrician sign.  We can only hope that they didn’t use superglue or some crappy adhesive and that the bakery sign’s porcelain is safe underneath and can be resurrected one day:



This sign in Stockton, CA:

was stripped of neon and horribly disfigured for another liquor store about a year ago.  It doesn’t get much worse than this, does it?



OK enough of that!  Let me leave you with 3 bits of happy news for California.

This sign in North Hollywood had peeling paint for many years.  It was completely restored last year:


In Vacaville, CA: a glass half-full surprise.  Here’s a photo I took in 2014 of the U-Save Liquor sign.  Peeling & rust but still delightful.  Most of the U-Save locations’ signs have been replaced with backlit plastic in recent years.  So, this was a hold-out:


Until 2016, when the neon was removed and the sign was repainted:

The neon tubing holes had apparently been patched and that seemed to be the end of the story.  At least the rust way maybe under control.  Then, last year, the sign was apparently dressed with LED rope.  So, at least it’s lit at night, sort of, or until the rope breaks:



Lastly, this sign in Los Angeles crashed to the ground in 2017 and we were sure that was that.  Never to be seen again.  I even called them on the phone and they didn’t think it would be back:

But then, sometime last year, it reappeared.  Apparently, a mostly faithful reproduction with the neon on top (the text on the panels is a little disappointing but hey…):



This is a ridiculously huge post so I’ll cut it off here.  I have another one nearly ready to go tonight.

Stay tuned…

dj & the dogs





Mid-Century Modern Updates

My winter website updating project is humming along.  I just finished combing the biggest section at my website (434 pages, more than 7,000 photos) and, naturally, have some bad news to report. The good news is far better though:   most of the buildings I’ve photographed & written about are still there.

Here are a couple dozen buildings that been demolished or disfigured in the past year or so.  The “before” photos are mine (from my website, roadarch.com) and the “afters” are courtesy of Google Street View.

Let’s start with this sweet little A-frame motel office in Williams, AZ:


Remodeled last year into this:



In Norwalk, CA, this building was built in 1962 as a Unimart.   It later housed a Two Guys and then, for many years, was used as an indoor swap meet.  The building was demolished last year:



I’ve long been a fab of these prefab structures and there are not many left at this point.  This one was in National City, CA and last housed a law office.   Before that, it was a medical office.  It was either dismantled or, more likely, demolished last year:



In Crestview, FL, the Okaloosa County Courthouse was demolished in 2017.  It was replaced with a larger (and uglier) courthouse:



The Rigby Bowl in Rigby, ID is no more.  In 2017, the building began housing a gym and the mid-century features and sign were removed:



The First Federal Savings & Loan Bank in Kewanee, IL has been undergoing some unfortunate remodeling lately.  Here’s what it looked like from 1963 until recently:



Around 2013, those colorful panels were replaced with clear (?) plastic (?) panels:


And then, last year, it looks like the panels might be gone for good and a visible worker was repainting the exterior a gloomy black (we can only hope it’s primer and that the original panels will return):


I don’t know the status of the interior which has or had the same designs as the exterior panels:




These barrel roofed buildings in Wichita, KS were demolished either last year or soon before that:



Here’s another prefab example from Paducah, KY that disappeared some in or between 2012 and 2018.  It last housed a barber shop.:



The Plantation Inn in Chicopee, MA was designed by Morris Lapidus as the Chicopee Motor Inn and built in 1958.  This round building with a zigzag crown was used as the motel’s conference center.  It was vacant for many years even while the motel was still operating.  In 2013, the property was sold and the buildings were demolished in 2016.  There’s now a big, unremarkable car dealership on the site now:



Some good news:  this building in Redford, MI is still there.  Designed by Minoru Yamasaki as a YWCA chapter.  Still intact canopies, screens, and loads of glass:


But when a school moved into the building in 2012, this sign disappeared.  I sure hope someone has it!



This sweet little entrance canopy of Midland Park, NJ — removed in or around 2018:



The Western Reserve Hardware building in Madison, OH was demolished last year:



The Executive Club Building in Rocky River, OH was demolished in 2016:




The Anthony Rossi Studio in Canton, OH closed around 2017 and these screens have been removed:




The Great National Life Insurance Company Building in Dallas, TX from 1963 was either demolished last year or will be this year:




The Hill Farms State Transportation Building in Madison, WI was demolished last year:


Google Street View even documents the tragedy:



The Lincoln Community Bank (both the branch & the matchy-matchy drive-thru) in Merrill, WI was demolished in 2018 or slightly before that:



I never got to shoot the Uptown Motel building in Rawlins, WY.  It was demolished in 2017.  It was designed by Richard Crowther.  Here’s a vintage postcard:

Google last shot it in 2009:


Let’s move on to some better news.   In Boulder, CO, the First Christian Church building has be transformed into a recreation for “The Province” student housing which now surrounds it.  The building had been vacant since 2010.  The exterior and stained glass remain intact.  This website shows some photos of the interior:



The long vacant former Gilldorn Savings Bank in Pawnee, IL has been adapted for the Pawnee Police Department.  Unfortunately, the dirt mounds which were part of the original 1984 design have been removed and they’ve slapped some ugly siding on the building and messed with the windows but the original intent is still kinda sorta there:



Google 2018 photo:



The Paris Laundry & Dry Cleaners in Phoenix, AZ was built in 1957:


The cleaners closed in 2016.  In 2018, the building was adapted for Modern Manor, a vintage furniture store and cafe.  Google shows the work taking place.  I believe the original Paris sign panel is inside the store (repainted but no neon):



So, what shall we conclude from all this devastation?  Yes, mid-century modern design is still under-appreciated by the masses and under attack all across the country — big cities & tiny towns.  One-story buildings on valuable land are especially at high risk for condo development.  Many mcm buildings have asbestos problems and that adds another complication and expense when it comes to reusing vs. teardown.

What can you do about it? If you are into these buildings, you can help at the local or state level by working with others to make a list of significant examples.  Create a walking or driving tour.  Take lots of photos. Meet with local government officials when a building becomes vacant to help them understand why the building “matters”.  Set up a card table near the building & hand out flyers to the locals about getting the building landmarked or at least recognized locally. Let other folks know about the vacancy or threat of demolition via social media and see what plans you can come up with to help save these beauties.  There are lots of great mcm organizations out there that might be interested in helping publicize your effort or provide strategy advice.

If you need a cheering up after this blog post, you might want to explore the mid-century modern buildings section at my website here:



My next blog post will be in a month or two once I’ve combed the last section for the year:  the Signs section.  Wouldn’t be great if I only found a few things to report back about?

And as for the next “real” roadtrip...  Once I’ve finished this “homework”, I’ll take a few little trips here in California.  One little trip up to the Bay Area in April will be to attend & speak at the 2nd (annual?) Neon Speaks event in San Francisco April 26-28.  If you love signs, you GOTTA go:

The Really Big Trip for the year will be in June — a month to wrap up some Texas stuff and then focus on Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

Happy Trails,

dj & the dogs





Gas Station Updates

Lots of “news” while updating the Gas Station section at my website.  Let’s start with the bad news.  The photos were all taken by me.  The “Afters”/update photos are from Google Street View.

This former Shell station in San Bernardino was demolished in 2017.  I only know of one other original canopy like this left (Tracy, CA):



This former Beacon Oil station in Stoneham, MA housed the Dairy Dome for many years.  The building will be demolished soon for condos.


Well, at least there are three other surviving examples of this design:



This station in Janesville, WI was demolished recently:




Let’s move on to the Before/Afters.

This Standard Oil station in Lawrenceburg, KY:


was unfortunately remodeled (canopy removed) into this (photo GSV):




This former station in Cambridge, MA when it was in use as a colorful cafe:


It was remodeled in 2016 for a medical center (photo GSV) – the tower removed & altered:




Let’s move on to some happy news:

This photo of this former Esso station in Lynchburg, VA is from 2011:


began housing this swanky bar/restaurant in 2016 (photo GSV):



This former Gulf station in Beckley, WV:


has housed Poncho & Lefty’s restaurant since 2016 (photo GSV):



This station in Minerva, OH:


is now housing a brewery (photo GSV):



This former Gulf station in Durham, NC was in rough shape for many years:


Since 2011, the building has housed the Geer Street Garden restaurant/bar (photo GSV):



This former Cities Service station in Darlington, WI was housing a farm supply store in 2012:


Since 2017, the building has housed City Service Brewing:



This former Conoco station in Des Moines, IA was endangered and saved.  But then it sat up on blocks for many years:


Finally, it has landed and is now used as a youth center (photo GSV):



This former Phillips 66 station in 2017:


is now housing the Graze restaurant (photo GSV):



This former Sinclair station in Denver, CO (yes, the P66 design was used by Sinclair in Colorado):


is now housing a Snarf’s Sandwiches (photo GSV):



This boarded up Enco station in Tallahassee, FL:


was adapted for the Happy Motoring bar/restaurant last year (photo GSV):


That wraps up these blog posts for awhile.  I’m now going to tackle the two biggest sections at my website (mid-century modern buildings and signs).  I’ll be back in a few weeks with an mcm post.