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Pancakes Signs

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The photos and links at this page are meant to accompany an article that I've written for an upcoming Society for Commercial Archeology's Journal.

Pancake House [gone]
Selma, AL
Original Pancake House
Anaheim, CA
Original Pancake House
Seattle, WA
The Pancake House opened in 1962. This sign was built then for $650. The sign is about ten feet long and features a realistic stack of pancakes with maple syrup and melting butter. It was restored in 2008 and the Pepsi panel was most likely added at that point. The neon was lit every morning from around 4 am until noon. This photo is from 2010. The restaurant closed around 2012 and the space remained vacant. The sign was still there in 2014 but gone by 2016.

The Original Pancake House chain was established in Portland, OR in 1953. There are now more than 100 locations nationwide. The original location had a wooden rooftop sign with a depiction of a chef's hat. That sign was blown off and destroyed in the Columbus Day Storm of 1962. At that point, it was replaced with a plastic box sign.

The Anaheim location opened in 1958. It is the chain's second oldest location still in operation. There was a fire around 1961 and the restaurant had to be rebuilt. The sign was unaffected. Patched holes indicate that this sign originally had neon. However, the tubing was definitely gone by 1980. None of the other locations have signs like this one. A similar neon sign existed in Murray, UT. The chef character is depicted on other signs and is used for the restaurants' advertising. This mascot was meant to resemble the chain's original owner, Les Highet, who was known for his big nose and big feet. [map]

The Seattle location's sign built around 2001 in a vintage style when that location opened. The chef is made from porcelain enamel panels and the four neon pancakes that hover above his pan are lit sequentially. For more, see this website. [map]

There are other unique Original Pancake House neon signs in Birmingham, AL and Wilmette, IL. For more, see this website.

There are unrelated Original Pancake House locations in Canada. That chain was established in Winnipeg, MB in 1958 and currently has three locations. This sign in Winnipeg is probably from the 1960s. These signs in Winnipeg are gone now.

Pete's Kitchen
Denver, CO
The Pete's Kitchen sign has been lighting up East Colfax Avenue since at least the 1950s. The sign is about ten feet tall. The restaurant has gone by many names since it first opened around 1936. Originally, it was known as Kruse's Restaurant. At some point, it became the Open Kitchen. The restaurant had a simple rectangular sign then. By the 1940s, the name had been changed to Bill's Kitchen. By the 1960s, it had been renamed The Kitchen. It is not known if the current sign was installed by Bill's Kitchen or by The Kitchen. It's possible that the lower text part of the sign may have been installed first. However, by the 1960s, both parts of the sign were definitely there. In 1988, the restaurant's new and current owner, Pete Contos, had the "The" on the sign replaced with his own name. Contos also owns the Satire Lounge which is next door to Pete's Kitchen and features another remarkable neon sign.

The pancakes on the Pete’s Kitchen sign were originally animated. It is not known when they stopped moving. In 1973, a local civic association began a campaign to outlaw flashing and moving signs. Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods put together a list of 48 signs which were in violation of the Denver sign code. CHUN declared that the signs not only wasted energy but that "their ugliness contributes to the visual deterioration of the neighborhood." The Satire Lounge made the list and complied by turning off its sign along with 26 other businesses. However, there was no mention of the Pete’s Kitchen sign on the list of offenders. Perhaps the animation was not working at that time.

Today, the Pete’s Kitchen sign is well-maintained and lit at night. The owner is interested in applying for a city sign code variance to get the pancakes moving again. In February, Colorado Preservation, Inc. included the Neon Signs of Colfax on its 2014 list of endangered places. The Pete's Kitchen sign is included among the 12 identified signs worthy of preservation. Colfax Avenue, the longest continuous commercial street in the country, was once lined with neon signs. Most have either been destroyed or are in bad shape. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

Eel River Cafe
Garberville, CA
La Frite
Sherman Oaks, CA
Pancake Chef
SeaTac, WA
The Eel River Cafe opened around 1931. The owners believe that this two part sign was installed in 1952. However, it's possible that the text sign may have been built before that. The size and style of that sign suggest that it may have been installed on the building as a projecting sign. There was also a third sign installed on the rooftop pole in the 1950s which advertised for Golden State Ice Cream. That sign was removed when the restaurant began making its own ice cream. The chef panel is about eight feet tall. The sign is still lit in the morning with blue, red, white, and pink neon. The animation of the pancakes still works but it is impacted by cold weather. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, and 3. [map]

The La Frite restaurant opened in 1972 as Yellowfingers, a French style cafe. I believe this sign was built at that time. A second location in Woodland Hills opened the following year. That location closed in 2012. Around 1978, with the threat of a lawsuit from the Yellowfingers restaurant in New York City, the Sherman Oaks restaurant was renamed La Frite. This sign was adapted at that time. It is about 15 feet tall. The crepes were lit sequentially but haven't moved since the 1980s or so. The owners decided that it is too expensive to maintain that feature. However, the sign's yellow, white, green, and red neon is still lit at night. [map]

The Pancake Chef opened in 1959. This pole sign was installed then. It is about twenty feet tall and features Mondrian-like boxes, plastic panels, and a neon arrow. The vertical chasing bulbs still operate. The chef character still appears throughout the pages of the restaurant’s menu. [map]

Uncle John's Pancake House
Toledo, OH
Original Hotcake House
Portland, OR
This Uncle John's Pancake House was part of a nationwide chain that was established in Santa Barbara, CA in 1956. This might be the last location left. It appears that some of the locations became Uncle John's Family Restaurants around 1965. This sign is lit at night. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

The Original Hotcake House opened in 1955. Their sign is from the 1960s and lit at night. For more, see this website. [map]

Uncle Bill's Pancake & Dinner House
St. Louis, MO
Uncle Bill's Pancake & Dinner House opened in 1961. I believe this sign is from then. It was repainted in 2008. The neon is lit at night. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

More Pancakes Signs:
Pancake Queen (Fresno, CA) [vintage; gone]
Beecher's House of Pancakes (Los Angeles, CA) [vintage; gone]
Pancake Circus (Sacramento, CA)
Oscar's Hot Cake King: 1, 2 (Pensacola, FL) [map]
Golden West Pancake House (Evergreen Park, IL) [vintage; gone]
Hanover Pancake House (Topeka, KS)
Pancake Man (South Yarmouth, MA) [map]
Plantation House of Pancakes (Myrtle Beach, SC) [sign reworked]
Dino's House of Pancakes: 1, 2, 3 (North Myrtle Beach, SC) [map]
Flapjack's Pancake Cabin (Gatlinburg, TN) [map]
Flapjack's Pancake Cabin (Sevierville, TN) [map]
Power's Pancake Palace (Seattle, WA) [vintage; gone]
Smitty's Pancake House (Seattle, WA) [vintage; gone]
International House of Pancakes (various locations)

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