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|The photos and links at this page are meant to accompany an article that I wrote for the Society for Commercial Archeology's Journal magazine.|
|Pancake House [gone]
|Original Pancake House
|Original Pancake House [gone]
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 was built around 2001 in a vintage style when that location opened. The chef was made from porcelain enamel panels and the four neon pancakes that hovered above his pan were lit sequentially. The sign was still there in 2017. In 2018, the restaurant and sign were gone. The sign is in a private collection. 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.
The Pete's Kitchen chef 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 1950s, it had been renamed The Kitchen. It is not known if the current text panel sign was installed by Bill's Kitchen or by The Kitchen. In 1955, the top panels with the chef were added. They were built by Gordon Signs. A photo of a sign being constructed for a McDonnell's restaurant in Los Angeles turned up in Gordon Signs' archives. It was most likely the inspiration for the Pete's chef sign. By the time the chef panels were added, the text panels below read "The Kitchen." The bottom panel which now reads "Parking" may have been added in 1955 as well. It read "Open All Nite" at that time. 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. In 2017, the owner successfully applied for a city sign code variance to get the pancakes moving again. This sign and the Satire Lounge sign are now animated again. In 2014, Colorado Preservation, Inc. included the Neon Signs of Colfax on its list of endangered places. The Pete's Kitchen sign was 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
|La Frite [gone]
Sherman Oaks, CA
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 was about 15 feet tall. The crepes were lit sequentially but hadn't moved since the 1980s or so. The owners decided that it was too expensive to maintain that feature. However, the sign's yellow, white, green, and red neon were still lit at night. In 2017, the restaurant was sold and now serves Italian food. The sign is gone.
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 restaurantís menu. [map]
|Uncle John's Pancake House
|Original Hotcake House
|The Pancake Shop
Hot Springs, AR
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 John's Family Restaurants around 1965. This sign is lit at night. For more, see this website. [map]
The Pancake Shop opened in 1940 as Mason's Pancake Shop. In the 1950s, new owners changed the name to The Pancake Shop and it moved across the street. This sign might be from the 1940s or 1950s. It was probably a hanging sign originally. For more, see this website. [map]
|Uncle Bill's Pancake & Dinner House
St. Louis, MO
|The Pancake House was established in 1961. The sign is most likely from then. The restaurant moved a few times and had to be completely rebuilt after a tornado in 1971. It moved again after that. [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) [gone]
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]
Peter Pancakes (Virginia Beach, VA) [vintage; gone]
Power's Pancake Palace (Seattle, WA) [vintage; gone]
Smitty's Pancake House (Seattle, WA) [vintage; gone]
Uncle Bill's Pancake House (Wildwood, NJ)
International House of Pancakes (various locations)
Main SCA Article
|Main Signs Page|
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